On June 28th, 1969 the Stonewall Riots kicked of the gay rights movement in the US. In 1970 the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago – today prides are happening all around the world. TQU wants to know who the people are that are organizing todays prides and what the marches mean to them. See all Faces of Pride.

Faces Of Pride:

Anil Persaud || Guyana Pride

Anil PersaudWhat’s your name and age? My name is Anil Persaud and I am 21 years old.

Since when have you been involve in Guyana Pride? I became actively involved in Guyana Pride when I started working at SASOD Guyana in 2017, which was actually the starting point of the planning process of Guyana Pride. This intense planning for the Guyana Pride festival started in November of 2017 during an in country meeting with our primary Pride donor and members of the Guyana LGBT Coalition’s pride planning committee.

Why do you think Guyana Pride is important? Guyana Pride offers a space for people to freely express themselves and live their lives authentically without fear of stigma and discrimination. This is not only empowering for the LGBT community but also sends a strong message to policy makers and the wider community, expressing that the LGBT community exists and deserves equal rights and equal opportunities as human beings with innate fundamental rights.

It is a means of creative campaigning, offering sensitization to the public in a less formal manner than a workshop or a forum. This simplistic form of education breaks barriers and changes perceptions as it presents the LGBT community in a positive frame, which is not quite often seen, especially in Guyana. Merely displaying talents, skills and the desire to live freely which is an innate human characteristic causes persons to resonate more with the LGBT community and recognize that we are all deserving of protection from violence and discrimination regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, race, age, religion or any other human characteristic.

What is one or two remarkable things that happened at Guyana Pride? The Guyana Pride Festival 2018 was undoubtedly a remarkable experience in its entirety. It saw groups and individuals coming together and working cohesively to implement not just one or two, but eight consecutive days of activities. There was a total of nine individual activities for the Pride Festival including a games day and health fair, an inter-faith session and even an open mic performance night. However, for me, the most remarkable event was definitely our first ever Pride Parade which was the first in the entire English speaking Caribbean. Intense planning went into the Pride Parade and everything was done using the formal protocols that are required. There was expressed permission granted from the Minister of State, the Assistant Commissioner and Commander of A Division of the Guyana Police Fore and the Town Clerk of Georgetown to host this parade. One of the most fulfilling elements of the parade was the support received from the police force, as there is some existing disparity between the LGBT community and the police. Regardless of this disparity, the force was extremely professional and provided quality security and protection throughout the parade. The parade was practically incident free and whilst I ensured that there were protocols in place for incidents of violence, we were not forced to resort to any of these means. The LGBT community truly marched with pride in their veins as it was not only a parade but it was a movement and a clear statement – we exist and we deserve rights, like any other human being.

I also strongly believe that the national dialogue that was prompted by the Pride festival was remarkable. While I fully anticipated negative backlash from persons within different opposing sectors, I was pleasantly surprised to see the resounding support that was offered to the LGBT community in newspapers, on television, on social media and practically any place in which persons could share their positive vibes and learned opinions. One negative letter in a newspaper saw about four positive responses and that in itself is a clear depiction that there are progressive minds within our country and barriers are being broken with changing perspectives.

What do you do when you are not organizing Guyana Pride? As SASOD’s Homophobia(s) Education Coordinator, a lot of my work is based in sensitization and education with the intent of eliminating homophobia(s). Whilst Pride was a very prominent, ‘in your face’ form of activism and advocacy, my job entails similar work on a daily basis in a more controlled manner. I work with about seven different sectors, including youth, education, religion, law enforcement and health care, educating persons in Gender and Sexual Diversity, Legal Literacy and other topics relevant to the programme I coordinate. I also provide discrimination reporting services to persons in the LGBT community through a formal discrimination reporting system that also offers various means of redress including the provision of counselling and pro-bono legal support. I also manage volunteer and member databases which is especially effective since the events that are hosted through my programme, integrally involve these persons. It is notable that my programme hosts two activities every month for the LGBT community to enjoy a safe space in which they can build rapport with others and learn more about SASOD in very informal ways.

What do you like to do in your free time? I am actually a Social Work student at the University of Guyana and while my job can be very demanding, I am still striving to maintain good grades with excellent performance on campus. I’ve focused a lot of my work on campus on addressing LGBT affairs and by extension, the impact of poverty on discrimination and vice versa. While that is not the most thrilling story, I do enjoy spending time with friends and family and I encourage persons to build good social circles as they function as great support systems when you are faced with difficulties.

Is there something you would like to say to the rest of the LGBT+ community? Be true to who you are and don’t be afraid to let your true colours shine. Build strong support systems and focus on your dreams and aspirations. Education is vital and staying in school is important in ensuring that you can lead healthy, authentic lives. Finally, never be afraid to reach out – persons like I, are always available to lend assistance and you should take advantage of the opportunities at your disposal, keeping in mind that while it may still seem difficult to live authentically in 2018, there is constant change and the atmosphere is better than it has ever been before.

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