Trinidad is the largest island in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, off Venezuela's coast in the southern Caribbean. With a Creole culture incorporating African, European, East Indian and Chinese traditions, it’s known for its distinct cuisine, calypso and soca music, and boisterous Carnival celebration. It's a great tourist attraction. However the Immigration Act of Trinidad and Tobago states that it is illegal for homosexuals to enter T&T. So if you are LGBT – the minute you enter that country, you are either declaring you are NOT gay or you are breaking the law.
Trinidad-born, US-based Judge Helen Whitener says she was ready to break the law when invited to speak in T&T, as an openly gay person, by the U.S. Embassy!
Judge Whitener, is openly lesbian and is the youngest woman of color to sit on the Pierce County Superior Court bench, the highest trial court in the State of Washington.
According to an article in Guardian T & T, the Judge attributes her success to the discipline she learned growing up in Trinidad until the age of 16.
She visited T&T with her wife, Lynn Rainey, a retired US Army command sergeant-major, at the invitation of the US Embassy, to talk about overcoming intolerance.
There are a number of laws on the books in T&T, which affect LGBTQI people negatively, and, speaking at an open forum at UWI on Tuesday, Judge Whitener had a message for legislators:
“The time to implement justice is always now. So I ask our Prime Minister to break down these laws…”
“You cannot praise my accomplishments and forget my brothers and sisters. We are deserving of a seat at the table. You cannot be proud of my accomplishments and not be proud of them. We are one. I am a Trinidadian, I am a Tobagonian and we are one people.”
The Judge said she came to put a face to the issue, and to help people realize that they can lose people of her calibre if the laws are not amended, as they are hypocritical and can be applied arbitrarily.
In addition, she said she hoped people would see her and realize that LGBTQI people are regular humans like everyone else.
In the meantime remember if you are planning a trip to lovely T & T you may well be breaking the law!