Behind its postcard-perfect beach scenery, the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe is torn by internal conflict fueled by underdevelopment, disenchantment with its mother country and now LGBTphobia on social media.
After weeks of riots, violence, demonstrations and barricades from November 2021 to January 2022, against the backdrop of opposition to the requirement for vaccine passes, radical populism and rejection of elites has now taken an LGBTphobic turn on social networks.
Through his YouTube channel entitled “La Pause Sans Filtre” (“The Unfiltered Timeout”), Eric Damaseau tries to stir up popular discontent to the benefit of France’s right-wing Rassemblement National of Marine le Pen, while stigmatizing sexual and gender minorities, whom he argues should shut up and get lost. Damaseau has already been the focus of an earlier article on this news site (“Interfaith activists rebut Guadeloupe claim that homosexuality is an illness”, April 12, 2022)
On this Caribbean island, where Marine Le Pen won 69.6% of the votes in the second round of the presidential election, on the eve of a recent weekend punctuated by demonstrations in favor of LGBTI pride in Guadeloupe, Saint-Martin and Martinique, Erasing 76 Crimes interviewed two Guadeloupean personalities who are at the forefront of the fight against LGBTphobia in the West Indies and in the West Indian diaspora in France.
They are Kami, 28, a gender-fluid activist who frequently visits Guadeloupe, and Viviane Melyon-de-France, the president of the human rights organization Amalgame Humani’s in Guadeloupe.
Kami, how do you feel about the Damaseau case previously mentioned here in the columns of 76crimes?
Kami: Eric Damaseau is, I think, an individual sincerely in love with his island, but he only repeats the most hackneyed stereotypes, seeking to reinforce heteronormativity on the most precarious and least educated black population, from which he comes — people who share his lack of perspective on sexual and gender minorities, probably due to an information deficit.
In the end, the prejudices heard are quite overused and it seems to me that they are not as bad as I would have expected: “Homosexuality is unnatural.” “It’s just a fashion.” “It’s moral deviance.”
In the face of this, we have to teach the facts again and again, even if we have to say the same thing over and over again, rebutting each argument of the opposition. Educating your people takes time.
Mrs. Melyon-de-France, in relation to tolerance and acceptance of LGBTI people in Guadeloupe, what do you have to say about the video where Eric Damaseau denounces the position of your organization, Amalgame Humani’s, in favor of LGBTI people?
Viviane Melyon-de-France: I am the president of Amalgame Humani’s, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. We are located in Abymes, a populous town in Guadeloupe. Like Mr. Eric Damaseau, I am very aware of the economic and social difficulties that Guadeloupeans are going through, because I am an emergency doctor, a firefighter and I am one of the first practitioners in the archipelago to have taken on the problem of caring for people living with HIV in Guadeloupe in the 1990s.
The association was founded by my mother who was a high school principal and had a poor, rural childhood typical of the 1930s in Guadeloupe. However, as of 2017, I have taken the reins. Growing up in a sibling group of four girls, where we were taught at a very young age to be black, Caribbean, proud and studious women, I always felt good about myself and this facilitated my interest in the LGBTI cause as an ally.
From the beginning, the association was focused on the self-esteem of underprivileged children. Starting in 2017, I decided that I also had to focus on the fight against isolation, the support of families, as well as the prevention of violent behavior in school.
The fact that we are in charge of the Voix-Arc-En-Ciel listening line, aimed at the LGBTI community, is therefore not the result of an accident, but is part of the continuity of battles that we have been fighting for a long time.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also decided to launch a hotline to help prevent suicidal behavior, especially among young people.
Now, to come back to Mr. Eric Damaseau, I found his video pathetic. I learned about it three weeks after it was broadcast in the middle of an election campaign in mid-April. Although he lives in Bordeaux, he spends his time promoting the Rassemblement National in Guadeloupe and for Madame Le Pen.
I prefer to ignore him and not to answer him, to continue preparing for the IInternational Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on May 17. Our members do not want to be exposed to another torrent of hate on social networks. So the best response to Mr. Damaseau’s speeches is to continue to work relentlessly on sexual and gender diversity education, making visible the problems faced by LGBTI people in Guadeloupe.
Nevertheless, the comments made by Mr. Damaseau are indeed hate speech and public insults. I do not wish to discuss his remarks any further, but in the future we are thinking of filing a civil suit alongside people who are victims of LGBTphobic insults. To do this, we need to change the statutes of our association.
Kami, what do you think of the impact of the YouTube channel “La Pause Sans Filtre” on Guadeloupean society?
Kami: With 15,000 subscribers, on the scale of the French West Indies, it’s not much compared to other YouTubers but, at the same time, it’s already a lot for our small territories. I have the impression that Damaseau addresses a rather conservative fringe of the population of Guadeloupe, whose vote he would like to influence and direct in favor of the radical right.
He condemns the whole political class of Guadeloupe, sometimes rightly, without proposing any concrete or revolutionary alternative. Concerning sexual and gender minorities, he is content to repeat familiar negative prejudices.
However, there is much to be said about the “pinkwashing” of [French President] Emmanuel Macron’s government, of which Ms. [Elisabeth] Moreno is the representative. [After Moreno visited Amalgame Humani’s and praised its LGBT hotline Voix Arc en Ciel, Damaseau complained about LGBT people who speak publicly about their sexual orientation. Moreno is the Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in the French Prime Minister’s office.]
She talks about protection of LGBTI people, without saying a word about the problems of unemployment which is particularly high in the Antilles. Being an LGBTI person is just one of many belongings and black Caribbean LGBTI people are also concerned about negrophobia in employment, lack of water, carcinogenic chlordecone poisoning and the lack of food self-sufficiency.
Mrs. Melyon-de-France, please tell us about the island’s homophobic populism.
Viviane Melyon-de-France: Damaseau’s speech highlights the inaction of many local elected officials against LGBTphobia. The discourse of local elected officials against homophobia and transphobia is inaudible. The populists, who are very numerous, believe that these are subjects that do not advance Guadeloupe and that they are not noble subjects. However, elected officials do not like to deal with issues that raise many reservations.
For example, in my association, we had 250 paid-up members in August 2020. Since the launch of Voix Arc en Ciel in November 2020, now we are only 76 members, according to our latest count in August 2021. I find this truly outrageous.
Social media do terrible harm to Guadeloupe and serve as a sounding board for “loudmouths” who rev people up, then go back to Paris or Brussels.
As for the vote in favor of Marine Le Pen, it came after Covid-19 restrictions and incidents of extreme violence in which a lot of property was vandalized and destroyed. … “Lepénisme” is not strongly rooted here, even though some people try to trivialize her Rassemblement National.
Related articles about French territories in the Caribbean :
- Protests greet homophobic TV interview in Martinique (April 28, 2022, 76crimes.com)
- French Guiana: “500 euros, the price of my life!” (April 25, 2022, 76crimes.com)
- Interfaith activists rebut Guadeloupe claim that homosexuality is an illness (April 12, 2022, 76crimes.com)
- Near-homicidal homophobia: Death threats target our journalist (April 12, 2021, 76crimes.com)
- Saint-Martin: the vulnerability of LGBTI people to global warming (February 24, 2021, 76crimes.com)