Attacks on Queers in Haiti Show Religious Intolerance

The most recent homophobic attacks in Haiti show a determined part of a country that is trying to be more open to tourism.

A mob of dozens of locals attacked a private party where a British man and his Haitian partner were celebrating their engagement with friends. Several people were injured in the private residence, where the mob set fire to cars and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks through windows. The French News Agency AFP reported that police were alerted and arrived last-minute to break up the mob in order to prevent the engagement arty from being killed, which was the intent of the rioters.

After the terrifying incident, Charlot Jeudy, an official from the Haitian group Kouraj (Courage), stated that, “This is a criminal act and homophobic. There is no justification for this kind of attack on people in a private residence. Hopefully the justice authorities will react to the perpetrators of this act.” Kouraj is an activist group working to protect lgbtq people and their human rights in Haiti.

The British man identified himself only as Max, a member of the Red Cross, who did not want to speak of the incident for fear of identifying and making vulnerable his partner.

Almost expectedly, this attack didn’t come from nowhere. The fact is that some political and religious leaders are seeing the world become more tolerant and accepting of queer people and are trying to prevent the same equal sentiments from taking a great foothold within Haiti.

Back in July over 1,000 people protested in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, demonstrating against any legal rights that could be extended to lgbtq people. The protests were started by the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations and were reported to be hostile and threatening toward queer people and the government if it allowed legislation to be brought forward that would legalize same-sex marriage. The president of the organization stated at the rally that, “God does not agree and nor do we because we rely on God, and because we saw the misfortunes it brought to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The protests came after watchdog groups cited a growing amount of violence toward lgbtq people in the country. On July 31 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a UN body, condemned “the recent wave of violence” that it linked “to the protest against homosexuality led by the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Groups.” The body also urged the government to investigate 47 cases of “violence and discrimination” against members of perceived members of the queer community in Haiti, including two who were viciously attacked during the protests.

Many are surprised at the violence, with an official from SEROvie, an foundation that promotes human rights of marginalized people, stated that, “I am quite surprised at the violence coming from [Haitian] people who we thought were tolerant. We don’t know where all this hatred is coming from.” Especially to reach tourists and promote a welcoming country this news won’t reach many on a happy note.

The lgbtq community in Haiti has always been small and inconspicuous. That was until the 2010 disastrous earthquake which increased discrimination against queer people. A report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported that Haitians blamed their fellow queer citizens for their “sinfulness” and bringing about the wrath of God. The report continued that “loneliness, invisibility, and social isolation are persistent problems” with no relief in sight.

Hopefully that can all soon change, or that at least the Haitian government will make a statement against those responsible for the attacks and show their citizens and those they want to recruit for tourist dollars that they are willing to stand up for equality and human rights.

Courage – A Postscript


On this 4th of July, I once again reflect upon “courage.” Courage comes in many forms and means different things to each individual.

America was born with a force of courage that overcame the oppression of the British Empire. The colonialists took up arms against England to fight for what they believed was right and just. Their freedom to think, to worship and speak whatever they wished drove them to sacrifice all that was near and dear to them. They took a chance and fought the war of independence with no holds barred. The American Revolution fostered an experiment in freedom and liberty that still thrives to this day, despite our shortcomings and failures to live up to the inherent promise of America of life, liberty and justice for all.

On a more personal level, I have had my moments of courage, that allowed me to shake free of my shackles of oppression, albeit self-imposed. As a closeted individual, my courage was muted. Deep inside I wanted to declare my independence from my life that was a façade. I so very much wanted to be the person I was meant to be but because of societal pressures, and fear, I remained entombed in a world I did not want to be in and continued to live a lie and was not true to the person I really was. I finally mustered the courage and came out and began to cast off my shackles of oppression that were preventing me from expressing my true individuality. The day I came out was my own personal American Revolution.

A much more recent moment of courage is related to my departure from my job of 20.5 years as the City Clerk of the City of Oneonta. Up until about 2.5 years ago, I was quite content living within the secure world of local government, enjoying the paid holidays, vacation, sick time and other benefits such as health insurance and the periodic travel to conferences. However, there came a moment in time when those feelings I felt when I was getting ready to come out came back. I began to feel restless, unfulfilled and all around unhappy with the situation I was in.

On May 10th, I once again mustered the courage I needed and declared my independence and tendered my resignation. It truly was a liberating feeling and one that I will not forget very soon. I put into action a series of decisions that will shape my destiny for years to come, and will take me in directions I never imagined while living within my secure world in City Hall.

Leaving my job took courage but there have been much more courageous acts undertaken by many people, and by one who still holds a special place in my heart even after her death 41 years ago. I think of my grandmother who came from Italy, with 3 young children to rejoin my grandfather who came to America 2 years prior. She left her homeland knowing full well she would never see her mother or her sisters ever again.

I think of what I have done — leaving my job after 20.5 years. Yes, that did take some courage, but my leaving my job pales in comparison to my brave grandmother and the courage she mustered within her to leave her secure world in Italy, and to seek a better life for her and her family in America. She is ever present in my consciousness, and I will honor her courage by doing what I need to do to be successful in whatever I undertake in the coming months and years.

What have been your moments of courage? What are you facing now that requires you to muster up courage like you never have before to achieve personal greatness? Think about someone in your past that meant a lot to you and put yourself in their shoes and just imagine what they must have been thinking and ultimately experienced because they had a desire for something better. What is it that burns inside of you that will force you to take a leap of faith and find the courage you need to move yourself beyond what is holding you back?

Don’t hesitate. Don’t look back. Don’t second guess yourself and be true to what is important to you. Don’t let life and opportunities go by because of fear and not mustering the courage you needed to achieve something better in your life. Do whatever you need to do to be true to yourself and will make you happy. Make a decision and just do it.

Insane Courage

I recently saw a post on Facebook that impacted me in a way that I didn’t think about when I first saw it.  However, when I started to think about it more and related it to my life in its current form, it became an amazing revelation.  The post from Facebook, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.”

As most of you know I have recently resigned my position as City Clerk for the City of Oneonta.  My last day will be July 12th.  After thinking about this quote I saw on Facebook, I realized that it took all but 20 seconds to go into the City Manager’s Office and give him my resignation – 20 seconds!  That 20 seconds it took to give him my letter of resignation has resulted in a raging fire of motivation and excitement that would never have happened if I did not muster up those brief moments of insane courage to do what I needed to do and what I had been thinking about doing for so long.

While I was undergoing the agonizing process of deciding to leave my job that has provided me with that false sense of security we all have from being somewhere for so long, I had at the same time, been in discussions with Wrestling Superstars Live (WSL) about becoming it’s “Charities Initiatives Coordinator” with the ultimate position being the “Director of Live Events.”  That decision to become part of WSL, solidified my decision to leave my day job, and venture forth to uncharted areas and a totally new direction for my life.  Twenty seconds was all it took to begin that new direction.

I will always remember the day I resigned.  It is emblazoned in my memory now forever.  It was like someone was behind me pushing me forward to do it.  A voice kept saying “It is time.  It is time.  Do it now.”  The compulsion to get up out of my chair and bring my letter into the City Manger was incredibly intense; a feeling unlike I had ever experienced before and one that I could not resist no matter how much I tried.  I know I was not alone in my office that day.  There were forces beyond my cognizant awareness that were pushing me forward to do what I have known I had to do for a very long time.

We must always put faith in forces unseen, and to trust our intuition.  Our intuition is grounded in the universe and it’s incredible power to change the world, but more importantly our own small piece of the world for the better.  The missing link to actually changing the world is our desire to accept the power and to tap into it with no holds barred.

Life is full of risks and pitfalls but our fear of failure and trying to prevent adverse impacts on our lives from taking a risk will doom us to a life of mediocrity and listless ambition.  Take charge of your lives and heed the internal voices that compel you to do something outside of your comfort zone.  Do not settle for a life less than what you deserve.

Will others try to instill you in a sense of doubt?  Yes.  Will others try to play on your fears, and make you feel guilty and have second thoughts about your decision?  Yes.  Should their opinion matter when it comes to your life and your happiness?  The answer is a resounding NO.  Repel these people, and do not listen to them, no matter how much or how loudly they proclaim your foolishness.  Do what is in your heart, as it is what is best for you.

We are only on this Earth a short while to make a difference.  Do not allow yourself to be swayed by the opinion of others because rest assured, if you do listen to them you will eventually be an old person looking back on your life with a lot of regrets for not following your heart and blazing your own trail to greatness instead of living someone else’s expectation of what you should be.

Make a decision that is for your benefit.  Do not let that important and very pivotal 20 seconds pass you by and not take the opportunity that lays within it to change your life beyond your wildest imagination.