When I made the snap decision, four weeks before moving to Paris, that I was not going there after all but leaving Europe for the Antilles, one of my first Google searches as a person with a vagina (I am actually agender but my body sadly doesn’t cooperate with my brain on that one) who tends to sleep with other people with vaginas, was “gay law Guadeloupe”. I knew about the neighbouring islands of Dominica and Antigua, where gay sex can leave you imprisoned for up to fifteen years (technically its a life sentence, but it isn’t enforced) and suddenly panicked that I would be taking sixteen years abroad not one.
But that panic disappeared when I read a Wikipedia article which helpfully informed me that gay sex was legalized in Gwada in 1791, compared to 1967 in my home country of England (yeah, nearly 200 years of difference, England, sort it out). Gay marriage had also been legalised there a year before in England. Also, when you typed “Guadeloupe gay” into the search bar, auto-fill supplied the promising words “beach”, “bar” and more. “Great,” I thought, “I am off to queer paradise. Let me pack my dental dams.”
In light of this, plus the fact that I had seen at least four queer couples on the same plane as me, I had half expected to walk off the flight to a welcoming party of rainbow unicorns rode by naked potential love interests happily parading their non-heterosexuality and sprinkling me with glitter. Suffice to say, that didn’t happen. It turned out that Guadeloupe was not the queer haven I had expected.
Not only had I not met, or possibly even seen, an openly queer couple in my first few weeks here, but the gay beaches and clubs promised by google didn’t actually exist, and anyone who realised about my sexuality informed me in hushed tones that I need to keep it on the down-low. When propositioned by men, my response of, “sorry, I’m not into men,” which had stopped many a suitor in Europe, solicited responses of, among other things, “gays don’t exist, it’s a conspiracy theory”, crossing one’s chest whilst recoiling in disgust, or, (roughly translated), “you just need a good fuck from a black cock to sort you out”. Charmers.
I began to think that there was something in the air and that there were generally no queers in Guadeloupe. Or that if there had been, they had been made to walk some kind of plank and never been seen again.
But then, against all better judgement, I put a despairing post in Gwada Connexion – a Facebook group designed to connect young people in Guadeloupe – asking where all the queer places and people were. And lo and behold, it had tens of likes and comments within just minutes. Granted, many were warning me against saying this and informing me about the closed-minded nature of Guadeloupians, but many others were pure solidarity. They were telling me they were in the same situation, that they were coming out for the first time, recommending me secret underground LGBT+ parties, sending me friend requests, offering me dates, apologising for how I had been treated thus far. I felt like we had our own spontaneous virtual Gwada Pride going on, and I, with my ill-advised foreign ways, had started it.
So my advice of the week: Don’t despair. When you look hard enough, although it isn’t always prefect, you may just find a rainbow at the end of the gold(en beaches).
Jas Rainbow (GR. Columnist)