Some might describe it as brave for a straight man in the Caribbean to dedicate his career to campaigning for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) rights. I suspect, however, that attorney and advocate Richie Maitland might simply explain his choice as necessary. LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) issues.

As a student Richie participated in legal challenges against unconstitutional policies, practices and laws which discriminated against LGBT communities in the Caribbean. He has since played a key role within the region’s leading gay rights advocacy organisations, CariFLAGS (Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities) and Trinidad-based CAISO (the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation).

When we meet, we talk about his desire to build a progressive moment through the organisation he co-founded, Groundation Grenada, and I discover how this young man born on the tiny island of Petite Martinique has grown to become a committed activist in the Caribbean’s gay rights movement.

It was in a gender course that I was first exposed to LGBT issues and the LGBT advocacy movement. My understanding of human rights was expanded and, more specifically, my awareness of LGBT issues. I began to see how so many of the things that underpin our fear, our dislike and our mistrust of homosexuals are fundamentally wrong. So, misconception by misconception, those views passed away and I would say I emerged a reformed persona the end of my university experience.

When I started university I was a homophobe. I understood homosexuality to be kinda nasty, that homosexuals were undeserving of some of the rights that I had. That they should not be allowed to marry, that their relationships should be ostracised and not condoned by society, basically that there was something inherently wrong about homosexuality and homosexuals.

Many who would otherwise call themselves human rights activists don’t really empathise with the LGBT struggle. This has a lot to do with the very deep cultural and legal prejudices held against homosexual people. So I saw that there was a deficit in the relationship to human rights work and LGBT issues in the Caribbean region so I decided that I wanted to become more practically involved in tackling this issue.

Violence against LGBT people in the Caribbean tends to happen within families. The parents may disapprove so they affect violence upon their children physically and emotionally. There’s a lot of that happening. There’s also workplace discrimination which is a very big problem. What workplace discrimination does is to entrench disadvantage. These people are already socially disadvantaged and now work, which is the main means of social mobility, is being affected. People are being fired, not promoted or harassed out of their jobs by workmates with impunity as normally HR doesn’t take on these sorts of issues.

I’m happy for the times that people have said that they don’t agree with my career choice. I’ve always used it as an opportunity to advocate and to ask them why. Because ultimately, when you ask people why, what comes out are all the misconceptions, the things that people have gone their whole lives believing without necessarily questioning their conceptions about homosexuality and homosexual people. Once those views are put out there I can then engage it and show them why I think what to them is a conception, is really a misconception.

My partner, Malaika, always jokes that I have a lawyer mode where I become very formal. That side of me sits comfortably with the aspect of me that just wants to sing and be creative and be a musician. I pursue the musical because I love creating. That is the form of expression of creativity that I am most accustomed to, which comes easiest to me.

I really appreciate all art forms, but the form that sits closest to my heart is music and song-writing in particular. When I was in Form 1 in the Presentation Brothers College we had this competition that our science teacher put on to raise interest in integrated science and she told us to write an original song about science. The piece I performed received overwhelming feedback from my classmates so I started writing from then.

I have a love for [Grenada], I have a connectedness to this place. In the Caribbean people say ‘my navel string bury here’. Caribbean people automatically get that reference but let me see how I can explain it… I’m so invested in this space, for many reasons. It’s a space that I want to change and which I want to impact positively and I think I’m able to do that more so here than anywhere else. Nation building and region building is something I’m very interested in. I’m interested in being a part of the cadre of young educated leaders in the Caribbean. Many of my colleagues are interested in doing that. We are corresponding. All of us have our own organisations, we’re writing. It’s movement building. I want to build this movement by being here and being in this space. By having Grenada, breathing Grenada and eating Grenada and feeling it and smelling it and having it infuse me with the vibes I need to chant down Babylon!

_______

EDITOR’S NOTE: Groundation Grenada in collaboration with ARC Magazine is inviting entries to ‘Forgetting is Not an Option’, a multimedia cultural memory project about the events and experiences surrounding the Grenada Revolution 1979-83. Deadline: 31 October 2014. Full details here
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4 comments

  1. I’m really exited to see a young man taking a stand to fight for the rights of those who society refers to as the “nasty ones” I believed that everyone is special and unique in their own way,and being gay or lesbian is not a crime we got to realized that no two persons are the same or are alike.
    When someone comes home and say I’m gay first reaction is “you are nasty” and for parents it’s their worst nightmare those words I am gay throws a spear in hearts of people I always tell people never criticize what you don’t understand, it never hurt to asked questions being gay or lesbian doesn’t changed an individual from bring who they are,it doesn’t changed he/she from being kind and good,discrimination does not help its time to wake up..

  2. Oct26Chris Tommy, your comparison with drugs and aocholl addiction is ridiculous. Drugs and aocholl addiction hurts other people around you, sometimes killing others, i.e. drunk driving. Hannah has every single right to believe as she does. It hurts no one and being proud of who you are and growing as a person leads to a healthier and more fulfilling life. One thing I feel that is always left out and something I struggle with conservative Christians and also why it took me so long to grow as a person is being faced with judgement from family and friends. Doesn’t matter to you or anyone else how I live my life, GOD is my only Judge. I am also a gay Christian. I’ve read just about every post on this page. Lots of opinions and some are hard to deal with. I grew up a chrurch going Christian. I went to the same high school Bryan did and graduated the same year. I’ve always wondered about Bryan and I have to be honest, his post leaves me worried and concerned for his happiness and quality of life. It’s clear that he has a love for Christ which is amazing and unquestionable. It’s awesome that he’s outspoken about his beliefs. I do question though if he’s really happy because he’s clearly struggling with his identity. His words, not mine, a Christian struggling with same-sex attraction. If God meant for him to choose a life of celibacy I don’t think he would have a desire to be with someone else other than God.I believe in Christ’s love and I believe in the gift God gave me to love my partner. I believe my partner is a gift from God. I don’t believe anyone, not anyone, has the right to tell me that this gift is wrong. Not my family, not a pastor or elder, not my state or my government. God willing, I will be able to marry my partner and live a normal happy life raising a family and teaching my kids to love and respect others as they should love and respect themselves. Beliefs are personal so I’ll give Bryan the benefit of doubt that he is living a happy life and not suppressing God’s gift to find and share a life with someone else. I pray this is the case.I personally grew up knowing i wasn’t meant to be alone and also know that I have feelings for the same sex not the opposite sex. I grew up struggling and trying to suppress my feelings for the same sex, having a girlfriend but never connecting as I should have on the level of that kind of a relationship. I grew up being told not to be gay because I would never be happy and I would die of aids. I’m here to tell you I’ve never been happier being myself, growing as a person, growing in my relationship with my partner and growing in my relationship with God and I do not of aids! I pray my family can one day understand this. I pray one day I can marry my boyfriend and take benefit of the legal aspects that the word, marriage, provides to all those straight couples out there. Did you know marriage provides over a 1,000 benefits to straight couples that gay couples do not have access to? I’m not talking of the Biblical term I’m speaking of the legal term. Though I guess that’s a different blog.VA:F [1.9.20_1166](from 0 votes)

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