It is a Billboard hit that has set calypso lovers, and those outside the art form, talking.
However, the 2018 calypso, Sex Change by Paul Billboard Murrell has provoked the ire of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community here.
The National Cultural Foundation (NCF) has called Billboard to a meeting to discuss the controversial song ahead of Friday’s semi-final of the Pic-O-De-Crop competition.
The NCF has refused to comment on the planned meeting, and Billboard would only confirm that he would “be in contact with the NCF for sure. I will be making a statement to the NCF”.
However, a source familiar with the developments told Barbados TODAY the talks would focus on one line of the controversial song, which states that “there is no such thing as being transgender as you cannot change your sex”.
It is the line that most angers the LGBTQI community, which regards the song as a deliberate effort to smear their lifestyles, particularly transgender people.
However, ahead of the meeting with the NCF, the House of Soca performer was confident he would perform the calypso at the semi-final at Wildey Gymnasium.
“I shall be performing my song Sex Change on Friday night,” Billboard told Barbados TODAY.
In the song, Billboard, who dresses as half-man, half-woman when he performs it, addresses the efforts of transgender people to change their bodies to assume another sex. He also states in song that no matter what steps they take to alter their appearance or body structure, they were still the same on the inside.
The controversial calypso sparked outage among members of the LGBTQI community after an incident at the House of Soca tent during the judging of its calypsonians at the Derrick Smith School over the weekend.
A comment, which Yolanda Holder, the master of ceremonies, said was part of her comedy act, so upset a lesbian in the audience known as Shelly Thunder, that Shelly took to the stage to affirm her confidence as an LGBT member.
Following the incident, Ro-Ann Mohammed issued a statement on behalf of three advocacy groups, Sexuality Health Empowerment (SHE), Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals against Discrimination (B-GLAD) and Life in Leggings, in which she said the episode had revealed “rampant and unwarranted hostility” against gender and sexual minorities.
“This entire scenario brings to light the rampant and unwanted hostility, intolerance and atmosphere of discrimination against gender and sexual minorities,” Mohammed stated.
“LGBT people are expected to have their identities criticized, mocked, scrutinized and left to be public objects of speculation without expressing the hurt and frustration that comes with internalizing such hate. The community, already vulnerable, is expected to take dehumanization, humiliation and outright hatred in stride [and] at the risk of further persecution if they dare to respond. This is typical gas lighting at its finest,” she said.
However, House of Soca Chief Executive Officer Sharon Carew-White defended Holder, insisting the emcee had simply performed a comedy act in a tasteful manner.
“As it relates to the comedic aspect of the presentation the emcee would have performed, once again it is comedy put over tastefully that a mature audience can appreciate,” Carew-White said, adding that the tent did not discriminate.
“We welcome all of our patrons and particularly the ones that have supported us for all the years, such as Shelly Thunder, and we are thankful for her contribution. House of Soca would have allowed her the opportunity to express her feelings and we take that on board,” the tent executive said in an official statement.
Meantime, the master of ceremonies said far from seeking to offend Shelly Thunder, she had been telling the same joke since June 9, when the tent opened, and it was part of the humour following Billboard’s performances.
However, Mohammed said this was no laughing matter, insisting “the LGBTQI community takes a strong stance against attitudes of bigotry, intolerance, homophobia, transphobia and lesophobia that continue to be spewed and perpetuated by persons in our community who should be using their platforms and reach more responsibility”.
“While we acknowledge the freedom of expression, that does not exist with a lack of social accountability or consequence. The problematic song makes quite a deliberate effort to denigrate the existence. It is shameful, unwarranted, irresponsible and extremely dangerous to promote blatantly discriminatory messages which contribute to the very real violence towards a vulnerable community within our society,” Mohammed reiterated.