By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community has taken another step toward formalising a means of public sensitization and education through the formation of the Bahamas Organisation of LGBTI Affairs.
Pointing to the influx of Bahamian LGBTI people to Canada, spokeswoman Alexus D’Marco said there is a need now more than ever for a formal office as a means of advocacy against stigma for the community.
The Bahamas also needs structure in order to have a seat at the table at respective regional levels, Ms D’Marco told The Tribune.
“The impact is dissemination of information, education and sensitization regarding LGBTI people,” she said in an interview Friday.
“People should know that it has nothing to do with a person’s sexual preference. It’s a basic human right. Everyone can get service at Princess Margaret Hospital, but some still face stigma receiving medical care. Again this is a basic human right that all should be afforded. So some sensitization is needed in this regard.”
“So we need structure and to have a paper trail so when we do sit in regional forums we have proof that we did, for example, reach out to the government or do certain things.
“When the government goes into international arenas they say we don’t have LGBTI issues, but there are some and they sign all these conventions, but in this country there isn’t any work being done.
“So we say we need a structure.”
The office also will be used as a means for formal dialogue with the Bahamas Christian Council.
“The church poses the greatest opposition to the LGBTI community. We do have some allies, but there is still some opposition.
“We have reached out to them before and they acknowledged our email but that’s it.”
The local LGBTI has been busy in the last several month doing ground work for a greater presence in the country.
Earlier this month Ms D’Marco said there has been a “vast improvement” in the general treatment of transgender Bahamians adding, however, that more still needs to be done in terms of mental health services and other areas.
She is also the lead spokesperson of the D’Marco Group and the newly launched United Caribbean Trans Network (UCTrans).
Referring specifically to several ongoing discussions on ways to improve legal frameworks and health policies that presently discriminate against transgender Bahamians, Ms D’Marco said the Bahamas was now “setting the pace” for “inclusion and understanding”.
“There is a vast improvement,” she said. “As far as respect for trans persons goes, and how they identify in The Bahamas, people are now realising and understanding that there is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Ms D’Marco said a streamlined education strategy alongside a steered public discussion on the transgender lifestyle has aided an overall campaign of understanding. She said based on this education, there has been a shift in culture.
To that end, Ms D’Marco said local trans persons are “blessed” to sit at the table with local “decision makers and gatekeepers,” namely the Office of the Attorney General with whom discussions concerning rights, protections and avenues to communicate perceived bias or oppression have been had.
“For them to open their door to us is a step in the right direction because back in the past you wouldn’t have had that,” Ms D’Marco said. “I think we are moving and progressing slowly, but we are making some headway.
“We have our seat at the table,” she added.
Attorney General Carl Bethel later confirmed that legal officers attached to his office had spoken to community representatives on a “technical level”.