[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#28Re: #2808: Request For Source On Haitian Cultural Sexuality (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 14:36:12 EST
To: bcorbett@netcom.com
Subject: Re: #2808: Request For Source On Haitian Cultural Sexuality (fwd)

In a message dated 3/12/2000 9:51:18 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
bcorbett@netcom.com writes:

<< It concerns the gay population in Haiti and what the cultural attitudes 
 concerning them, etc. How the HIV epidemic has impacted the group. What the 
 gay lifestyle in Haiti is like compared to their distant past and to other 
 cultures, etc. >>

I can't speak for the entire culture, but I can tell you how it is in Vodou.

In Vodou, unlike Santeria, homosexuals are not barred from any religious 
activity. They may participate in religious services, and even become 
initiates and clergy people. It is true that there is some stigma associated 
with homosexuality in Haiti, but it does not take the form of the virulent 
hatred evident in Jamaica, for example, where homosexual individuals may be 
the victims of mob killings. Especally among the poorer classes, where lack 
of living space and privacy makes sexual orientation obvious, the feeling is 
rather that Mother Nature has somehow played a sort of "practical joke" on 
the person.

Homosexual men are considered almost by definition to be under the patronage 
of Erzulie Freda, the lwa of love and luxury. She is most feminine and 
coquettish, providing an opportunity for stereotypical homosexual behavior to 
be exhibited in a sacred context. Homosexual women are considered very often 
to be under the patronage of Erzulie Dantor, who, while heterosexual in the 
sense that she has a child, is a fierce and strong female image. Many people 
think of Dantor herself as a lesbian woman, but she is also the wife of both 
Ti-Jean Petro and Simbi Makaya, two very important lwa.

Because open homosexuals are rigorously excluded from Protestant 
congregations, and frowned upon in Catholic services, almost the only avenue 
for spiritual expression for homsexuals in Haiti is Vodou. There is, 
therefore, a higher percentage of homosexuals at Vodou ceremonies, and in the 
priesthood, than in the general population.

At a few peristyles in Port-au-Prince, composed entirely of gay men, or of 
gay women, homosexuality is virtually an entrance requirement. I know one 
Mambo, a lesbian, who has several lovers among her female hounsis. They band 
together economically, doing small marketing and other activities to assure 
their mutual survival.

I had another experience, of a young man, a folkloric dancer who was a friend 
of mine, who asked me to be his marinn kanzo, or godmother. (This is 
different from an initiating Mambo, who is called maman asson, mother of the 
asson, the ceremonial rattle emblematic of priesthood.) He was initiated in 
one of these exclusively gay peristyles, although he protested that "he was 
only doing it there because he got a reasonable price"!  I visited the young 
man in seclusion in the djevo, the secret inner chamber of the peristyle 
where initiates are secluded - and was promptly forced to abandon him as a 
godchild, as he was wearing the prescribed clothes of the opposite sex! 
Incorrect procedure, rather than homosexuality per se, forced me to take this 

It is worth remembering that at a Vodou ceremony, any person may be possessed 
by any lwa, regardless of the sex of the lwa or the person. Homosexual men, 
especially initiates, are frequently possessed by female lwa including 
Erzulie Freda. I remember one six-foot-two Houngan who was the mount for a 
lwa named Sainte Therese! The Mambo I mentioned above had a very martial 
Ogoun in her head, and his presence at ceremonies was absolutely thrilling. 
The dancing of homosexual men in particular is often much admired, as they 
combine the muscular strength of men with the voluptuousness of women. Some 
overenthusiastic homosexual Houngans have actually been known to carry 
dresses with them when they visit at other Houngans' ceremonies, so that 
their lwa will be properly clothed if they should appear.

There are even lwa who are sexually atypical.  Ogoun Deux Manieres, for 
instance, is Rada and Petro, heterosexual and homosexual, served with white 
and red, and offered chickens and pigs, depending on which "maniere" one is 

Houngans and Mambos have particular passwords, and specific gestures 
performed with the asson. Homosexual Houngans and Mambos have additional 
gestures which permit them to recognize one another.

The presence of homosexuals in a congregation is considered morally neutral - 
the important criterion is that the correct ceremonial procedures are 
followed in any aspect of the Vodou service.

Peace and love,

Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen

"Se bon ki ra", 
     Good is rare - Haitian Proverb

The VODOU Page - <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html">http://