Illustration by The Haitian Times Staff.

Overview:

Haitian values of ‘lakay, lekol, legliz’ inherently support the LGBTQIA+ community, the writer, a trauma-responsive social worker, says in this essay.

By Anais Bailly, LMSW

As Pride Month winds down, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the 1990s. I was raised by parents you might consider untraditionally orthodox, and that was nothing short of a privilege. Their parenting style came with a unique set of lenses that continue to guide me today in navigating the world. It also means that like most Haitians, I’m both highly opinionated and must curtail what I say publicly, especially around non-Haitian people. 

My strong opinions include feelings and thoughts regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those whose intersectionality include being Haitian (a Zoe).  To me, our Haitian values do reflect acceptance and support for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Here’s a look at how I’ve come to this conclusion.

Being gay or lesbian in Haiti 

Traditionally, being a gay man living in Haiti meant you remained closeted. Unless, that is, you presented as a flamboyant hairdresser whose accepted purpose was to make cis-gender Haitian women appreciate their hairstyle and laugh hysterically. 

On the other side of the coin, Haitian women who identified as lesbian were publicly shunned. In fact, even the Creole word for lesbian, madivine, could could not be uttered at times around some elders. Lesbian women were, and still are, often vilified. In some family circles, a mere anklet on a young woman could mean a physical beating by an elder. So adolescent girls learned early on which behaviors to avoid emulating to prevent such harsh treatments. 

Interestingly, colorism and class status provided some protection via silence. Being gay, lesbian or bisexual within la bourgeoisie meant no one talked about it. You just knew there was an aunt, uncle or cousin who could be ‘that way,’ and you stayed silent — never affirming, yet not outwardly rejecting their identity either. 

Looking at this now with more awareness, I see how this silence adds to the power and privilege of some lighter-skinned Haitians and those whose last name is synonymous with money and status in Haitian society.

“Colorism and class status provided some protection via silence. Being gay, lesbian or bisexual within la bourgeoisie meant no one talked about it.” — Anais Bailly, the author

Haitian parents and LGBTQIA+ children 

The plot thickens for Haitian-American young adults. While  there are pockets within American culture where one can feel accepted, the blame game can take center stage in Haitian households. 

Haitian parents who try to cling to their own values and traditions shift resentment to the laissez-faire approach of child-rearing in the U.S. for tainting their child, the entire upcoming generation for that matter. Then comes the hiding and withdrawal of affection from parent to child, continuing a pattern of isolation to the detriment of the well-being of any community.

Haitian values and the LGBTQIA+

So now, as I look at Pride Month and the LGBTQIA+ community, what are my thoughts? What is my point? 

Well, as a solutions-focused social worker, I encourage anyone in the Haitian community reading this to return to our values. Because at the very core of us, of being Haitian, is Love

One of the fundamental Haitian principles I grew up with is renmen you-n ak lot — love one another. Under this principle, the silencing and hurting of others is the opposite of demonstrating love. In fact, if we look closer at the context of our culture’s 3-Ls, lekol, lakay, legliz — Creole for school, home, church — we find even more backing to support people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. 

  • First up is the Church, or idea of it. Most faiths Haitian people follow preach loving one another and God making Choice available for all humanity. By this, someone has the right to choose how they wish to be.  
  • Second is Home. If we really want our house to be a place of safety that furthers the values of love and respect, should we not embrace our loved ones no matter who they choose to be with? Now, this one comes with an asterisk—to be explored later. 
  • Finally, School fundamentals promote respecting each other as comrades and not to cause harm. We do not have to agree with someone’s every decision to show love and respect! 

If all the above are forgotten or do not add up for you, perhaps the message on our Haitian Flag could serve as a reminder: L’Union Fait La Force. Strength Through Unity. Only by uniting in love can we strengthen our community. 

Epi dats it, as we say in Crenglish. That’s a wrap.


The writer, Anais Bailly, is a trauma-responsive social worker who values self care, her culture and empowering individuals and communities. She is a Haitian immigrant living in the U.S. as a partner, parent and personal holistic coach.

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10 Comments

  1. The above reflects the author’s wishes instead of a clear look at Haitian culture. Haitian culture much like modern black cultures around the globe is a bastardized post colonial and/or post slavery culture. And as such, the European created black mindset simply mimics the former masters’ culture and view of the world. And when the former master evolves or his views become enlightened, the post-colonial black becomes the preserver of the past. So today’s black countries/cultures tightly hold on to these european victorian rules while europe itself has moved on.
    Research has shown that the vast majority of traditional african cultures did not have such hatred and anger towards same sex love. A look at our Vodou religion also shows a non-judgemental attitude towards sexual minorities, Gay men and women are seen as having a place within the faith and even have their own protector Loas. The save evangelicals who insult our history daily with their claims against our Bwa Kaiman and our revolution are the same ones pushing their violent attacks against Haitian gays.
    So no, “Lakay-Lekol-Legliz” does not support love or acceptance. What it does support is intellectual, spiritual, cultural laziness, hence the sad mediocre state of Haitian thoughts.

    1. I’m late to the conversation but wanted to say i appreciated the way articulated the fundamental problems of the “colon nègre” the black colonist. Victorian style aristocracy led to major political revolutions. European countries whose nobles didn’t want to be cought under the guillotine were smart enough to become progressive and democratic.

      Unfortunately like you said Haitian society is stuck in that era. What’s worse we’re stuck exactly in an unstable pre revolution stage. Like a woman in constant labor with birth pangs

  2. Despite being in this country for the past 25 years, I stay true to myself in so many ways. Do I hate anyone that associates themselves with the LBTQ community?
    The answer no and never. But God have me 2 sons I want to raise them as such and precisely the way I was raised. And they know my expectations. I don’t have anyone gay, lesbain and or else but my 2 sons are boys and they will live a man’s life as song as I shall live.
    God created men and women period and!

    1. I wish no ill on any man nor his family. But I’m curious how you would manifest that wish. With that attitude do you think your sons would even approach you for advice concerning such matters?

  3. Yall choose shit like that to waste people time.
    Why don’t yall send materials for the polices fight the bandits instead like yall send to ukraine.

  4. I am a traditional Haitian person that feels that the country has more than it’s chare of serious quality of life issues & problems then to add this massive confusion movement of sextual identity and so on….. The country needs to focus on eradication of poverty, government corruption, unstable economy, foreign intervention, deforestation, natural disasters, gang violence, kidnapping of straight innocent children by so called missionaries, the theft of our natural resources by Bill and Hillary Clinton & relatives etc……..

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