The recent declaration by the principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus that her institution will not tolerate discrimination of students who are regarded as “different”, has been welcomed by Barbados Gay & Lesbians Against Discrimination (BGLAD).
“We welcome all students and we respect your sexual orientation or if you view your gender identity as existing outside of the male/female binary. The University of the West Indies respects differences, and we reinforce to all within our academic community that being different must not be read as an invitation for any form of abuse. It will not be tolerated,” Professor Eudine Barriteau said during the campus’ matriculation ceremony last Friday.
Head of BGLAD Donnya Piggott told Barbados TODAY Barriteau’s public statement is indicative of a shift in attitudes towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“It means that thoughts are changing and ideals around sexuality and sexual diversity are changing definitely. Because you wouldn’t hear a principal of the [University of the West Indies], with all the laws that we have, saying something so openly.
“I’m sure about ten, 15, 20 years ago it would have been unheard of. So it is something that speaks to the shift of mindsets. And it speaks to people understanding that regardless of who you are and regardless of where you come from, that an education is an education and that people should be accepted across the board,” Piggott said.
She also drew comparisons between the LGBT community and the women’s rights movement.
“Professor Barriteau has her roots in gender and in women’s studies . . . We know the intersectionality between women’s rights and how education has uplifted women from a point of submission. Years ago women would have a hard time elevating in life and in social circles, and the same goes for the LGBT community and people who have different sexual orientations or gender identity.
“We knew that education presents itself as a ladder to get out of the social situations that many LGBT people find themselves in because of their sexual orientation. And those LGBT people who are doing well are those who have the finances to have a better education, a better life for themselves; so we encourage LGBT people to push and try to better themselves,” Piggott said.