The Guyana Rainbow Foundation (GuyBow) held a symposium ‘LGBTIQ Family Life Matters’ on 30 May, 2018 at the Herdmanston Lodge. The symposium was held as part of the Guyana Pride Festival 2018 celebrations, primarily funded by C.o.C Netherlands.
Colleen Mc Ewan, chair of GuyBow, explained that GuyBow held a pre-Mother’s Day event in the National Park for LBQ women and their families. The event was successful but at the same time GuyBow recognized that many families discriminate against family members because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Colleen spoke about the love and support that has received over the years from the majority of her relatives and extend gratitude to them for treating her and the family she created with humanity. She said that those who are still challenged by her sexuality are in the minority but have mostly respectful.
The gathering included LGBTIQ families, and relatives of LGBTIQ people.
“My family is a work in progress” said Lawrence. “I do not believe that anyone should dictate my happiness, and I am thankful for my LGBTIQ family.” JJ stated that family are often very loving and respectful until that moment when they discover our Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity. I mostly enjoy the support of my immediate family now but it was not an easy road.
A woman, in the audience shared “My brother is gay, and I saw how my family treated him. I did not want to experience that shame. I believed that ‘what you don’t know can’t kill you.’ I kept everything to myself but recently, as I get older, I said to hell with everyone, I have to live my life” A transwoman, Lashaun said “My family is okay with me, except for my father…but he doesn’t matter. I am sorry for those who are having the struggle”
“With much difficulty, Lawrence also told the audience, ‘I confided in the sister I loved and thought I was close to, but she told everyone and took everything away”. “Almost in tears, he went on to say that, I am waiting 19 years to see my children since they were taken away from me. Another patron encouraged him “Don’t give up; you have a purpose. My twin sister spat on me but now she is in contact. My teenage daughter loves me, she knows me as her gay dad”
“Every family has at least one member who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer,” said Sherlina Nageer; “we are everywhere; we need to have more conversations to start getting rid of the fear, and to understand what the older generation fears.” She believes that there is hope and positive things to be hopeful for pointing out to the young LGBTIQ people in the room who are starting a family of their own.
A relative of a lesbian commented that she and the family accepted, not only their relative but also the couple and their adopted children. She said when she was younger, and with the lack education she would criticize (LGBT) people, but with education and television she became more aware; you understand and have more respect for LGBTIQ family members and people, she noted “And when you see these beautiful children they (lesbian couple) have raised, then you know how wonderful they are as parents.”
“I pray for my parents, they don’t accept me because of their religion” said a teacher. He encouraged all the persons present that “It doesn’t matter who loves you or who doesn’t love you, if you love yourself you can go through it.” He reiterated the importance of the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum in schools to facilitate the skills for children to build self-esteem and for children to cope with difficult life situations. In responding to the question that was asked by another participant/moderator “what we do while waiting for our families to accept us?” the teacher said to “find your purpose in life, further studies, do things while waiting and find your purpose.”
The Guyana RainBow Foundation (GuyBow) has the capacity to support families who are struggling to demonstrate love and humanity to their LGBTIQ relatives and encourages them to contact the organization for information and guidance.