THE HAGUE--Seven lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activists, three personal stories and the Kingdom Boat in the 2015 Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade are the highlight of the documentary One Kingdom, One Love, which was presented in the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Sunday and in The Hague and Rotterdam on Kingdom Day, Tuesday.
Being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or a transgender is still taboo in the Dutch Caribbean. Three persons from the Windward Islands talk openly about the issue in the documentary: LGBT activists Melissa Gumbs of SAFE St. Maarten; Justin Simmons of the Saba Body, Mind and Spirit Foundation; and St. Maarten-born transgender Daisha Baptiste.
In One Kingdom, One Love, directed by Sebastiaan Kes and produced by Academy Pictures, the initiators of the Kingdom Boat in the Amsterdam Gay Pride Week in August 2015 are followed. It was the first time a boat with LGBT activists had taken part in this highly popular parade through the Amsterdam canals with half a million spectators. The colourful boat filled with swinging people won first prize. The activists from the islands also took part in the Pride Walk through the streets of Amsterdam.
The movie showed a proud Melissa Gumbs holding the banner up front of the Pride Walk. She explained that lesbians in St. Maarten had less of a hard time than the gay men and transgender persons. She said that as one Kingdom, countries should strive for equal rights throughout the Kingdom.
Daisha Baptiste from Dutch Quarter told her story of how she always had wanted to be a girl, how from a young age she knew that she liked boys more, and of her move to the Netherlands where she was able to become who she really wanted to be: a happy, beautiful and stylish woman.
The documentary shows a video of Daisha before she became a woman, performing with the Barbie Boys dance group. “As a child, I always played with Barbie dolls. I made dresses for them. One time I asked God why he had made me a boy instead of a girl,” she said.
She described how her mother had kept calling her a faggot at first. The relationship with her mother was restored after she left the house temporarily and later returned. “I told her my story. But in St. Maarten it was still hard to be who I was since everyone knew me as the Baptiste son.”
Daisha was interviewed in Rotterdam where she lives. The film makers did not go to St. Maarten to give a close-up look at the life of a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender person as they did in Aruba and Curaçao.
Director Kes explained in an interview with The Daily Herald that no candidate could be found in St. Maarten who wanted to tell his or her story on camera. There was also the issue that the production had a very limited financial budget. Still, he found it important to tell the story of the LGBT community on the islands as much as possible.
In Aruba, the film makers captured the personal and professional life of Desirée De Sousa-Croes, a Member of the Aruba Parliament for the AVP party. De Sousa-Croes got married to Benvinda in the Netherlands a few years ago because tying the knot was not possible in Aruba.
De Sousa-Croes has been lobbying to amend Aruba’s Civil Code to enable same-sex marriages and for equal rights for LGBTs in general. The law change is slated to be handled by the Aruba Parliament in January 2016. She said homosexuality was slowly becoming more accepted in Aruba.
In Curaçao, Qwensley Raphael, a young Christian homosexual, shared his view on how he combined his life as a gay man with his belief in God. “God has given everyone a goal on earth. God accepts homosexuals. He has said, ‘Go and share my love.’ He didn’t say with whom and how. There is nothing wrong with giving someone your love.”
Qwensley said his dad had been ready to beat him up when he found out his son was a homosexual. “But my mom, who had given me the silent treatment for a month, stood up for me and told my father that he had to accept the fact that I was homosexual.” The documentary also showed Qwensley visiting the Curaçao Pride, an event that takes place at Floris Suites Hotel, out of public view.
Justin Simmons of Saba talked about the position of LGBTs on his island. He said being gay was generally accepted by the Sabans. “Because it is a small community the visibility is there.” He added that the LGBT issue was still taboo at school and there was discrimination.
Milicent Sof of Bonaire, who joined the Kingdom Boat and walked up front with Melissa Gumbs in the Pride Walk, said it was very hard on her island for LGBTs to be who they are. “It is a small community. People are scared to show who they are, because everyone will know.”
Ramona Pikeur of the Dushi and Proud organisation, and co-organiser of the Kingdom Boat, pointed out that what is considered “normal” in the Netherlands was not so normal on the islands. She said the church leaders rejected LGBTs. “We are despised, said to be denounced by God. Today we are on the Kingdom Boat for acceptance and equal rights.”
LGBT activist Mario Kleinmoedig of the gay rights organisation Foko said the community in Curaçao had a hypocritical attitude where it came to LGBTs. He said the issue was not talked about in the open and gay men were considered not to be 100 per cent men. There is a double culture where gay men often have to keep quiet about their sexual preference.
The premier showing of One Kingdom, One Love took place in De Balie in Amsterdam last Sunday, preceded by a panel discussion about equal rights for LGBTs with Boris Dittrich of the international organisation Human Rights Watch and Glenn Helberg of the Dutch Caribbean grass roots organisation in the Netherlands OCAN. Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk was present at this event.
The 58-minute documentary was shown on Tuesday, Kingdom Day, at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK, which sponsored the project with some 10,000 euros. BZK Director Erwin Arkenbout referred to One Kingdom, One Love as a “beautiful, moving film about a delicate theme.” He said the documentary contributed to a more open discussion about LGBT rights throughout the Kingdom.
“A feel-good movie,” said One Kingdom, One Love Director Kes after Tuesday’s showing. He considered it important to highlight the positive aspects of LGBT rights. “I didn’t want people to end up with a depressed feeling, because there is hope. Things are changing in a positive direction.”
Kes said the intention was to show the documentary on the islands in the form of an event where the issue would be put in perspective. “It shouldn’t be a showing on its own, but something should be organised around it.” The documentary is in Dutch and English, and there is a version with English subtitles.