A recent meeting between State Department personnel, representatives of the tourism industry including cruise lines, Club Med, and Marriott , and LGBT activists from the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, St. Lucia, Belize, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago started a much-needed dialogue on countering rampant homophobia in the Caribbean.
The gathering was organized by the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation, an LGBT equality organization headed up by the founder of RSVP Vacations. Celebrity Cruises hosted the meeting at their Miami headquarters. Some of the American tourism officials expressed shock at the levels of antigay violence and homophobia that were described at the meeting. Jamaica, particularly, is a hotbed of hatred and has seen scores of gays murdered.
“The meeting with travel leaders was an excellent idea,” Dane Lewis, the head of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, told the Blade. “[It was] a well-needed first conversation about ways to collaborate.”
Numerous Caribbean nations like Belize, the Grenadines, and Grenada criminalize same-sex activity, which fosters homophobia. While the Miami meeting was preliminary and seen as a relationship-building exercise, some ideas were floated on how the tourism industry can help change things in the Caribbean. Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe of the Groundation Grenada stressed "more engaged tourism," highlighting how a lesbian couple came to Grenada and held an arts workshop during their vacation.
“That was so powerful for people,” Brooks-Smith-Lowe said. “It creates visibility in a way that allows us to see that we really are missing out on whole segments of our population and the world if we just totally dismiss queer individuals.”
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