According to director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CDRES) Peter Wickham, “Tolerant means they tolerate homosexuals, accepting means they are accepting that most of us can distinguish between someone who says I deal with you and distance, and someone who says I want to embrace you.”
He said the information gathered suggested that TT was not a homophobic society.
“It is a society in which the level of acceptance of homosexuals is greater than rejection.”
CDRES Inc, which is based in Barbados carried out the survey earlier this year. It involved a sample of just over 1,000 persons representative of the population in sex and age.
The findings were revealed yesterday at a press briefing at the All Saints Anglican Church Hall, Woodbrook on the eve of today’s observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It found that people with gay family, or friends, were less likely to be homophobic. According to the data — 73 percent reported having gay friends, 68 percent had gay family members while 51 percent had no gay friends, and 56 percent no gay family members.
Wickham said, “a driver of acceptance and tolerance is the extent that people had gay friends or family members.” Less Trinidadians admitted to having gay family members but the number with gay friends was “quite high.”
The research found the 75 percent of people considered violence against gays, or sexual minorities to be discrimination. Wickham found this was striking, considering that the level of acceptance was not close to 75 percent. Another noteworthy observation was that while the majority of persons opposed the decriminalising of criminal sanction against homosexuality, they opposed violence, and supported human rights. On the question of the political impact of a gay stance, persons were asked to state which political party they supported, and if the party changed its stance on gay issues, if this would affect their vote.
There were equal numbers of persons from the political parties saying they would or would not change. Fifty-six percent said it would not make a difference on their vote.
Cadres has conducted a poll of just over 1,000 citizens on behalf of the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), that the latter hopes will shed some light on the local attitudes towards homosexuality and engender more interest in the rights of such persons by the State.
The survey, which CAISO said it has tried fruitlessly in the past to have done with support from the State, has shown that 56 per cent of citizens are either tolerant or accepting of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community.
Thirty-six per cent of those surveyed were homophobic and eight per cent were not clear of their positions on LGBT persons and issues.
The results of the poll were disclosed at a CAISO press conference at the All Saint’s Anglican Church, corner of Woodford and Marli Streets, Port of Spain, yesterday.
Colin Robinson, the head of CAISO, said the poll has shown that Trinidad and Tobago is not the homophobic country that it is commonly perceived to be and the results confirm that it is possible for all people to be part of developing the nation.
Peter Wickham of Cadres said while it is expected that some persons may have chosen to fabricate their responses, it is felt that the results are largely representative of an existing overall view.
Interviews for the poll were conducted face-to-face and candidates were asked to self-identify their sexual orientation.
Candidates were also asked their political preferences and were asked whether a political party’s decision to tackle gay issues would affect their decisions at the polls.
Wickham admitted, however, that candidates were not asked whether they would be swayed for or against.
The results among those with an allegiance to any of the existing parties showed 49 per cent saying their chosen party’s position on gay issues would make a difference, while 51 per cent said it would not.
Wickham said it is also felt that voters, who appear to vote largely on the basis of race, were unlikely to cross racial lines to be swayed by a party’s gay agenda.
Possibly the inaugural survey of its kind, Wickham said no previous data could be found for the sake of comparisons on changing attitudes but the recently concluded survey will be important to building such data.
The poll was conducted here and in Guyana with sponsorship from the British High Commission, while it was conducted in Barbados with the assistance of the State.
The poll showed that 73 per cent of candidates in Trinidad have gay friends that the Christian community appears to be more tolerant.
However, support for the LGBT community came yesterday from head of the Indian Women’s Organisation, Pandita Indrani Rampersad, who said religious groups, of all of society’s sectors, should be the ones to find the compassion and strength to stand up for and support fellow humans who are being vilified and oppressed.
“If we can’t support our fellow humans, then what are we?,” Rampersad said.