De Souza, a hairstylist and animal rights activist, plans to run as an independent candidate for San Fernando West in the general election, and launched her campaign in March and last held a cottage meeting in the southern city on April 16.
She is the first person in Trinidad and Tobago to have undergone a sex change, doing so at age 19 when she went from being a man to being a woman.
For this reason, her candidacy is not welcomed by several leaders of Christian and Hindu faiths.
While religious leaders affirm that De Souza, who received a Hummingbird National Award for community service at last year’s Independence Day celebrations, has the right to exercise the rights and privileges accorded her as a citizen, they do not believe someone who leads a gay or transsexual lifestyle should be in public office.
Public relations officer for the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI), Reverend Michael Brathwaite, told Newsday he is opposed to de Souza’s lifestyle and she would most certainly not get his vote if he had to vote.
“I would certainly take exception to that lifestyle. It is not consistent with what we believe as a body. And if I had to give a vote, she would not get my vote. But as an individual, as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, she has the freedom to pursue any privilege and right that occurs to her as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. Of course, I will challenge it if she were to use her position to advance her cause; that I will take exception to, certainly,” Brathwaite declared.
His standpoint is based on Christian principles.
“I will take great exception to her running for office. I find that very inconvenient and very inappropriate as a religious person because there is no way that we, from this perspective, can condone such behaviour. And if I have anything to do with her not being elected, certainly I would add my voice.”
Brathwaite also made it clear that he felt the legalisation of homosexuality and similar lifestyles (lesbian, transsexual, transgender, bisexual) would be detrimental to society.
Another Pentecostal leader, Pastor Winston Cuffie of Miracle Ministries, Couva, also holds strongly to the position that because of De Souza’s sexual orientation, her policies would lean towards the legislation of non-heterosexual conduct, among them same-sex marriage.
“Being transgender will inevitably affect her policies, and with respect to moral and spiritual values they tend to lean in the direction of gay marriage and her policies might be inclined to that. That would be a concern for many people in this country if it goes in that direction. Many don’t believe it’s morally correct or spiritually correct. God designed a marriage between a man and a woman, and not a same-sex couple,” said Cuffie, a Chaconia Gold National Award recipient and strong lobbyist for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the People’s Partnership Government.
Despite his political views, Cuffie said he supported the democratic rights of non- heterosexuals including “their rights in the workplace, their right to be free from violence, hostility and so” and said the Bible teaches all to “love and care for everyone whatever their social status, views on social and moral issues.”
Non-heterosexuals however must be rehabilitated, he said.
“We may not condone their lifestyles, but we must help them to be rehabilitated, to be transformed, to turn a new leaf as the case may be because you have people that will not be conforming to biblical standards with respect to adultery for example and so on; it’s a similar approach: with kindness, with love, with compassion, and show them another direction. That’s the approach,” Cuffie said.
The pastor said he knows people who are openly gay, and interacts with them as a pastor. “I respect them. I work very cordially with them. I deal with them in a very civic manner. The hostility, abuse, insults, we are not for that at all, at all, at all,” he said.
Well-respected Hindu leader, Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, says that de Souza is breaking no State law, she is breaking moral law by her lifestyle.
“She is not what I would call a sexually normal person, she has her own inclinations. She is entitled to run for office, she has broken no law; she has broken the moral law, but not the State law. I would advise against it (her sitting in office),” Maharaj said.
He admits De Souza is free to contest the elections.
“You could run, I could run, anyone of us could run...Those of us who are different from the majority either in sexual orientation or other orientation, across the world you see in places where they give themselves up as candidates to make a point, just as you are doing for them now. You are giving her publicity by following the story. I remember some years ago in a European country, a bare-breasted woman, she wanted to run, and she ran. Of course, she lost, but she got the publicity.”
Seventh-day Adventist pastor Clive Dottin concurred with the other leaders that De Souza, if in public office, would advocate the principles of the lesbian, gays, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community as policy.
“She is going up for public office and of course she will be campaigning for votes. My position is this, we have a very strong international LGBT lobby in the world that is going against the principles as articulated in the Bible. So as a Christian pastor, I cannot, I would not vote for her. I am very concerned about the agenda of the LGBT community and (what) they are modelling for young people. It is a serious thing, and it is a problem that is affecting our schools,” Dottin said.
He’s concerned of a trend to legalise what he sees as immoral acts, such as homosexuality, abortion even drug use.
“There’s a triple package coming here, in the world. There’s a homosexuality legalisation agenda, the abortion agenda, the drug (marijuana) agenda; we are moving in the direction, really, of moral decadence in the world,” Dottin said.
President General of the Anjuman Sunnat Ul Jamaat Association, Yacoob Ali, told Newsday that while Islam does not condone non-heterosexual lifestyles, he is withholding comment on de Souza.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris and new Presbyterian moderator, Annabell Lalla-Ramkelawan, could not be reached for comment. However, in a recent Newsday article, Lalla-Ramkelawan did say that while according to Scripture, homosexuality is wrong society must show gays love with the hope of rehabilitating them.
Yesterday, De Souza was in disbelief when told of the religious leaders’ objections to her lifestyle and candidacy, even saying many religious leaders visit her salon in San Fernando to have their hair done. She named Monsignor Christian Perreira of the Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church in San Fernando and several Hindu pundits among her clients.
“I find it hard to believe. I often do the hair of these individuals. They’ve been coming for years. Father Perreira, Pundit Vishnu, Pundit Sunil, even the wife of the pastor at the Presbyterian Church, Susamachar, on Coffee Street here. I will refute that until I see someone who says that...I think you got it wrong, because many of them come here and they say, ‘Jo, we don’t judge.’ I work with leaders across the country who I need, because they help me with my rape crisis centre.” De Souza also noted she knows of three countries where the heads of state are openly gay.