The launch of Pride T&T 2019 took place on June 28 with two events, which drew a wide range of people from the LGBTQI+ community, along with their allies. The first event was a pre-launch gathering at the Parliament and the second was the first ever King Show International in the evening.
The constant rain in Port-of-Spain did not dampen the spirit of the approximately three dozen people who turned out to the Pride pre-launch. Present were members of various LGBTI+ organizations such as The Women’s Caucus of T&T, Friends for Life, South LGBTQI and Allies, Trans Coalition of T&T, I Am One T&T, and others. Prominent among the attendees were contestants in the King Show International. During the two hour event, a large Pride flag was unfurled to commemorate Stonewall.
June 28 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in the United States, long credited as being a launching point of the modern LGBTQI Pride movement. The riots were led by trans activists Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and this year celebrations of Pride have been centred around celebrating and supporting the trans community.
Founder of the Trans Coalition of T&T, Brandy Rodriguez, said “Pride worldwide is being celebrated with trans persons in the forefront because of the challenges and the issues that are going on in the community. We decided that today we’re going to have this wall of Pride flag built and we’re going to have trans persons visible to commemorate this day, working together, and it’s coupled with the launching of the T&T Pride Month.”
Belizean trans activist Star Reyes said he felt it was important to be present at the event because “it is only when we speak that things change. That’s the reason why the churches have so much power, because they speak and we shut up, and that needs to end, and so at any given moment we need to speak out, we need to let people know that we exist, that our lives are valid. We contribute to the development of the nation, pay our taxes and we are being treated as nobody, and that needs to end.”
The King Show International drew an excited crowd to witness eight competitors from seven countries vie to be crowned King. The contestants were Nicholai “Nic” Elahie (T&T), Thandika “Thandy” Williams (Guyana), Thandika “Thandy” Williams, Jolene “Dawn” St. Clair and Fern” (St. Lucia), Starr Reyes (Belize), Veli Madau (Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland), Tyne (St. Kitts), and Irvys “Voz” Juarez (Venezuela). The King Show International was open to transgender men and masculine-presenting women.
The competition took the form of a ballroom scene where the contestants were asked to present two looks, the first representing their country and the second of formal wear. The judges were Alijah Caesar (Guyana) and Amanda McIntyre, Shawndel George, Dr. Sheila Rampersad and reigning Queen of Queens, Sapphire Adia Negasi.
After the fashion rounds. the judges tallied their scores and Juarez, Reyes, Madau, Tyne and Elahie were announced as the top five. A question and answer section followed. The questions were: How would you use this platform to address toxic masculinity in the LGBT community?; What does the crown mean to you and why?; Describe your proudest moment in the community?; If you could chill with any person from the trans/LGBTQI community, who would it be and why?; And, What is your best pick up line?
In the end, Madau was crowned King, with Juarez and Elahie being awarded first and second runners-up respectively. In a touching moment, Elahie gave his trophy to Reyes. Madau said “I feel really honoured to be appreciated in a space so far away from home. It’s affirming in my presentation of who I am and I’m very grateful and excited. When I first heard about this I was very curious and excited about taking part, and being in this space there are a lot of things that I picked up that I would like to actually see happening back home, so my challenge to myself is to see how I can bring the King Show and Conference to Eswatini.”
For more information on upcoming Pride events, culminating in a Pride Parade on July 28, go to www.pridett.com and find PrideTT on Facebook and Instagram.