We asked Aju to talk to us about the experience of growing up gay in the Caribbean. If you would like to share the LGBTQ teen experience in your country,  please email maria@gayya.org We’d love to hear from you!

Moving back to Trinidad and Tobago I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into. Honestly, I had a false sense of hope that maybe things wouldn’t have changed so drastically… And it was Tobago I was heading for. It was much smaller and slower than the more industrialized Trinidad. The majority of the people grew up with their minds going in a complete opposite direction. But Tobago was home… with its beautiful beaches and vacation sites… No one knew of the darker side of this planet, including myself.

I had spent majority of my life in the USA so I had an open mind to a lot of things. I grew up on what most would think is the greener side of the fence which isn’t so true, due to the difficulties I faced with my family and my own self. Nonetheless, I was the kid from America. My hair was long, my face lean, my eyelashes full. I was what a lot of these girls in my class wanted to be. But I thought it would be almost obvious that I wasn’t like everyone else. I had been living in Tobago about a year already and honestly there wasn’t another gay soul in sight. And being such a “different” individual in the small minded, laid “backwards” Tobago had its difficulties.

Religion is a big thing here. Even in school… morning prayers, evening prayers. Having everyone down your back about finding the lord was enough, I mean I have a personal relation with HIM and I don’t believe I need to conform to a religious routine to prove that, but that’s a different story. The younger boys would have these names for me, like, “batty” and “buller-man” ‘buller’ deriving from bull which is slang for sex. Every now and then they’d use the common words like fag. Honestly I didn’t even know what these words meant but as I came to realize it was like a sin to be consider one. Most didn’t even know me, but because of my look, I was labeled. I was even disrespected by my elders, in public at times. Once I had a rotten apple thrown at me… The black sheep of Tobago.

But through the humiliation and a lot support from those people who accepted me for who I was (and those who were secretly like me) I picked myself up every day
and little by little, I accepted myself and my circumstances. I know that because I’m in truth an illegal citizen, I wouldn’t be back in the U.S. anytime soon (but that’s a whole different story). But being here has taught me some things. Everywhere you go there will be some kind of adversity, especially for gays. There is a brighter side though… The sister island to Tobago, Trinidad with its open mindedness, offers a greater safe haven to those finding themselves. It offers a fun nightlife with gay-friendly bars, parties, and a comfort that no one is really going to mind your business. There is the occasional gay drama (but once again, that’s a whole different story).

After about 5 years of living here, back and for the between Trinidad and Tobago, life for me here in Caribbean isn’t so bad at the end of the day. Yeah, I may not be accepted by some, but it’s the love of so much more that has me going. There are so many projects and opportunities that I’ve dove into like modeling and writing that I don’t have time to study what everyone has to say. The Caribbean for me has evolved my sense of life and the way I live in so many ways (both bad and good) but I am thankful for it. I encourage all teens living in other countries who have problems with their own environment, to try and look past the difficulties and love yourself. Find a way to look past the adversity and allow those who love you to blind you from those who try to obstruct your well being.


About Aju:

Born on the small island country of Trinidad and Tobago, 19 year old Phillipe Tristan Alexander, was raised in The United States with an strong Caribbean upbringing. Being able to grow up with the many different influences of America, I found it hard to figure out what was right for me. I felt something inside mewhen I was younger, playing with my step-sister and her dolls, rather than playing football with the boys. Growing up pretty wasn’t all that easy either because I took more of my mothers feature than my fathers own.

In school I began to fall weak to these feelings. I tried my best to cover them up by getting a girlfriend but still didnt feel comfortable. Finally in 2005 after the death of my stepfather I told myself that it was about time I stop lying to myself and to my loved ones. I finally began to accept the fact that I was gay. I soon moved in with my uncle and I began to love myself a little more each day…

Now, I’m back home in sweet T&T, and a proud advocate for Gay and Bisexual teens of the Caribbean. I am also the writer of the online story Henny which can be found on facebook. I began writing with inspiration from Alex Sanchez, writer of the Rainbow Boys series.