Haitian-American rapper Kanis (left)and partner Credit: Screengrab @kanis Instagram


Miami-based Haitian-American rapper Kanis comes out as LGBTQ on Valentine's Day, receiving mixed reactions from followers due to LGBTQ stigma in Haiti.

Haitian-American rapper, Niska “Kanis” Pascal Garout, came out Valentine’s Day as LGBTQ+  this with a video tribute to her partner. The reveal has prompted conversations that reveal evolving attitudes among Haitians towards people who identify as LGBTQ.

The Instagram post, which shows clips of the Miami-based rapper and her unnamed partner, received more than 30,000 likes and a range of comments from followers. Some ranged from a simple “congratulations” to “beauties” to “I love y’alls love.” Other commenters questioned the sincerity of well-wishers, given the stigma around LGBTQ people and suggesting Kanis was being celebrated only because of her stardom status and class. 

“All the people who are giving love to ‘Kanis’ are all fake love,” one commenter who goes by lookerventz_lkv on the platform wrote under Kanis’ Instagram post. “If it was a poor woman we would have already talked bad about her, bunch of hypocrites.”

Across social media, celebratory was the overall mood.

“I don’t think you know how many glass ceilings you broke, how many doors you are opening, how many people you are representing,” Haitian artist, Steven Baboun, posted on Twitter. “I love you not for being brave, but for being YOU. You’ve disrupted the landscape in the most amazing way. Love you.”

Advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in Haiti has been an uphill battle, with church-led rejection further perpetuating stigma in recent years. Haitians who identify as LGBTQ+, or even suspected, face high levels of discrimination and attacks. A 2020 penal code proposed change that called for criminal recourse for discrimination or crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation, according to a Human Rights Watch report, has done little to improve conditions for the community.

That year, several LGBTQ+ advocates and survivors of attacks told The Haitian Times the time had come for their community to be accepted. 

“I don’t believe it’s a question of ‘Are you ready or are you not ready?’ said Gino Ambroise in a 2020 interview with The Haitian Times about his LGBTQ advocacy work in Haiti. “Well, that’s something people always say: ‘Haiti isn’t ready for these issues. Haiti isn’t prepared for these issues.’ It’s the same thing with racism, if Black people kept asking if the United States was ready for them to vote, to have freedom, that would’ve never happened.”

“Societal acceptance of LGBTIQ [sic] people is on the rise. But not in Haiti. Haiti is an outlier,” wrote Neish McLean and Daina Ruduša of OutRight Action International in October 2020. 

“In Haiti, a complex maze of circumstances collide to keep LGBTIQ people stuck between a hateful Church, inactive State, and unaccepting families,” the authors wrote.

Physical attacks, threats and confrontations grew exponentially in the months prior to their Haitian Times opinion piece. And that numerous activists fled Haiti due to death threats, while others, like Charlot Jeudy, an LGBTQ advocate, died under suspicious circumstances. 

On the part of those in the diaspora, LGBTQ+ Haitians are becoming more accepted, however. It’s reflected in the work of various artists and professionals who are leaders in their field. 

“The Haitian values of ‘lakay, lekol, legliz’ inherently support the LGBTQIA+ community,” wrote Anais Bailly, a trauma-responsive social worker, in an opinion essay for The Haitian Times in June 2022.

She discussed how those three locations should support people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The church preaches loving one another and God making Choice available for all humanity. The home is a place of safety that furthers the values of love and respect, and the school promotes respecting each other as comrades and not to cause harm. 

Around the same time, a profile in The Haitian Times of trans* poet An Duplan’s brought responses primarily of support. On Twitter, the piece garnered 383 likes and comments like, “Congratulations to the brother 👏👏” from autismandgentleparenting and “We to see it! 💛💛💛💛” from lani_vintage. 

This week, popular personalities in the Haitian community have since come forward to share their support for Kanis for the courage in coming out. 

In 2019, Kanis, who previously went by Niska, signed a record deal with Sony Music France, however it’s unclear whether she is still with the label. Her latest English-language single, Supernova, was released November 2022.

J.O. Haselhoef is the author of “Give & Take: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti.” She co-founded "Yonn Ede Lot" (One Helping Another), a nonprofit that partnered with volunteer groups in La Montagne ("Lamontay"), Haiti from 2007-2013. She is a 2022 Fellow for the Columbia School of Journalism's Age Boom Academy. She writes and lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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