By Naomi Parris
ON May 17, the world celebrated International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and efforts were once again made to raise awareness of LGBTQ rights violations with the aim of ending discrimination against this community around the world.
“Coming out” is an important process for everyone in the LGBTQ community, as it gives those individuals a sense of empowerment to live their truth. However, on this journey of self-discovery, not many have great experiences, especially teens living in Guyana and other Caribbean countries, since there is grave stigmatisation that comes with being a part of the queer community.
Eighteen-year-old Chandradatt Jagdeo, sharing his story with the Pepperpot Magazine, said that he “came out” to some members of his family and friends while in secondary school, and stated that while his journey was not as challenging since he had family to lean on, he did face some hurdles.
Jagdeo said that it was his aunt and uncle he stood beside during his journey as they were more accepting, “ The first persons of the family I actually “came out” to were my aunt and uncle from my dad’s side and it was super easy to talk to them, since my aunt had a brother who was gay. So, that made it more comfortable to speak to them and this was in February 2016.”
The young man who is a Biology student at the University of Guyana admitted that he has not yet built the courage to be straight forward with his immediate family, since he is still very much worried of how his parents will react.
The young man noted that the most difficult period of his “coming out” journey was the hate and discrimination he received from the very persons he thought would stand by him — his friends.
“With my peers, that was another difficult aspect I had to deal with. When I “came out” the night before online, the next day I was confronted by many of them and I was asked a lot of questions and I was also faced with horrendous comments [on social media],” he stated.
In recalling his experiences, Jagdeo told the Pepperpot Magazine that almost all his friends had turned against him, adding that he had lost all of his male friends and even a few female ones too, and was labelled an outcast in school.
“In the morning when we had assembly or lunchtime at the canteen, we needed to be in lines, but the males kept six feet apart…and that really burned my heart,” he said.
He disclosed that there were times he was physically assaulted, and on many days had to run from the school gates to a vehicle or walk beside a teacher to enter or exit the school.
Jagdeo, who is a Hindu, revealed that while Hinduism stands neutrally on homosexuality, he has still suffered discrimination from his fellow brethren as well.
“It was clear that Hinduism does not condemn gay people, but some Hindus who are not aware of these aspects fall into discriminating against people,” he stated.
Jagdeo noted that he had an even more difficult time while attending school, since many of the students who attended the same school were Christians and seeing that the Christian community condemns homosexuality, he endured much discrimination during his days at school.
He added that the school had even gone so so far as to invite a guidance counsellor to help “cure” him of his “issue,” however, the young man stood his ground and remained true to himself.
“When it comes to the religious community, it was one of the most painful and toxic periods I had to deal with; the religious community, on the whole, was incredibly toxic,” he admitted.
A SILVER LINING
He noted that while there is still much more needed to be done in Guyana to protect queer men and women, the times are changing and there are a few persons who are aware of what their discrimination and bullying can do to a person.
Jagdeo added since attending the university, he has not faced the same challenges that he once faced at high school; however, he still has to deal with toxic masculinity and has somehow grown accustomed to it.
Nevertheless, with time, he believes that things will change, and people will eventually learn to respect people of the queer community and stop spewing hate.