Charlot, President of the Executive Committee ([email protected]):
If I am to engage in politics, it is as a homosexual. For many amongst us, KOURAJ’s creation was a revolution, the beginning of a long struggle…but for me, it was already victory. When the moment arrived to submit my memoir project on homosexuality to my law school, my professor told me she could not accept it due to her religious convictions. I finally understood that we had no other choice but to engage ourselves immediately for this type of behavior to end. I am masisi, and since I was 18-years-old, my family finally accepted me for who I was after a long struggle. They even went so far as to welcome into the home my partner, despite the fact I grew up and live in still a poor district. I believe it is possible to be and live as a homosexual in Haiti, but this is a right that we must win.
In a country in which school appears to be the only solution for social ascension, your classmates refuse that you apply for a leadership position for your class because you are too effeminate, you understand very quickly that discrimination has no limits, that it insinuates everywhere, link a horrible stench that stains you. I do not want to leave this country because I do not want to youth who are born homosexual or transgender to have a more difficult life than others solely due to something they did not choose. I do not believe for one second this fallacious argument that says respecting human rights is a luxury of rich countries; to the contrary, when we are poor, our only wealth is the feeling of our own human dignity.
If only all of us homosexuals and transgender persons had the feeling of their own human dignity. Yet faced with such permanent and brutal stigmatization, violence, and insults, many of us – if not the totality – have lost hope to see our own dignity respected.
That is what I want to fight; I want to fight this fatalism, I want to fight the hate that lowers us. KOURAJ is not the solution to all of our problems, yet for the first time, it represents a sign that some homosexuals have become engaged, have reacted, have acted, and most importantly have begun to believe in Haiti, a Haiti that will be dignified in its history and in its struggle for human rights. We do not yet have numbers, but this will change. KOURAJ is the spark, the possibility that there is an alternative to enduring suffering; it is the means that we masisi have chosen to finally change Haiti.
Ernest, Vice President of the Executive Committee ([email protected]):
I have dreamed of a Haiti where all masisi can finally be free, free to speak, free to walk in the street, free to love each other, but most of all, free to exist. All the insults and mud that fellow Haitians throw at our faces everyday, every moment, horrify me. I was always proud of who I was, and since the age of 37, I no longer hide who I am. However, I am lucky to live in a family that has accepted me, one that does not live in a poor neighborhood, which is not the case for all masisi.
For my friends and for the majority of masisi in Haiti, the situation seems like a dead end. They are insulted, spit at, beaten, and yet they must bite their tongues because the risk of saying who they are or of standing up to their aggressors usually means being kicked out of their homes in a country in which one does not survive without family, in which jobs are scarce, nearly as scarce as the possibility for self-emancipation.
I want to fight for masisi to no longer have to hide themselves by marrying a woman, or by leaving the country like the majority of them dream of doing. Six years ago, one of my closest friends was going home, and a group of guys started to insult and provoke him. Finally, he didn’t have any other choice but to defend himself; however, some of the guys came back, this time with machetes…he died violently that day, and the criminal never once was prosecuted for this hate crime.
Still today in Haiti, the situation has not yet changed, and we risk our lives by being out to our friends and families. Six years ago, no organization existed in which one could denounce this type of crime. Today, we have created KOURAJ to finally never again have such crimes go unanswered for, to finally provide an example to our fellow masisi that is possible to raise your head, that the solution is not to leave your country or to hide indefinitely who you are. The solution we have is to fight homophobia head on, such that we can exist, finally exist….
Stephenson, Member of the Executive Committee:
I am 26-years-old and was born in Port-au-Prince. I think my family always knew I was masisi, and even after I told them, they still did not kick me out luckily, despite the fact they told me to remain a discreet as possible out of fear partly that something may happen to me, partly that they would be ashamed by such a scandal in their family. We live in a poor neighborhood. I am effeminate, and luckily my neighborhood respects me because I was always very respectful of others and discrete. People insult me all the time, by I was never in any danger…or so I thought.
One year ago, that all changed. A man threw a rock at me, then another bigger rock that really hurt, while he was calling me a masisi. I responded to him that he did not have the right to hit me, and I started to argue with him. Very quickly, a group of guys arrived with all sorts of items, including a machete, and they started to beat me up. They hit me with the machete, but luckily, I succeeded to flee by running through the front door of a house on the street and escaping out the back. I thought I was going to die that day, and I am pretty sure I would have had I not been able to flee as such.
The next day, I went to the police to file a complaint. The police officers laughed at me and refused to register my affidavit. They told me it was my fault – because I was masisi – that my aggressors provoked me. Humiliated and degraded, I finally returned hom where I preferred to lie to my family about my wounds in order to not hear yet again that it was my fault because I was not "discrete."
My cuts have since scarred and they no longer hurt, but the fear stays with me when I walk in the streets, fear of being attacked again. I don’t have the economic means to move to another neighborhood. In this country, the only way to avoid the risk of being attacked when one is masisi is to live in a secure house in a well-off neighborhood and to travel in a private car. I didn’t know what to do until Charlot contacted me to ask if would like to become a member of KOURAJ.
Now, I am part of strong group of people who like me no longer with to see youth suffer and be treated like we endured everyday in Haiti. I engage with KOURAJ because I know it is a risk, but one that I already take everyday in the streets. If I am hit now, at least I know to whom I can speak to protect my rights instead of simply looking the other way. I am scared, yet convinced that we have no other choice but to join in this universal struggle.
(Secretary and Treasurer autobiographies coming soon….)