On Tuesday, The New Haven Pride Center hosted a live-streamed conversation about identity, queerness, Pride and societal issues in Guyana. 

Titled “Uplifting Queer Guyana,” the conversation between DJ Ephraim Adamz and Joel Earl Simpson was held in conjunction with The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, or SASOD. In the event, the two shared personal anecdotes and discussed the queer history and social structures in Guyana.

“I think a lot of people are interested in the Caribbean and the Caribbean space, but they often don’t know where to get information,” Simpson said in an interview with the News. “Even though we have a lot of research reports, your average American might not have the time to sit down and read a 70-page human rights report.”

Simpson, a Guyanese citizen, discussed being largely shielded from common negative queer experiences in the Caribbean because of “class protections.” However, he hasn’t been spared from violence due to his sexuality. In June of 2019, he was a victim of a hate crime, being attacked by a group of men in a market while buying breakfast.

Simpson helped found SASOD while in college, then Students Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, to try to lobby the Guyanese parliament to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation through an amendment to its constitution. 

“With the naivety of youth, of course, that didn’t happen. The amendment didn’t pass. Actually, they didn’t even vote on it,” Simpson said at the event.

Since then, SASOD has continued to combat discrimination in Guyana. Guyana, like all countries of the English-speaking Caribbean, has laws outlawing same-sex intimacy. While Simpson says there has been “indirect enforcement” of these laws through intimidation and harassment, there hasn’t been prosecution using those laws in decades. He emphasizes that queer tourists should not be afraid to go to Guyana.

SASOD helped organize Guyana’s first Pride event in 2019. This year’s Guyanese Pride celebration will be held from May 27 to June 7 as a hybrid between in-person and virtual events.  Simpson hoped this event would inspire people to visit Guyana for their Pride celebrations.

“We need people to come home and support our Pride and come to our events,” Simpson said. “You have a vacation budget. Why not use it to come to Guyana instead of going to Hawaii for the fifth time, for instance. Come to Guyana and support our Pride. It will show our government that Pride can be a boost for tourism.”

Adamz noted in the event that the north end of Hartford has a large Caribbean population and discussed how he helped Black and Caribbean communities and businesses celebrate pride events at home. He once received backlash for holding an “intersectional Juneteenth” celebration for queer people. Adamz said that this is an example of the importance of embracing both culture and sexuality, whereas other celebrations might limit people to one or the other.

The event was part of The New Haven Pride Center’s Latinx programming. Max Cisneros, Latinx Program Curator for the center, emphasized the importance of extending queer programming to communities that might usually be left out.

“As a Latinx curator, I’m trying my best to take stock of the multifaceted multicultural multi-backgrounds,” Cisneros said. “Those are all different avenues through which folks can get to the identity of Blackness, and we provide programming all along the way. I’m going to be real with you here, it frustrates me sometimes that there are a Hispanic communities that don’t necessarily see Caribbean folks as part of Latino America. That disturbs me.”

Adamz said he was glad to connect with Simpson over the internet despite being on different continents. Being encouraged to host events over Zoom due to the pandemic opened options for programming like this event, he added.

Adamz, a local DJ, filmmaker and songwriter who has collaborated with over 15 Pride Festivals, hopes events like this will help people expand their mindsets when it comes to sexuality.

“It is important to get information out, correct any misconceptions people have and really shift the focus to how we can elaborate on the narratives that are going on in other places,” Adamz said in an interview with the News. “When we think of gay rights, we think, ‘We have same-sex marriage here in the States, so the fight must be over,’ but it’s time we kinda look at things more on a spectrum globally.”

The New Haven Pride Center’s stated goal is “to provide educational, cultural and social enrichment for the LGBTQ+ community, its allies, and members, to make a positive contribution to the entire community of Greater New Haven.”

Dante Motley is public editor for the News. He was previously managing editor, and prior to that he covered Black communities at Yale and in New Haven. He has also served as an Associate Editor for the YDN Magazine and worked on "The Yalie" podcast. Dante is a senior in Grace Hopper College majoring in anthropology.