Deserting LGBTQ+ Virgin Islanders

A VI community group changed its name for Pride, and lost 400 members.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels
VOTVI screenshot

The effect was that the voices of black islanders and their allies were scrubbed out of the other group. The racial difference between who stayed and who was banned was painfully obvious.

Thus, being “uncensored” is a core value of VOTVI. The admins do not delete posts or comments, or block members, no matter what gets posted. It’s certainly led to arguments, and people have left the group before, but never in the numbers the group is seeing now.

Admins and members included in the interview

In two days, VOTVI lost 370 members.

Kai Pyro: Wow. That’s much more than I thought would dip.

Jamal Akeem Potter: I believe that is what causes so much of the dissent; the “othering” of queer people. I mean, the term for a gay man here is literally “anti-man”.

St. Croix celebrated Pride for the first time last year, but resistance still exists. The big island’s 2018 Pride Parade was protested by a small but vocal group. St. Thomas Pride isn’t even including a parade, due to safety concerns and a resistance in the U.S. Virgin Islands to accept the LGBTQ+ community, but other planned events sparked debate among group members regardless. This prompted a move of solidarity through the name change.

VOTVI screenshot

How surprised were each of you?

Sammy: Not really surprised that there was backlash.

Admin screenshot provided by Jamal

What are some specific things that have been difficult to deal with this week?

Maive: Mostly, realizing that so many of the people who we’ve spent years fighting for are so willing to oppress others.

VOTVI history screenshot
VOTVI screenshot

Jamal: There are plenty of times I’ve seen claims that queerness is something imported from white people. To many, the idea of queerness is antithetical to the idea of blackness.

Kathy: I find it interesting that the people who say that the gay agenda is “imported from white people” use Christianity to back their bigotry, which was imported from white people. I don’t know if they see the irony.

VOTVI screenshot
VOTVI screenshot

Why are they so scared of the supposed “agenda,” do you think? What is the outcome they fear?

Jack: That gay men will be free to treat them the way they treat women without the consistent culture of suppression and implied threats of violence. We can’t put this all on gentrification: VI and the Caribbean as a whole are unapologetically homophobic for the most part.

Did any of you take breaks from social media during this time?

Maive: I’m about to. My quota for stupidity is overflowing.

Rainbow street art triggers outcry

VOTVI screenshot

Thoughts on the rainbow chatter today?

Kai: Well I’ll entertain this convo when they take all the black lives matter and Pan-Africanist down [off the mural] on the way to Pricesmart.

Why care about something that happened on Facebook?

While social media isn’t real life, what happened in VOTVI this week offers insight to what real life can be like for LGBTQ+ people living in the Virgin Islands, Caribbean, and any place where homophobia persists.

Flyer from Gay Pride VI

Content writer and sex coach curious about culture, social justice, and human sexuality. Find out more at contentbyburton.com and sexcoachshannon.com

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