photo: Body, Mind & Spirit

THE BOTTOM – With twenty-two marriages performed with only Dutch nationals on Saba since 10 October 2012, the acceptance of homosexuality has increased within the Saban community.

“Saba Day’s theme for us for the last few years was ‘Celebrate Diversity’, part of which being battling sexual discrimination”, says Body, Mind & Spirit Programs Coordinator Johan Schaeffer.

Johan Schaeffer talking to Esther Henry about gay acceptance on Saba

Celebrate diversity campaign on Saba by Body, Mind & Spirit

More activities for LBGT community
Schaeffer continues: “We organize all sort of activities, such as movie nights and rainbow parties. A precondition for us is that LGBT community-members are to part of the organization, to ensure a greater participation from the public. We are pushing for more activities by and for the LBGT community, where they can talk about issues or unity towards tolerance and acceptance.”

Sherilyn Hassell, a library assistant at the Saba University School of Medicine says: “I do not discriminate. I think everyone is free to love whoever they want. However, persons who are against homosexuality on Saba, of course, believe the marriage love is different. I would say there are about 20 – 30 homosexuals on Saba, including the (foreign) medical students.”

Different experience at St.Maarten
“During my first relationship on Saba with a medical student, we would go out and it wasn’t a big deal on the island”, says Chulani Levenstone, gay Saban, now living in America. “Sometimes persons who are intoxicated would give comments like ‘faggot’ under their breath, but not directly to me. However, with another relationship in St. Maarten, someone pointed a gun at us and that was very scary.”

Chulani about growing up gay on Saba

“Based on that experience, I appreciate Saba being small and knowing your sexuality. I never had a hate incident”, says Chulani. He further added: “And homosexual weddings help the economy on Saba.”

Rainbow party on Saba. Photo: Body, Mind & Spirit

‘We don’t judge’
Heterosexual married couple Carlos and Kiana Franco: “It may not be what we would choose for ourselves, but if it makes them happy who are we to judge. It doesn’t affect us, it is like seeing any other couple out in public.”

They continue: “However, there seems to be a lack of understanding with the older people in the community and teenagers, causing verbal harassment, which is pretty common.”

‘Everybody should be comfortable at Saba’
Magaly and Kent Alfred agree: “Everyone should be comfortable in whatever lifestyle they may choose, however only God can be the judge. While living on Saba, we never heard of violence against the homosexuals or discrimination against them. While at dinner for example, we are comfortable with homosexuals eating close by. They are all our friends.”

“My daughter is also a young homosexual and it’s a decision she made. I will support her to even marry”, concludes Kent Alfred.

Also read: Saba same-sex marriages increase: ‘we feel more comfortable here’