Barbados is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, but it’s a tricky proposition if you’re LGBT+. Homosexuality is illegal in Barbados. Although homophobic laws are rarely enforced, they cast quite a shadow over the island if you’re gay, bi or gender nonconforming. Enter Donnya Piggott.
Donnya is an outspoken LGBT+ activist from Barbados. She has spearheaded B-GLAD, a public advocacy organisation campaigning for LGBT+ rights. We caught up with Donnya to learn more about her work and homeland.
1) What is it like for the LGBT community in Barbados?
Barbados is not a violent country period – We enjoy one of the very lowest crime rates in the Caribbean and so violent attacks on the LGBTQ community are low. However, we find that within lower socio-economic classes or within very religious households LGBTQ people can feel isolated, rejected and abandoned. Within schools LGBTQ youth are still bullied and marginalised. Many LGBT people live rather normal and happy lives, although there are no provisions for civil unions or same-sex marriage in Barbados. Transwomen feel it the most in Barbados and are often last to be employed and they are often victims of verbal abuse and harassment.
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2) Are there ways for LGBT individuals to meet each other?
Yes, we have quite a few events and activities that the local communities enjoy.
3) The law is still yet to change in favour of LGBT rights. What are you and others locally doing to try to effect change?
We’re lobbying for inclusive legislation that protects people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, we’re using the LGBT+ tourist market to influence hotels and tour companies to look at their own policies and how they treat LGBT+ staff. Apart from the work many activists – including myself – have engaged in, public dialogue surrounding LGBT+ issues is still rare.
4) How welcoming is Barbados for LGBT travellers?
LGBT+ visitors are welcomed like all visitors to the island, Barbados is very hospitable and welcoming to all people in general. However, there is some real work to be done as it relates to LGBT+ sensitivity for hotels, and for tours companies and service providers to connect LGBT+ visitors to local events and activities.
5) What words of advice would you give to an LGBT individual considering visiting – both warnings and suggestions?
Immerse yourself in Barbados and don’t hold back. Gay or straight public displays of affection are not customary in Barbados. Get out and see Barbados, its a really gorgeous island, meet locals and connect with the community.
6) What is Barbados like in comparison to other Caribbean islands?
Barbados is a unique place because of its stunning beauty, very developed tourism and hospitality trades; it also brings with it a great deal of safety. The long history with tourism makes it an ideal and easy Caribbean destination to navigate. Unlike some of the other islands, tourism and local life coexist in the same space – allowing the visitor to more easily feel part of the “local” scene. The accommodation ranges from high-end luxury right through to Airbnb, so it can accommodate a range of budgets and visitor experiences.
7) What are your favourite things to do in Barbados and what things must tourists ensure they experience when they’re in the country?
Animal Flower Cave is one of my favourite places on the island. Harrison’s Cave in Barbados and Bottom Bay in St. Philip are also breathtakingly beautiful. Take a hike in the hills of Barbados and make sure you buy some swordfish from Pat’s Place in Oistins.
8) How can the international community support you and your cause in changing LGBT rights in Barbados?
Visit the island and contribute to our local LGBT+ communities by supporting LGBT+ events, visiting LGBT+ inclusive hotels and accommodation, visiting LGBT+ owned stores and tours and activities by LGBT+ youth. These all help to build and empower local communities and create more inclusive spaces for locals and visitors to enjoy.