BGLAD: Don’t hate
Founder of the Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination (BGLAD), Donnya Piggott, formed the association with her friend Ro-Ann Mohammad after she realized that Barbados lacked the necessary outlet to deal with discrimination against homosexuality.
“Well, I started it in May of last year . . . . after my personal struggles and seeing the struggles of my friend I realized there was not an outlet here in Barbados and I took the initiative from seeing the problems and knowing that there is a void in Barbados,” she said.
The 23-year-old, who said she was aware of her sexual orientation from a very young age, explained that although her parents were aware of her orientation they were not supportive.
“Well, my parents reacted naturally. I guess I didn’t expect anything different. They’re not supportive but I know that they’ll come around eventually . . . . They knew about me – I mean we never spoke about it, but it was said, so I don’t see why they would fuss too much except for their own personal embarrassment, because they both said they were embarrassed.”
She added that her sexual orientation was not discussed among family and friends.
“I would go by my parents and friends and we would talk about politics and everything else but we would not talk about my personal life at all, even though I’m sure they know and the majority of my friends know.”
Twenty-one-year-old Mohammad said: “My parents aren’t supportive at all . . . . I think that this is still the initial shock and I hope that they’ll eventually come around. I didn’t tell my mother, but she was asking about it and badgering me so I told her and that’s when she got mad.”
She added that her school life was not difficult because she was not “flamboyant or identifiable” as a homosexual.
“I blended in pretty well. I don’t go around and tell everyone about it because it’s my business but if someone asks I’ll tell them.”
Although Barbados is already the home to the United Gays and Lesbians Against Aids in Barbados (UGLAB), Mohammad explained that BGLAD had a different focus.
“UGLAB [fights] against AIDS and the stigma attached to it and HIV spreading, but [BGLAD targets] discrimination, not within the LGBT [lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender) community but outside. We want to educate people.”
Piggott added: “We’re targeting the society and helping the society to understand that we are not people that you should hate or discriminate against, or reject or abandon. We’re against what happened to Ro-ann, so it’s not the LGBT that we’re targeting but the society that affects them.”
Although BGLAD’s panel discussion, held last Saturday at the University of the West Indies Law Faculty Moot Court, was their first public appearance as BGLAD representatives, they have some education campaigns planned for the near future.
“The panel discussion was aimed to sensitize and help people to understand that it’s not okay to discriminate, so I guess we’re starting small, we’re hoping to do some tolerance campaigns, but we have to focus on building support within the community first . . .
“Average people may not know what LGBT people feel every day and what they go through – you get abandoned, you’re left without resources, you have financial pressures and you have other things affecting you . . . . [Discrimination] stifles you from reaching your fullest potential as a person,” said Piggott.
Mohammad added: “We plan to do education campaigns to let [people] know that BGLAD isn’t about forcing people to accept or to agree with what homosexuals or people of the LGBT community are about but it’s to show them that they don’t have to hate – they just have to respect them as human beings and give them the same rights.
“Our long-term goal will be eventually to challenge the laws, but for now our main aim is education.”
Piggott added: “We think ultimately that if you have a law which prohibits LGBT people and acts which may be associated with that, that it contributes to discrimination and it is legal discrimination, so that law affects the society because if the society changes the law is going to have to change, but if the law is going to change tomorrow, everybody is not going to suddenly be non-homophobic.”
However, Piggott made it clear that their aim was not to continue the never-ending cycle of arguing whether homosexuality was right or wrong.
“When people hear homosexuality, the first thing they do is denounce it [as being] against God . . . . We’re not about that discussion because it has proved unfruitful and unproductive, so we’re over that. It’s about understanding people. Regardless of who you are and who you love, you should have equal opportunities to get a job. So we’re saying don’t judge us based on homosexuality but judge us based on the content of our character.”
She believes that although Barbadians are more tolerant of homosexuals, they still have some progress to make in accepting transgenders.
“Transgender people . . . receive the brunt of discrimination because when you look at them you see homosexuality or you assume, rather, and then you treat them as such.
“. . . . Because of their sexual orientation they’re limited as to how far they can go and that’s not right. They’re people that have so much to offer and if the society and the environment are not welcoming and they don’t feel fulfilled, or they feel dejected, they’re leaving,” she added.
Concerning the reception from the public, Mohammad said it “hasn’t been bad”.
“The panel discussion is something that kind of opened them up and it got discussions started . . . . It’s just about growing now.”
Although both Piggott and Mohammad attend the University of the West Indies, Piggott studying history and accounts, and Mohammed doing psychology, they said that they were currently “putting all efforts into BGLAD” and hoped that it would be successful. (DG)