Thursday, December 18, 2008

Violence against sex workers must also be confronted in Guyana

"Soon as the sex was over, this man started slapping and cuffing me up and he empty my purse and take away all my money, not just what he pay me,” recounted a female sex worker based in New Amsterdam, who had been assaulted and robbed by a client, to an advocate at United Bricklayers, a local AIDS-prevention, community-based organization, less than two months ago. “Now how could I go to the police and make a report when sex work is not legal,” she added.

Sex workers in Guyana , and other parts of the world, face disproportionate levels of violence which is often unreported. The assault, battery, rape and even murder of sex workers, which is all too common in the industry, goes unnoticed because of the existing legal framework around the profession which prevents sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination perpetuated by sex-work related offences has made violence against sex workers acceptable.

Last month, sex workers from across Guyana came together for a national consultation and decided to join their peers around the world to stand against violence committed against sex workers as the 6th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is observed on December 17, 2008 . First commemorated in 2003, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is the brainchild of Dr. Annie Sprinkle, a former sex worker herself who left the industry after two decades and later went on to earn a PhD in Human Sexuality. Dr. Sprinkle was moved when “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgeway confessed to having strangled 90 female sex workers to death and having “sex” with their dead bodies in Seattle, Washington. Originally conceived as a memorial and vigil for the forgotten victims, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has evolved into an annual international advocacy day to protest human rights abuses against sex workers, demand an end to all violence and the right to work safely.

With the genesis of the Sex Work Coalition – Guyana (SWCG) as one of the outcomes of the November consultation, this is the first time December 17 is being observed in Guyana. SWCG brings together female, male and trans- sex workers, their advocates, human rights defenders and organizations which work with these stigmatised groups in Guyana. It is supported by four local organizations – One Love, United Bricklayers, Guyana Rainbow Foundation and Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination – working in partnership with two regional coalitions, the Caribbean Sex Work Coalition and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SASOD Statement : International Human Rights Day 2008

December 10, is observed as International Human Rights Day 2008. This year’s commemoration is an important milestone as it marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), under the theme “Dignity and justice for all of us.” On this historic occasion, States from every region of the world will join together to deliver a statement next week recognizing human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations General Assembly. The statement deals with human rights abuses, directed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including violence, criminal sanctions, torture, threats against human rights defenders and discrimination in accessing economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health. This joint statement will affirm that human rights truly are the birthright of all human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Over the past year alone, the region has made significant strides in advancing the Inter-American human rights system to respond to violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. On June 3, 2008, the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States adopted Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” with the consensus of member states. On October 24, 2008, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) held a thematic hearing on “Discrimination based on Gender, Race and Sexual Orientation in the Americas” - for the first time in its history - in its 133rd Period of Sessions where SASOD Co-Chairperson, Joel Simpson, presented on the impact of laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy between consenting adults in private intersecting with socio-economic and cultural conditions in the context of the English-speaking Caribbean. Just last week, December 1 – 5, 2008, IACHR visited Jamaica to observe the human rights situation in the country, at the invitation of the government, and included focus on persons suffering discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, strongly condemning homophobia in its preliminary observations.

These progressive developments at the regional level have taken place against a backdrop of human rights violations escalating in our own country: the state is accused of torture; sexual and gender-based violence have reached pandemic proportions; while wanton violence, triggered in part by socio-economic disadvantage, threatens every citizen’s security; among other abuses. Even in a local context of such widespread violence, we, as a nation, still have not learnt that until all of us are protected, none of us are. How can we expect our youth not to nurture violence in a system that retains corporal punishment under the Education Act as a form of ‘disciplining’ children? When will we liberate our country from that destructive ethos of our colonial past?

The situation of human rights related to sexual orientation and gender identity at home is no better either. Over the last two weeks alone, there has been an unprecedented spate, perhaps, of murders targeting persons thought to be of a different sexual orientation, whether real or perceived, in circumstances which suggest that homophobia maybe the primary motive. What is even more troubling is that vital information, which could bring the perpetrators to justice, is not reaching the police because of lack of confidence and fear that some law-enforcement officers may hold similar anti-gay prejudices which may be at the root of the recent killings. A lot more gender-sensitivity work with the police needs to be done to inspire confidence among stigmatized groups, victims of violence and the general public.

Even amidst public outcries, violence continues to escalate in our society and we, as a country, must ask ourselves why. Our analysis should lead us to examine whether there are cultural factors which endorse violence and, undeniably, we will find aspects of our popular culture which glorify violence. While the government has taken a stand, although after the fact, by banning ‘Bounty Killa’ and ‘Movado’ because of their pro-violent lyrics, and should be commended, is enough really being done to prevent and curb the proliferation of such dangerous lyrics in our society? One need only live in the country to know that these insidious lyrics denigrate public spaces and airwaves: from transportation to bus parks; from live shows to other entertainment events; in restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs and on television. We must also question whether it is sufficient to simply block out words in a context where the intended meaning is obvious, as seems to be the practice in sections of the broadcast media.

The state of our society today implores us to urgently reflect on these issues as we take stock, 60 years after the signing of the UDHR. Government, state managers and policy makers alike, must confront these challenges if we, as a country, are to live up to the aspiration on which this universal value system is premised. Article 1 of the UDHR says it best: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

Guyanese AIDS-service and human-rights organisations join with our regional partners in the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition to commend leaders of marginalized groups. These groups carry a disproportionate burden of the AIDS epidemic and yet they are often not given adequate attention in national AIDS programmes. As World AIDS Day 2008 is observed under the theme of “Leadership,” we recognize the invaluable contributions of our ‘everyday leaders’ from across the Caribbean who represent and serve these vulnerable populations, even in the face of stigma and discrimination. We salute them for their vigour and valour as they work tirelessly to protect the human rights of those infected and affected by HIV. They are true promise keepers to stop AIDS in Guyana , the rest of the Caribbean and the world.

Local Co-Sponsoring Organisations:
Guyana Sex Work Coalition (GSWC)
Juncata Juvant Friendly Society (JJFS)
Guyana Rainbow Foundation (Guybow)
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
The Network of Guyanese Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS (G+)

World AIDS Day Celebration of Community Leadership
“Lead – Deliver – Empower”
IN keeping with the World AIDS Day theme of “Leadership,” we are celebrating the
leadership by members of vulnerable communities who are part of the Caribbean
Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) family. Mindful that it is ideal that leadership
comes from the groups we work with, in our context this is not easy and means the leaders
risk stigma and discrimination by taking a stand for their community. This World AIDS Day
we are therefore commending their bravery and commitment to a world without AIDS and a
Caribbean where social justice is a reality.

Elias Ramos – Leadership for Youth
Addressing their vulnerability is not easy for young people, but especially for young people
from marginalised groups. In the Dominican Republic, 24-year old Elias Ramos is a leader of
a new youth strategy by and for young people. “Jovenes de la Vida Real” (in English,
YurWorld or Youth in the Real World) is a project by COIN in the Dominican Republic that
targets marginalized youth to increase their resilience to HIV.

Elias explains how the young people at YurWorld are finding solutions:
Marginalized youth are a vulnerable population with complex needs. In light of this,
sustainable prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS amongst marginalized youth
requires empowering them to act and bring about change in their own terms at the
individual as well as the collective level.

He believes that an effective response takes more than disease specific interventions and
includes broader development strategies. This approach is championed by YurWorld which
encourages change through employment and cultural values, ownership of assets, and
political and civil opportunities that empower marginalized youth.

Ionie Whorms – Leadership for Drug Users
It is an early morning and the film crew is setting up their equipment in the neighbourhood
of Fletcher’s Land, Kingston, Jamaica. Residents come out to hail and support a woman who
has become their heroine doing yet another television interview. She has become Jamaica’s
leading advocate for crack cocaine users, herself in recovery for the past 15 years. This time
she is on set for the filming of Complex Problems, Simple Solutions, the documentary on
access to HIV treatment for women and men who are homeless substance users. Complex
Problems, Simple Solutions, a collaboration between CVC and the Caribbean Treatment
Action Group produced by the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC),

is also released as part of the broadcast media package for World AIDS Week, distributed
throughout the region by the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership. This is yet another
one of her avenues for advocating for the rights of this vulnerable community.
She is Ionie Whorms, whose work is built on the conviction that she would not want anyone
else to go through what she went through when she was on crack cocaine.
“It really bothers me to see lives been wasted away in this manner” she confesses
“and so I must do anything possible to stop it.”
That “anything” about which she speaks ranges from taking a meal to those who are
homeless to transporting others to health centres, being part of a civil society response to
substance use and advocating for policy change. She considers these to be simple solutions
to complex things.

Nigel Mathlin – Leadership for Gay Men
Men who have sex with men in the Caribbean region are said to be invisible and hard to
reach for HIV interventions. Nigel Mathlin has engaged the response to HIV in a manner that
proves that does not have to be the case.
He is engaged in arranging activities for the gay, lesbian and bisexual population in his home
county of Grenada through GrenCHAP, the local AIDS-prevention community-based
organisation of which he is a co-founder. But his work has not stopped at home. He is also
integrally involved in the sub-regional and regional movements through the OECS-based
Caribbean HIV/AIDS Partnership (CHAPS) and CVC respectively. No longer can it be said that
leaders for this community cannot be found neither can it be said that this population is not
taking its own action.

Miriam Edwards – Leadership for Sex Workers
“This is our profession, we must stand up and protect our rights” boomed the
confident voice from across the room to the applause of the thirty other male and
female sex workers gathered for a national consultation of sex workers in
Georgetown, Guyana.
The speaker is Miriam, sex worker organiser and a leader in the Caribbean sex work
After seeing many persons die from HIV infection and nursing her own sister on her death
bed, Miriam is intent that HIV awareness among sex workers must be heightened in the
region. That led her to found a local Guyana organisation called “One Love” and later to co-
found the regionally-based Caribbean Sex Work Coalition and then Guyana’s national
organisation of sex workers, Guyana Sex Work Coalition. At any given time Miriam can be
seen in training session for sex workers, distributing condoms and safer sex material, visiting
those living with HIV in the hospitals or their homes and advocating at the national, regional
and international levels for the rights of sex workers and other marginalised groups in the Caribbean.

Donna Snagg – Leadership for Involuntary Remigrants
Throughout the Caribbean there is a profound misconception of members of our societies
who have experienced deportation, to the point of them now being labelled and
depersonalised as “deportees.” This label overshadows who these persons really are and
their potential to contribute to society. Often lost in a system that is unaccommodating and
hostile, the associations with the label “deportee” in many respects deflects attention from
the violations of their basic human rights that are commonplace.
Human rights activist and stalwart Mrs. Donna Snagg had the experience of being deported
from the USA approximately ten years ago but has used that encounter to mobilize other
persons with similar experiences in her home country of Guyana. So important are these
issues to her that she founded the Juncata Juvant Friendly Society, an NGO that caters for
the needs of involuntary remigrants. The organisation’s focus is also to assist this population
to reintegrate into Guyanese society and empowering them to be self sufficient. Added to
that, Donna and the other members of Juncata Juvant recognize the challenges this group of
persons encounter and their vulnerability to HIV. This inspires their activities and the
conviction that with the right support they can overcome these hurdles with dignity and

Nicholas Morgan – Leadership for Vulnerable Children
For Nicholas Morgan the maxim “we are all living in a world with HIV” has a new and
different meaning. From as young as 11 years old he accompanied his mother on her
volunteer efforts with a Jamaican AIDS organisation. What he saw then was so deeply
imprinted on his young mind that he immediately busied himself with providing support to
orphans and other children living with HIV.
Defying the age barrier, his early efforts were centred on baby-sitting children living with the
virus. He helped them with their homework and with such ordinary tasks as learning to ride
a bicycle, playing computer games and just general things that children like to do. It is those
“ordinary” tasks that gave way to extraordinary ones such as becoming one of the Panos
Caribbean youth journalists and being editor of their newsletter called “Our Own Voices.”
His voice is stamped on their public service announcements for radio and he is also one of
the mentors to other children in the programme. All this is in determined fulfilment of his
desire to make lives better for orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV. To
Nicholas, we are all equal, we are all affected. He believes firmly that:
it is up to those who have the power, the influence to make a difference in the lives
of young people, to help not only those who are infected or affected but to those
who we can help to remain aware and to make informed decisions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


(Members of the head table seated left to right: Ms. Patricia Figueroa (Puerto Rico), Mr. Mark Ross (Guyana),
Mr. Caleb Orozco (Belize), Ms. Rosaura Lopez (Puerto Rico) and Ms. Chrystol Albert (Guyana). )

The Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG) declares the first Annual Access to Treatment Day (October 15, 2008) with launches in five Caribbean countries – Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Curaçao and St. Lucia. In observing this day, CTAG, in association with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), and numerous local partners, brings attention to HIV-positive groups who face unique challenges in gaining access to treatment; particularly, women who are homeless and substance users.
The Caribbean currently has the second highest rates of HIV infection in the world; developing and executing a comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS is therefore essential. An important part of this response is providing access to treatment – for all who need it – based on stigma free care and support.
HIV antiretroviral medication is free or available at minimal cost in most Caribbean countries. Nonetheless, substance users and the homeless face unique challenges that limit their access to treatment: discrimination at points of service and the absence of basics like food, transportation and shelter. These groups, though often stigmatized, interact with the wider population, and as a result their access to healthcare affects the health of society as a whole.
A recent study by the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute (CDARI) on the behaviours of homeless drug users in three Caribbean countries indicates that:
  • The rates of HIV infection in this group is substantially higher than the general population
  • They are less likely to take HIV tests or to seek treatment because of service barriers
  • 75 % of females sampled engage in transactional sex or exchange sex for drugs
  • Only 11% of females report using condoms consistently
Creative local initiatives in several Caribbean islands prove that substance users and the homeless can be successfully brought into treatment. Directly observed therapy and street-based outreach programmes in St. Lucia, Jamaica and Trinidad that bring medication, essential services and information directly to the target groups have improved their health outcomes and their chances of recovery.
CTAG is clear that effective HIV programming must have at least two distinct but related components:
First, a recognition of the fundamental human rights of these populations and a commitment to respect for their dignity.
Second, a commitment to incorporating the needs of these populations into programme planning – both to improve their rates of enrolment in and adherence to treatment and to ensure the success and sustainability of the wider prevention, care, treatment and support initiatives.
CTAG, in collaboration with CVC, will release two short documentaries that explore these challenges and potential solutions: one tailored specifically to policy-makers and the other for the general public. For more information, visit
What is The Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG)?
The Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG) is a group of Caribbean treatment access activists from around the region who are living with HIV and their supporters. It is a broad coalition comprised of people working in and for the community in their own countries and with strong expertise in HIV/AIDS treatment and related issues. CTAG’s programme consists of two main strategies. One is advocacy for access to HIV and AIDS-related care, treatment and support for all who need it in the Caribbean. The second is an annual small-grants programme that provides community groups with funds through a peer review process. CTAG was formed at a meeting in St Lucia in October 2004, where over 200 participants met to discuss the issues of access to treatment and support in the Caribbean and elect the very first CTAG committee. CTAG has provided grants to more than 25 organizations within 11 countries in the Caribbean.
CTAG is the Caribbean arm of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), which is a worldwide coalition of people living with HIV/AIDS and their advocates. Established in March 2003, the ITPC advocates for universal and free access to treatment for AIDS for all HIV+ people and greater input from HIV+ people in decisions that affect their lives. We work to achieve these goals at the local, regional and international level. As a community voice, it combines the knowledge of the grassroots with technical expertise, and has been successful in communicating the concerns of people living with HIV/AIDS who need treatment to governments, United Nations agencies, the large pharmaceutical manufacturers among other public and private bodies that influence the progress of the establishment, scale-up and sustainability of HIV/AIDS treatment programs.
What is the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)?
CVC is a coalition of organisations and individuals working in rights-based HIV prevention, care, treatment and support in the Creole, Dutch, English, French and Spanish speaking Caribbean, from Belize in the northwest to Suriname in the southeast. It was formed at a meeting of civil society groups from around the region held in Jamaica in December, 2004. The organisation’s formation arose from the need to fill a gap in the regional response to the HIV epidemic. That gap relates to diminishing the susceptibility of certain populations to HIV as well as to the inclusion of persons living with HIV and AIDS from those populations into culturally appropriate and accessible care, treatment and support programmes.
CVC has set itself the task of supporting community-based organisations, national programmes and others in developing and implementing rights-based programming to reduce the spread of HIV among especially vulnerable groups in the Caribbean, which include, among others, mobile populations, area youth, persons who sell sex, men who have sex with men and substance users. Because these populations are marginalised by the wider society, the coalition also seeks to lobby regional governments, inter-governmental, regional and international organisations to address their human rights concerns as a fundamental platform on which HIV prevention or care can become effective.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Spirtuality Workshop and Church Service

Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) - Guyana
in collaboration with the Guyana Rainbow Foundation (GuyBow) and partnership with
Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica (SCJ) is proud to host in Guyana
a Spirituality Workshop under the theme "Responding to Faith-Based Homophobia"
on Saturday, October 11, 2009 from 10:00 am at the headquarters building of the Guyana Red Cross Society, Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown and
a Church Service on Sunday, October 12, 2009, from 5:00 pm at the conference room of the Regency Suites Hotel, 98 Hadfield Street, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown.

For more information, please email or call +(592) 698-1174 / 617-6107.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What happens after the Mexico City XVII International AIDS Conference 2008

Human Rights Violations, Gender Inequality, Stigma, Discrimination and Homophobia Lead to HIV:
What happens after the Mexico City XVII International AIDS Conference 2008?

Human rights violations, gender inequality, stigma, discrimination and homophobia were unequivocally identified as major, structural drivers of the global AIDS pandemic at the recently concluded XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City , August 3 – 8, 2008 (AIDS 2008). SASOD delegates, Joel Simpson and Namela Baynes-Henry, joined over 25,000 scientists, community and political leaders from around the world, region and country calling for “universal action now” to tackle these underlying drivers of HIV vulnerability and reverse the tide of the AIDS epidemic.
As part of SASOD’s participation at AIDS 2008, an abstract titled “Spectrum Health Net: reaching the invisible with holistic sexual health education” (see attached) was one of over 5000 presented at the conference, selected from over 10,600 submissions (another 2,742 appear on the CD-ROM only). This abstract was accepted for poster exhibition (photograph attached) under the cross-cutting theme “4 - Stigma, Discrimination and Social Justice.” The poster is available for download on SASOD’s website at
In an effort to disseminate the knowledge and catalyze action, SASOD is convening a facilitated AIDS 2008 Debriefing Forum with Guyanese delegates who work in key, vulnerable sectors to provide feedback, find solutions and take collective action among local stakeholders to address these issues in the context of the AIDS epidemic in Guyana . The meeting will take place on Thursday, August 21, 2008 from 16:00 to 17:30 hrs at the CIDA PSU Main Conference Room, New Market and Main Streets, Georgetown . It is open to the public and any interested persons are invited to attend.

Programme participants include :-

Women and Girls
Lydia Fraser
Health Director
Guyana Red Cross
Young People
Norwell Hinds
Youth Focal Point
UNFPA Guyana

Sex Work
Miriam Edwards
Director, “One Love”
Kwakwani Sex Work

Sexual Minorities
Joel Simpson

Role of the Media
Namela Baynes-Henry
First Look News

Facilitated Plenary Discussion
Dereck Springer
Chairman, Lifeline
Counselling Services

Monday, August 18, 2008

SASOD @ CARIFESTA X - 23 to 30 August, 2008

Vele kleuren, één regenboog/Many colours, one rainbow/Beaucoup de couleurs, un arc-en-ciel/Muchos colores, un arco iris

Please see main programme on our website

Monday, June 16, 2008

Painting the Spectrum 2008 : SASOD's Fourth Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

Painting the Spectrum 4 - Celebrating Love in all of its Diversity

June 2008 ,

Sidewalk Cafe, Middle Street, Georgetown Guyana
Programme starts at 7pm each night

Admission is FREE. All films are intended for mature audiences.

Special Events :

Tuesday 24 June, 2008

5pm at Red House, High Street, Georgetown
Public Lecture : MSM, HIV and Human Rights
by Milton Castlelen , Coordinator of the NAPS, Suriname

5 July : Kaleidoscope Party

Monday June 2
A Jihad for Love ( 12 countries ) DocumentaryA Film by Parvez Sharma, produced by Sandi Dubowski and Parvez Sharma
Filmed over 5 1/2 years, in 12 countries and 9 languages, "A Jihad for Love" comes from the heart of Islam. Looking beyond a hostile and war-torn present, this film seeks to reclaim the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad, which can mean 'an inner struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God'. In doing so the film and its remarkable subjects move beyond the narrow concept of 'Jihad' as holy war. (81 mins)

Read more..

Tuesday June 3
Imagine me & you (2005) Comedy/Drama
Rachel and Heck, long time friends and lovers, finally tie the knot, and during the celebration, Rachel starts a friendship with their florist, Luce. And while Rachel originally intended to match her new friend, Luce, up with her husband's friend, Cooper, she soon finds out that Luce is a lesbian. During the course of their friendship, Rachel starts to question her own sexuality. And though she comes to realize she may have feelings for her new friend, Rachel must decide who she will ultimately find the most happiness with: Heck, her new husband who is also adored by her family, or Luce, who has turned her life and everything she thought she new about love upside down. (94 mins)

Wednesday June 4
It's Still Elementary (USA) Documentary
In 1996, It’s Elementary, a documentary about secondary schools combating stereotypes of gays and lesbians in their classrooms, screened on the festival circuit and on PBS to great acclaim - and great controversy. This follow-up shows how the original film, which let the children do most of the talking, has helped to spread gay-straight alliances and educational outreach programs across schools all over the world. (60 mins)

Film donated by Groundspark

Monday June 9
Erik(A) (Austria) Documentary
Raised as a girl in a small town in the Austrian Alps and celebrated as the Women’s Downhill Champion in Portillo, Chile in 1966, Erika Schinegger’s career comes to an abrupt halt just before the Winter Olympics of 1967. The results of a newly instituted gender check cause an international sensation by pronouncing her a biological man. Disregarding the vehement disapproval of her family and the National Ski Federation, Erika elects to undergo gender completion surgery and assume what she feels to be her true identity. After the operation at 20 years of age, Erik begins learning to be a man. (86 mins)

Film donated by Kurt Mayer Films

Tuesday June 10
Dos Patrias : Cuba y la noche (Cuba/Germany) DocumentaryFramed by the beautiful poetry of the oppressed Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, this revealing documentary features memorable portraits of five gay men and one transsexual woman living in and around Havana. Their disparate stories and candid interviews dispel myths while demonstrating a range of experience, opinion and social status: A vibrant nineteen year old, Raudel attends illegal gay parties, since the government still cracks down on queer gatherings; Tomas is a former colleague of Arenas, still deeply in touch with the revolutionary spirit; A courageous and talented photographer, Eduardo explores the mythology of Cuban machismo through his work; Imperio is an HIV-positive drag artist performing in the illegal cabarets; Alexy is the son of a Communist official living under the radar on the Malecon; and Isabel is a transsexual woman whose triumphant spirit helps her survive in a hate-filled world.
It has been more than ten years since the success of films like Strawberry and Chocolate and Gay Cuba, so Two Homelands provides a fresh and important look at the present-day gay culture and community of an often misunderstood country that is still stuck in the past but also very dynamic and full of surprises. While exploring their contemporary struggle for sexual liberation, German director Christian Liffers offers intimate access to the private lives and the two homelands of these queer Cubans. Cuba is the country where they live, but the night is where they thrive. — COREY EUBANKS (84 mins)

Film donated by Christian Liffers
Wednesday June 11
Float (Bahamas) Short drama
Jonny, white Bahamian artist who faces loosing his scholarship, chooses to escape for a weekend island trip where he meets a young man named Romeo. Together these two embark on a series of adventures that inspire Jonny to paint and force him to let his guard down and explore real intimacy without fear. (34 mins)

Donated by Director Kareem Mortimer

On the Downlow (USA) Documentary
Noted independent filmmaker Abigail Child returns to her documentary roots in this collective portrait of bisexual African-American men in Cleveland.With the subtle cinematography of Arthur Jafa (Daughters of the Dust, Crooklyn), Child rejects mainstream tendencies to cast the men as merely deceptive. The opening epigraph by Ralph Ellison - "I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me" - connects the men’s experiences of racism with their experiences of homophobia. (54 mins)

Film donated by Thirdworld NewsReel and Abigail Child

Saturday June 14th
Special event : The film maker workshop

Monday June 16 : The Short Delights
Director Erica Eaton will be in attendance
Fine and Dandy
A woman whose thoughts and actions are controlled by 1885 social etiquette is struggling to find happiness through self help books and videos. Through this she hopes to attract the attention of a potential female suitor.
Time will Tell
What do you talk about when you are not ready to say goodbye? Daylight savings always passes the time.
‘Omphalititis’; a fetish with the Belly Buttons or is it? We follow three people who all believe they have ‘omphalititis’ as they come out to their families and then to the world during the Berlin Pride Festival
These listed above were donated by Fully Flared Films

The following shorts have been organised through Erica Eaton
Baptism by Marilyn Freeman
Nude Ascending Staircase by Bridget Irish
The artist is both filmmaker and model in this short performance-based parody piece featuring a nude woman climbing a flight of stairs while pushing a large wood dresser up before her.
"Not Quite?" by Liz Richards
This hand-processed film poetically explores the space between male and female, and the difference between sex and gender

UN/BECOMING BEAUTIFUL, 2006 by Teresa Brazen (Video, 6 minutes)
" “Who we are never changes. Who we think we are does.”
Mary S. Almanac
“Un/Becoming Beautiful” explores self-image through the negative internal dialog that takes place about one’s own appearance. In this performance-based video, I am looking directly into the camera as if it is a mirror, sans makeup, while reciting an anxious litany of “I am beautiful” or “I am not beautiful.” The viewer goes on an emotional journey with me as I become critical of my looks, applying makeup to enhance my beauty, ultimately feeling even less attractive. By the end I have removed my makeup again and embrace the true beauty underneath. Most women dislike their natural state and feel that painting their faces with makeup makes them more beautiful.
I wanted to explore what the reverse would feel like; if I felt beautiful just as I am. My intent is to provoke the viewer to think about their own self-image amidst a society that tells us all we aren’t beautiful enough. "
ONE TINY LITTLE SECRET, 2006 by Teresa Brazen (Video, 2 minutes 27 seconds)
This short video artwork explores three different relationships to secrets: hiding, destroying and revealing. Through images of hands interacting with a tiny envelope containing a secret, the video examines what we do with our secrets and what they do to us. Which has more power: the keeper of the secret or the secret itself? To reinforce this theme, the visual perspective vacillates between that of the "secret keeper" and the secret. In one moment the viewer watches hands cup around the envelope; in the next, those same hands seem to be enveloping the viewer, turning them into the secret.
Ultimately, who is hiding whom? Who is destroying whom? Who is revealing whom?

Jared Pappas-Kelley is a writer and artist working primarily with durational media. His work seeks out the challenge of unintentional audiences, often melding sculpture, performance, and media based elements into projects that are then inserted into everyday life. For the last several years he has published Toby Room magazine featuring interviews with contemporary video artists. His direction of the non profit, ArtRod, has led the organization to be recognized as a leader in public and new media work. Pappas-Kelley earned his BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and is completing his MFA in writing and theory at Goddard College in Vermont. His work is in the collection of Tacoma Art Museum and other private collections. He was a 2007 Fellow of the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Some Say She Lost Her Head (0:2:42) explores ideas of interior life in contrast with exterior experience and cultural isolation. It re-constructs 2.5 seconds of found film footage by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) from the early 1900s, which had been long discarded. Working like an archeologist without a Rosetta Stone, this film cobbles together a contained experimental universe based only on the information found in the original. The process was a meditation on unfolding one limited fragment into a lyrical exploration of identity and other.

Little Deaths (0:1:56) is a short genre play combining lesbian prison movies with the cliché of queer monsters. The plot is simple: a woman bakes a gun into a cake to smuggle to her girlfriend in jail. What happens next is anyone’s guess. This short short is set to the rock stylings of seminal lesbionic band the Need.

The following films are by Erica Eaton :

I Live... is an experimental documentary that relates the High School experiences of 12 LGBT youth in the greater Rochester, NY area. This video was made in collaboration with the youth that appear in the piece, and others that appear in the credits.

Collected Meanderings: Chapters 1-3

Chapter 1: Network TV Made Me A Lesbian is a story about the being thrust into the world of media consumption. I grew up on PBS, but once I entered school I became aware of network TV. I had grown accustomed to the "subversive" nature of public television. I thought that people all believed that boys and girls were equal, that all people were equal. I believed that I could travel all over the world and learn anything I wanted to. The switch to network TV meant I had to work harder to find the contraband. There were still subversive possibilities, but I had to figure out where to look and what to look for.

Chapter 2: Uncoordinated: Swimming Upstream is the tale of a young girl stuck in a small town trying to figure out how she can fully express herself.

But I want to play baseball... is the third chapter in a series of video essays. In this segment the teen years approach and expectations change.

Michael Lent is an interdisciplinary artist and curator. He works mainly with video, installation, and drawing but also encompasses photography, performance, and sound. His work deals with gender and feminist issues, gossip and fashion, corporeal politics and queer theory, art history, and contemporary culture. He is interested in reconciling digital technologies and color representation with traditional artmaking practices.

Lent earned his BFA from Tyler School of Art - Temple University in Philadelphia and is completing his MFA work at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. He has shown extensively throughout the United States and Italy. He is the curator and creator of several interactive media projects including the Tollbooth Gallery, which has most recently been featured in Public Art Review and in the Contemporary Art Start (CAS) project of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

October Fire was shot during the Southern California wildfires that burned for several weeks in October 2007. It begins as a letter of sorts from the artist to his partner describing the changes in landscape. It explores the reaction and behavioral changes of local residents to the environmental impact of the air and ocean.

Tuesday June 17
The Truth about Jane (Drama, 2000)
Jane, a high school teenager, tries to deal with the discovery that she is a lesbian after developing an intense friendship with another girl who makes her discover her true sexuality, which is only the start of Jane's troubles when Jane's unaccepting mother, Janice, struggles with his surprising revelation of brought forth by her only daughter. (87 mins)

Wednesday June 18
Bob and Jack's 52 year adventure (USA) Documentary
A half century ago an Army sergeant started going out with his commanding officer. Their romance grew and then grew too obvious. Rumors became anonymous tips to headquarters. They avoided court-martial by confronting the troops in their unit. The two men came out by confronting the troops in their unit. They've been together ever since...
Bob & Jack's 52-Year Adventure is the true self-told story about the kind of lifelong love we all hope for and the equal rights two men who are still in love will now need to survive. (41 mins)

Donated by Director Stu Maddux
God only knows: Same Sex Marriage (Canada ) (Documentary)

The documentary God Only Knows: Same Sex Marriage consists of two very different men changing lives for a period of time in order to gain an understanding of each other. A deeply religious father and a homosexual minister decide to exchange lifestyles, with all of their activities captured by director Brent Kawchuck. (63 mins)

Film rights donated by Joe Media TV

Monday June 23

The Gymnast (USA) Drama
The stunning Dreya Weber stars as a former top gymnast who discovers love and a new life path when she teams up with a dancer (played by former L.A. Lakers cheerleader Addie Yungmee) for an ambitious Las Vegas aerial act show. A visually compelling film that challenges notions of both ability and identity, THE GYMNAST is foremost a story about hope and taking the necessary risks to fully become yourself (96 mins)

Film donated by Lunar Fish Productions .

Tuesday June 24
Dirty Laundry (2006) Comedy
After ten years, Sheldon returns from New York City to Paris, Georgia. His mother Evelyn, a laundress who is stubborn, ornery, opinionated, mean-spirited, insulting, and inflexible, has sent a ten-year-old boy who says he's Sheldon's son up to see Sheldon. Sheldon comes home to straighten things out. Old arguments flare up - between mother and son and between brothers. Sheldon wants no part of fatherhood or family. Then, someone else from New York shows up at Evelyn's door, bringing a new set of challenges. Will this family ever stop airing its dirty laundry? And what of Sheldon: where is his pride? Can he, in the words of James Baldwin, go where his blood beats and live the life he has? (100mins)

Wednesday June 25
Curiosity of Chance (USA) Comedy
An already 'out' and eccentric teenager recruits a bizarre circle of friends made up of two oddball outcasts, a straight jock he's crushing on and a drag queen, to help him bring down the homophobic bully threatening his would-be peaceful, high-school existence (98 mins)

Donated by Bigfoot Entertainment

SASOD thanks :-

All of the Directors and producers who donated films
Erica Eaton
Richard Fung
Jason St Laurent, InsideOut Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival
Keimo Benjamin
Colin Robinson
Juan Pique
Jennifer Davis

OAS renews hope with “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” resolution

In the framework of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Charter of the Organization of American States, the 38th General Assembly of the OAS approved by consensus the resolution AG/RES-2435(XXXVIII-O/08) “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”(see below), presented by the Brazilian delegation.s
After 3 days of intense negotiation and an impressive diplomatic mobilization, for the first time in the history of the hemisphere the words sexual orientation and gender identity appear on an official document approved by consensus by the 34 countries of the Americas. This text recognizes the serious human rights violations faced by individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. This unprecedented document in the region was the result of consensus, including the English-speaking Caribbean countries whose legislation still criminalize consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex.
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) joinsthe Caribbean Forum for Liberation of Allo-sexualities and Genders (CARIFLAG) in welcoming the resolution and notes the good intentions of American and particularly Caribbean states regarding the issue of homophobic violence. The organisations hope that with time and a process of education, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the rights of all citizens to freedoms without distinction to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status will be affirmed and protected. In this regard, SASOD and CARIFLAG sees the resolution as renewing hope that the dialogue on violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity can be advanced within a framework where the basic rights of all citizens of the Americas, including gays and lesbians in the Caribbean, to live in free, fair and life-affirming societies are recognised.
The resolution represents a step forward in the working process for the approval of an Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, whose negotiation will continue next year. The current draft already includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as protected categories.
These achievements are the results of a collective working process started at the end of 2006 by Global Rights, Mulabi - Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos and IGLHRC – Latin America and the Caribbean (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission), aiming at strengthening the participation of the regional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Travesti and Inter-sex (LGBTTTI) movement as component of the civil society within the OAS.
In this frame, from the 29th to the 31st of May, more than 20 activists of different sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions from 16 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean met in Medellín to work on a strategy for participation and visibility in this quintessential moment of the political life of the OAS. This event was possible thanks to the support of Global Fund for Women, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, IGLHRC, Global Rights and MULABI.
On May 31st the informal dialogue between the Secretary General of the OAS José Miguel Insulza and civil society took place: within this space the LGBTTTI groups had the chance to intervene three times, and one of the interventions was applauded by the audience. The Secretary General took in great account the issues raised by the activists, underlining the question of the resolution presented by Brazil and the importance of the participation of the representatives of our Coalition in this process.
Fourteen year-old Camilo Rojas of Colombia, read the declaration of the Coalition (see the text below). The document, making reference to the topic of the Assembly “Youth and democratic values”, highlighted the situation of human rights violation suffered by LGBTTTI children and youth. The declaration obtained the applause of the civil society participants as well as the official delegations, and was circulated in English and Spanish to the heads of delegations.
AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08)
Members of the LGBTTTI movement and allies attending the 38th session of the General Assembly of the OAS:
Belissa Andia (Instituto Runa – Secretaría Trans ILGA, Peru)
Caleb Orozco (United Belize Advocacy Movement, Belize)
Camila Zabala (Aireana, Paraguay)
Camilo Rojas, Sentimos Diverso, Colombia)
Cindy Loren (GATTA, Brazil)
Claudia Spellmant (Colectivo Travesti de San Pedro Sula, Honduras)
Edmilson Medeiros (Red Afro LGBT y Articulação Politica das Juventudes Negras, Brazil)
Germán Rincón Perfetti (Asociación. Lideres en acción, Colombia)
Javier Minnota Minnota (AfroAmérica XXI, Colombia)
July Betances (Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Dominican Republic)
Marcelo Ferreyra (IGLHRC, Argentina)
Marina Bernal (Mulabi, Mexico-Colombia)
Michel Riquelme (Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad, Chile)
Natasha Jiménez (Mulabi, Costa Rica)
Sandra Montealegre (Mesa Joven por la Diversidad Sexual, Colombia)
Sara Hoyos (Independent Activist, Colombia)
Silvia Martínez (Red LAC/Trans, Nicaragua)
Stefano Fabeni (Global Rights, USA)
Tamara Adrian (DIVERLEX, Venezuela)
Tatiana Cordero (Taller Comunicación Mujer, Ecuador)
Maurice Tomlinson (Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, Jamaica)
(Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination SASOD, Guyana)
(Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 3, 2008)
That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;
That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;
CONSIDERING that the OAS Charter proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;
REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights; and
TAKING NOTE with concern acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,
1. To express concern about acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
2. To request that the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) include on its agenda, before the thirty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
3. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-ninth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the resources allocated in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.

Mister Secretary General, Ministers, Members of the Official Delegations, Civil Society Representatives,
We, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, travesti, transsexual, transgender and intersex organizations, convened in Medellin, Colombia on May 29, 30 and 31, 2008, in accordance with directives established by the General Assembly of the OAS in its resolutions AG/RES.2092(XXXV-O/05); CP/RES.759(1217/99); 840(1361/03); AG/RES.1707(XXX-O/00) and AG/RES.1915(XXXIII-O/03), which determine a regulatory framework to enhance and strengthen civil society participation in OAS activities and in the Summit of the Americas process, are concerned that in the draft declaration of Medellín “Youth and democratic values” there are no references to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, even though they were part of the recommendations from the civil society meeting in Washington, from the 10th to the 14th of March, 2008.
Our reality as youth is characterized by the violation of the right to life; we are victims of torture, genital mutilations, forced medical surgery and sexual violence. Our rights to health, education, identity, work and participation are denied. We are constantly victims of stigmatization and exclusion in our families and in society as a whole. Our visibility and the right to our social and legal identities are also denied. All these rights violations are caused by social, cultural and religious prejudices that destroy our dignity as citizens.
All our rights are systematically violated in all countries of the hemisphere.
Since this reality contradicts the essence of the democratic values of the OAS, we recommend:
  • That Member States recognize the existence of diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression among young persons. This includes recognizing the rights to change name and sex in our legal documents without requiring genital mutilation.
  • That Member States promote the respect for diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in education and media to build a just, equitable and inclusive society.
  • That Member States ensure, especially to youth, full access to education, health, employment and occupation without discrimination; in case of rights violations within families and communities of origin to provide services sensitive to the needs of young persons
  • That Member States repeal all criminalizing and discriminatory legislation, and promote cultural, social and institutional changes which are aimed at preventing and punishing discrimination and violence, and thereby fully guaranteeing our rights.
  • That the General Assembly approves the draft Resolution CP/CAJP-2626/08 “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” presented by the Brazilian Delegation, whose initiative we fully endorse. At the same time we urge all Member States to support the above mentioned resolution.
  • That the General Assembly approves the draft Resolution AG/doc4794/08 “Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance” and that Member States commit themselves to finalizing the negotiation of the draft accepting the substantive progress achieved during the past year.
We believe that, as long as discrimination and intolerance against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, travesti, transsexuals, transgenders and intersex continue unpunished in our societies, there will neither be democratic values for youth, nor will there be democracy for all.
[1] The link to see the video is: