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If I were Prime Minister
“On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, I wish to convey heartfelt condolences to the President of the United States of America and the American People with respect to the unspeakable horrors of the June 12 attack on an Orlando, Florida nightclub, the worst mass shooting in 20th century American history.
Today, we urge the American people to acknowledge the national and global danger of its pro-gun culture; religiously-legitimised sexism and homophobia; embedded racism against African-descended people, people of colour and immigrants; and pervasive realities of violence against women.
Violence against people who do not fit dominant ideals of manhood, womanhood and heterosexuality, is experienced in ways that profoundly intersect these other issues. True greatness is showing fearless will to dismantle these points where oppression and fear meet, instead making them meeting points for cross-cutting transformation.
The People of the Republic of T&T recognise that members of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender communities share the right of all citizens of all nations to live in conditions of safety, respect and equality, and to create spaces for affirmation, empowerment and joy. Members of these communities are part of our nations’ families, civil society organisations, workplaces, religions and schools. We understand that threat to their lives also harms those who know and love them, and whose solidarities are with them.
As the Government and people of the United States of America struggle to come to terms with this terrible tragedy, T&T is also gripped by shock, sadness and outrage. This strengthens our resolve to collaborate across the region and hemisphere to fulfill the dream of full emancipation born out of the subjugation experienced by so many of our resilient peoples. The lesson to us is that violence to one constitutes violence to all as it violates the hope of a world of greater justice and peace.
No doubt, members of T&T’s LBGT community wish to hear even greater government commitment to ending discrimination and criminalisation on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, knowing that such laws perpetuate the conditions for many forms of gender-based violence, which harm citizens, including children, regardless of their sexuality.
Without commitment behind them, words remain just such. They offer little genuine solace or solidarity on behalf of the nation’s representatives, highlighting above all our own fears of challenging homophobia and surviving in political life.
Acknowledging this vulnerability means being truthful about what it takes for LBGT people to survive and thrive daily. Therefore, my government takes this moment to conscientiously state its commitment to ending the conditions within which such an American massacre becomes possible.
It is not enough to say may it never happen or should never happen in T&T. True leadership means taking action so that it does not. Prejudice will not keep us from acting, for our watchword of tolerance does not extend to inhumanity and inequity.
Our hearts are also heavy at the loss of so many young, promising lives. We are reminded that protection of children and youth includes those who are lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, for they face greater vulnerability. As Prime Minister, I assure our own LBGT young people that we honour your need for safe spaces to grow and flourish, whether in schools or other public places.
No nation should ever have to face such tragedy and it is hoped that nothing of this nature will ever befall any nation again. I call on everyone, from religious leaders to teachers, from youth to parliamentarians, to affirm a place for the human rights of all.
Join me in assuring the LGBT community that the Republic of T&T will unite to treat each other as we wish to be treated, to choose compassion instead of conflict, and to tolerate and protect gender and sexual diversity as we do religious and cultural diversity. May we strengthen our resolve to create a nation where each of us is surrounded by love, and is safe within our shared home.
Dr Gabrielle Hosein,
For Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister
of the Republic of T&T
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