From LGBT to M Community
On the notion of « LGBT » versus « M » (Masisi, Madivin, Makomer, Mix): a Haitian Movement for Rights.
Many people in Haiti and abroad ask why KOURAJ chooses to speak of the M Community (Masisi, Madivin, Makomer, Mix) when the acronym LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) is used around the world with « universal » meaning.
1) What words tell us
The “LGBT” notion does not correspond to the Haitian reality. The majority of persons who self-identify as not subscribing to the identity norm are Masisi, Madivin, Makomer, or Mix. The strong acculturation Haiti has undergone through a strong presence of organizations, international institutions, and its relationship with the United States has left those concerned with the false assumption that “Masisi, Madivin, Makomer, and Mix” were simply pejorative equivalents in Kreyòl for gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual.
A Masisi, rather, is the equivalent of an inverted person, in the sense that it the inversion of gender that is condemned by using this word to insult someone. More precisely, a Masisi is not a homosexual of the masculine sex, but rather, a person of the masculine sex who socially and/or sexually plays “the feminine role.”
A Madivin is a person of the feminine sex who has homosexual relations, even episodically. Otherwise stated, all heterosexual persons of the feminine sex having homosexual relations would also be considered as Madivin. The notion of Madivin does not correspond to the identity notion of Lesbian in that it is less totalizing.
A Makomer is a person of the masculine sex who has a radically feminine identity. Makomer in Haitian Creole is the godmother, or she who takes care of the children and plays the social role of the essential mother. For this, the godmother is the essence of femininity. One calls a Makomer a person of the masculine sex if his identity is feminine. Neither the notion of Transgender, nor that of Transsexual Male-to-Female (MTF) constitutes adequate equivalents to Makomer. This term does not qualify the inverse case of a person of the feminine sex having a radically masculine identity, and we are not yet certain of the most appropriate term to describe this phenomenon. The M Movement awaits to be found by one or several persons who correspond to this phenomenon to make a decision concerning the appropriate term to use.
A Mix person is a person who has homosexual and heterosexual practices. However, the term is not about identity. Most of the time, individuals in this case (who constitute a large majority of the M Community) would identify as heterosexual, that is, not as a masisi or madivin or makomer. The understanding of the notion of Heterosexuality is as such different than the common understanding in the West, which signifies simply being part of the norm, that is, playing a heterosexual social role and being perceived as a heterosexual. Persons identifying as heterosexuals are not therefore necessarily heterosexual in the sense that Americans or Europeans would understand it. Rather, they mean heterosexual in that they live publicly and visibly a normal life, implying marriage with a person of the opposite biological sex and having children, regardless of their sexual practices.
We are able to legitimately ask ourselves if the notions of heterosexuality and homosexuality as they are understood in the West are the same as those in the heart of Haitian society. In effect, Haitian society is well categorized between “real men and real women” who follow a traditional path and those “false” people who are called Masisi, Makomer, or Madivin. The categorization is distinguished in what is visible and not in what is sexual identity, which is why using the notions of heterosexuality and homosexuality to understand and react in the Haitian reality does not perform well. The categorization of Haitian society depends on a social apparatus and not on the identity of individuals.
2) The necessity to make a choice
Due to the strong dysphoria amongst the notions of LGBT, those of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and the Haitian reality, we find ourselves in the necessity to make a choice. Either we accept the acculturation that would transform the M Community and reorganize it into the LGBT community over the long term, or we refuse it. KOURAJ, due to its strong independence and critic role it plays in Haitian society, has decided to reject the importation of terminology because KOURAJ engages to change Haitian society such that not a single other person will be deprived of his or her full joy of human rights due to his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
Basing KOURAJ’s politics and actions on the notions of LGBT and the categorization between heterosexual and homosexual would come to mean that KOURAJ’s actions would be efficient if and only if we were able to provide an adequate solution for this terminology in Haitian culture. This means perhaps waiting ten more years, yet the Haitian reality is that we urgently need a solution, since numerous homophobic groups inspired by theories developed in the US or in Europe seek to accelerate this acculturation to their benefit by dividing the Haitian population between heterosexuals (normal) and homosexuals (abnormal).
KOURAJ was created to respond to this evolution and reverse this tendency. Haitian society is becoming more and more homophobic and has passed from the stage when it denounces practices to denouncing and condemning individuals themselves. This radical change has major consequences on the lives of M persons who are increasingly subjected to more violent discrimination.
The most effective strategy is not to recuperate the heritage of the Americano-European movement while trying to jump stages by passing directly from the inexistence of a LGBT community to its creation, but rather to work with Haitian reality and impose a terminology in the service of the M community.
When discrimination of a group is normal and results in the usage of certain terms, there are at least two possibilities: radically change mentalities so that the population stops using words that symbolize and reify the differentiation of a seen group, or else change directly the connotations of these terms. KOURAJ has chosen to follow this second strategy, considering that a part of the human energy and necessary technique to banish Haitian language and terms such as Masisi, Madivin, Makomer, and Mix would be too ambitious, but moreover, because no other terms exist.
KOURAJ’s strategy will have at least two direct consequences. First, it will facilitate the Community M’s affirmation while reducing the negativity of these names that one gives these members of Haiti, which will allow as such for a person having been called a Masisi in the streets or in his family to no longer feel insulted and to appropriate this term. But most of all, it will break the stigmas associated with these terms, notably prostitution, HIV/AIDS, sin, possession, and pedophilia. In effect, if a Masisi takes on this word with pride, and identifies with it, the term in and of itself will no longer be associated with these stigmas, and the Haitian population will be forced to disassociate the notion of Masisi with the stigmas that they attached to the word in the first place.