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Building stronger families

Monday, November 13, 2017

Everyone who is single (other than you and me) is single for a reason. The adventure of dating someone is to eventually discover that reason. People capable of relationships—are in them.

By the time they’ve reached our age, anyone capable of a relationship is already in one.

I got the chance to share my comic pearls of wisdom about life’s loneliness last weekend, including the requisite rhetorical device of exempting the interlocutors.

This isn’t cause for despair, the routine continues, but guidance. Your targets are the people capable of relationships—as they move between them.

Comfort. The bereaved.

The rebound. Is your friend.

Leon tossed his bearded head backward in laughter.

I reconnected last week with gay Caribbean colleagues in Maryland. As it should, that involved food, and lots of storytelling. Some stories were of the childless, responsible child who suspends ambition, moving back home to take care of parents at the end of their life.

Over Javed’s curry goat, the stories were about the violence families do to us at our funerals. About our different relationships with our family over dying. The complicated ways in which his family understands his activism. The hard choices he has made between the two.

In small places where relationships matter profoundly—for people who are lucky to even find a partner, let alone have them affirmed as family—family matters.

Our families are the places, I have to explain to foreigners, where gay and trans Trinbagonians experience violence—not our streets. Much of that violence is spiritual. It often calls itself love.

Today I’m meeting Georgetown law students planning human rights work in the Caribbean. I’ll tell them the same story I spend a lot of time telling lots of foreigners who want to attack the Caribbean homophobia North American media have storied as so superlative.

We are building a movement, that you can get behind and push. We are building a nation that we can share. That building requires love. Local knowledge. Sustainable solutions. Shared values. Stronger families.

Stronger Families isn’t just an idea. It’s a programme local youth-led NGO Silver Lining Foundation has spearheaded with T&T Association of Psychologists president and UWI lecturer Katija Khan, to offer parents and relatives of LGBTQI people tools to build stronger family.

Over the past eight weekends, family members have gathered in Champs Fleurs in groups that provide them therapeutic and social support.

At a time when there’s so much public hand wringing over the lack of mental health services, young people have pioneered one for the people in the most important role to guarantee LGBTQI people’s human rights: families.

Participants can find peer and professional support around the shame and confusion and anger they—like their children—often feel. They can get factual information, access to pastoral care, and learn from other families.

In 2010, a walrus-moustached American gay man announced that, precisely because T&T is the kind of place where professionals like Dr Khan or Anglican Rev Shelly-Ann Tenia make LGBTQI families stronger, he was travelling here to teach churches how to pray gay away. Young Trinbagonians rented maxis to protest; then on the way home stopped at Price Plaza to eat—wearing their gay-messaged T-shirts.

The following year, when 16-year-old George Kazanjian hanged himself, young people formed the Silver Lining Foundation.

My comic routine ends with the silver lining that every day someone somewhere becomes newly capable of being in a relationship. The same is true for families loving their LGBTQI children.

A new cycle of group sessions starts in February. Contact 745-3747 or [email protected].

Parents in the current one are generous. They’ve opened up their remaining sessions.


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