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6755: Re: 6742: Re: 6734: Gays in Haiti (fwd)

From: Ninaclara@aol.com

I have to agree with Kathy Grey that the 'Vodou cure' mentioned by Leonie 
Hermantin for a young gay man sounds like something far more likely to take 
place in a Protestant church than a Vodou temple. 'Exorcisms' of this type 
are quite common in the Protestant tradition, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, 
but not in Vodou as far I know. I have heard it said that Danto may punish a 
faulty serviteur by 'spoiling' him and making him gay. However, others have 
told me this is an excuse sometimes used by gay Vodouisants to rationalize a 
behavior they are aware is often looked down upon. And I have never heard of 
anyone being 'cured' of this 'punishment.' 

I also concur with Grey's remarks that in general the Vodou milieu appears to 
be far more tolerant of gayness than any other. In my experience, it is 
common to find openly gay men and women in Vodou temples enjoying the same 
position and respect as anyone else (strictly not the case in any Christian 
organization I have seen in Haiti). Indeed, I know several temples in 
Port-au-Prince made up almost entirely of gay men and women. These Vodou 
societe seem to serve as havens, even alternative families, for gays 
otherwise marginalized in their communities. It is interesting to note that 
most of these gay Vodouisants are also frequently involved in heterosexual 
liaisons and have children etc. An ostensibly gay Oungan friend of mine, 
recently back from Martinique with his third wife, now pregnant, very sweetly 
urged me to begin having children now, telling me how happy he was that his 
eldest child had just turned 16. I know this child personally as well as this 
Oungan's other children. They are well cared for children who go to school 
and don't seem in the least discriminated against or embarrassed by a family 
structure that would be deemed quite untraditional in the American context. 
In other words, 'gayness' doesn't play itself out the same way in Haiti as it 
does in the states. 

Furthermore, before I would accept that homophobia is rampant in Haiti, as 
was suggested in an earlier post, I would want to know what, exactly, is 
meant by that. While I do often hear Haitian men bad mouthing gays and have 
witnessed some teasing of openly gay men, I have never heard of anyone being 
attacked just for being gay. Even gay men of an extremely effeminate variety 
by Haitian standards know how to defend themselves and have various sources 
of 'back up' that they can drawn on. They are not walking targets for 
heterosexual insecurity and violence as has been the case in the U.S.. At 
least I have neither seen nor heard any evidence of this. The worst 
homophobia I have seen in Haiti comes from the Protestant sector (and of 
course, also the worst anti-Vodou prejudice). After a national conference of 
Vodouisant held at the National Palace in '95 I saw Protestant protesters 
yelling insults at departing Vodouisants. 'Masisi' was the loudest epithet I 
heard. At least in my experience, the Protestant sector is far more 
intolerant of deviations in 'normal' behavior than 'traditional' 
peasant/Vodou society. This makes sense, in so far as Protestantism puts a 
heavy emphasis on 'respectable' behavior, especially marriage, and strict 
gender codes. 

Until recently, there has been little research done on Vodou and sexuality 
(perhaps for obvious reasons, given the stigma attached to Vodou that most 
researchers have sought to work against). Anne Lescot, a French 
anthropologist, has been doing research on this topic and from what I have 
heard, a film as well. It will be interesting to see what she comes up with.

Nina Schnall