Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Gabriel, Belfon and homophobia: why T&T must improve, but international media can stuff their condescension 

Gabriel, Belfon and homophobia: why T&T must improve, but international media can stuff their condescension 

The West Indies Cricket Team’s Test series win over England, secured earlier this month, was their first triumph over any team above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in seven years. The West Indies had not defeated England since 2009 while, to find a similar margin of victory over our former ‘colonial masters’, one would have to go back for over two decades to 1988.

It is understandable then that regional cricket fans reacted with a mixture of bemusement and outrage at the negative reactions from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to the joyous occasion.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder celebrates after dismissing Pakistan batsman Younis Khan during a Test match at the Windsor Park Stadium in Roseau, Dominica on 11 May 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Mark Ralston)

First, the ICC fined and suspended West Indies captain Jason Holder—the most outstanding player of the series—for his team’s slow over rate, despite the fact that the hosts won the first Test within four of the five allotted days and the second in three.

It is a rule, incidentally, that is always more likely to punish teams with a four-pronged pace attack, like the West Indies, than those with spinners. But then CWI president Dave Cameron often appears happier tackling his own players and staff, as opposed to providing thoughtful and forceful representation for the region on the international stage.

Next, the Sir Vivian Richards Ground in Antigua—the scene of West Indies’ series win—received a demerit point for being ‘below average’ by ICC match referee, Jeff Crowe, although the hosts batted for 131 overs and scored more than 300 runs in their first innings at the venue.

Any ground which receives five demerit points over a five-year period will be banned from hosting internationals for 12 months.

And today Trinidadian pacer Shannon Gabriel, whose ‘well-sustained and accurate pace bowling’—according to ESPN’s CricInfo—was one of the highlights of the West Indies triumph, was suspended for four ODI matches for alleged homophobic comments in a sledging incident with England captain Joe Root.

Photo: West Indies pace bowler Shannon Gabriel appeals for a decision.
(Copyright Cricketworld)

Root, who the stump mic supposedly caught telling Gabriel: ‘Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay”—has emerged, according to the international press, as the progressive hero of the affair.

No marks for who was derided as the backward (add stereotype here).

For all the claims that world cricket stands to gain from a rejuvenated West Indies team, the ICC clearly is not minded to offer a touch of common sense in its judgment of the ‘Maroon Caps’—as evidenced particularly in Holder’s treatment.

But regional cricket fans must resist the urge to make Gabriel—who was charged under Article 2.13 of the ICC code of conduct for ‘language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature’—the martyr of a global conspiracy.

Trinidad and Tobago, and perhaps much of the Caribbean, remain distressingly reluctant to accept that human rights extend to the LGBTQI community.

Barely a year ago in the case of Jason Jones versus the AG of Trinidad and Tobago, High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad—in declaring as ‘unconstitutional’ sections in the Sexual Offences Act which criminalised buggery between two men or a man and a woman—ruled:

Photo: Actress Penelope Spencer (centre) participates in the Trinidad and Tobago Gay Pride parade in Woodbrook, Port of Spain on 28 July 2018.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

“The claimant, and others who express their sexual orientation in a similar way, cannot lawfully live their life, their private life, nor can they choose their life partners or create the families that they wish. To do so would be to incur the possibility of being branded a criminal. The Act impinges on the right to respect for a private and family life.”

Attorney General Faris Al Rawi responded to the judgment by, almost farcically, vowing to go to the Privy Council.

Gabriel’s case foretells what sympathy lies in store for Al Rawi’s legal excursion overseas. More pertinently, it should offer another opportunity for us to reflect on our own attitudes towards our brothers and sisters who hold different sexual preferences.

Roughly a month ago, a homophobic ‘dubplate’ by soca star Denise ‘Saucy Wow’ Belfon again opened a window to discuss local thinking on sexual preferences. Personally, it took a while to work out what made me most uncomfortable about Belfon’s chant—for someone who spends a lot of time analysing issues, introspection can admittedly be a slow process.

Belfon’s aggressive cries of ‘kill battyman’ made me wince; but that was not it. It was that, 22 years ago, I might have been chanting right along with her—jabbing the air aggressively with two fingers shaped like a pistol.

Back then, I thought homosexuality was unnatural and immoral. But then I got a boss who was homosexual. Or at least I thought so; everyone in the office did.

Photo: Soca star Denise ‘Saucy Wow’ Belfon.

Homophobia 101 teaches you that those cursed with the lust for people of the same sex are just burning for the chance to defile good straight men like myself.

Truth is, we should get over ourselves. Although he was almost certainly gay, he never hit on me once. But he was a good boss in every way. He offered advice when necessary and supported me professionally at every opportunity. He respected my talent, as I grew to respect his advice.

I was a young man then; but I began to feel guilty for those hateful thoughts towards something I did not really understand.

Over time, my disgust gave way to pity and then resignation before, eventually, acceptance.

‘Well, once allyuh don’t come around me… then I’m cool’; became ‘well, they are people too; so they should have as much rights as the rest of us’…

Today, I don’t care one jot what the sexual preference of a colleague might be. I’ve never spoken to a member of the LGBTQI community about life with that particular orientation. Is that the next step? Time will tell.

What would I tell ‘Saucy Wow’ or Gabriel—or, better yet, the younger me?

Be open minded. We get smarter and more aware of our misperceptions as we age. If not, we are doing it wrong.

Photo: A young man shows off his colours during the gay pride parade in Woodbrook, Port of Spain on 28 July 2018.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

My pity is not for the LGBTQI community; but for those who view them through their own ignorance. I pray they critically challenge those biases one day.

And for the homophobic men who are afraid that gays are lurking in the shadows with unnatural desires, waiting to pounce. Trust me, Mr Hot Stuff. You’re safe.

To Gabriel’s credit, he—unlike Belfon—accepted he was wrong. That is a solid first step. Trinidad and Tobago, collectively, cannot afford to give mixed messages to our young men and women on issues like this.

If our education system is supposed to prepare children for life in the real world, then surely this is not a topic we can continue to ignore.

We must do it because it is right; not because of the sneers of the British media.

In England, after all, Sol Campbell—a former Arsenal defender of some distinction with 73 international caps for England—can barely get off the team bench at League Two football club Macclesfield Town without being met by volleys of homophobic insults from opposing club supporters.

Campbell was far better treated in Trinidad, where he worked for close to eight months as assistant coach with the Soca Warriors.

Photo: Then Trinidad and Tobago assistant coach Sol Campbell (right) congratulates striker Jamille Boatswain after his double strike against Barbados in a 2-0 win at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 10 March 2017.
(Courtesy CA Images/Wired868)

Sixteen years ago, the ICC was not quite as progressive when top Australia pacer Glenn McGrath decided to spend as much time as possible questioning the sexuality of legendary West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago batsman Brian Lara.

With a humiliating defeat on the cards for the ‘Aussies’ in the Fourth Test in Antigua, McGrath allegedly asked West Indies and Guyana batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan: “What does Brian Lara’s d**k taste like?”

Saran replied: “I don’t know. Ask your wife.”

McGrath’s wife, Jane, was very ill at the time and the towering Australian quickie went apoplectic.

The Caribbean does not need lessons in morality from the likes of the ICC or the British media. But that does not absolve us from the responsibility to do the right things for ourselves.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Shannon Gabriel’s account of what transpired during his verbal exchange with England captain Joe Root in the third Test.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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63 comments

  1. The late great Clive Bradley had a neat trick. He was the first man that I know who walked on the Panorama stage with a baton and appeared to conduct the band. Thing is, Braddos was actually conducting the judges, making sure that they paid strict attention to the upcoming musical passage that he was about to deliver.
    Joe Root executed a Bradlian manoeuvre in St Lucia. Knowing that he was close to the stump mike, he gave Shannon’s throwaway “yuh like boys or ah ?” sledge an amazing extra life. But Root knew that he wasn’t really speaking to Gabriel, he was speaking to the ICC, MCC etc. Great way to try and shift attention away from the poor tour to date, backed by a save my skin century.

  2. He should send Happy Valentine’s Day to Root and entire panel who made this senseless decision

  3. I don’t normally agree with this Journalist- but this is Cruz of issue as things stand

    I’m sure ICC don’t want to turn this into a religious & cultural debate on that level

    https://twitter.com/peterdellapenna/status/1095943192669753345?s=21

    “Homosexuality/”Acts of buggery” are legislated as:
    – Minimum 10-year sentence in St. Lucia
    – Minimum 15-year sentence in Antigua
    – Life imprisonment in Barbados
    If ECB/ICC really want to make a statement, then why not refuse to tour until laws are changed? Gabriel = soft target.”

  4. I live now in a North American society where I & all West Indian immigrants & muslims/Christian religious believers always walking around watching how what we say cause gay rights on steroids

    If that passing off as a gay slur to get someone banned or to use icc words


    During the third day of the St Lucia Test against England on Monday, Gabriel was found guilty of breaching article 2.13 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to “personal abuse of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an international match”, following an incident with England Captain Joe Root.”

    Then that’s way overboard on the gay rights agenda

    • That’s how members of the alt-right feel about people of colour… way overboard on the racial equality agenda.

    • Chabeth Haynes nah I don’t think this is the same

      Alt right people are closest old school white supremacist who are racially intolerant & masked their views in Christianity under the “white evangelical” crap & are a insult to the faith

      You go to any black church in North American & that’s how they are viewed

    • Or in the Caribbean. Hell, the majority of Caribbean people , religious or not, feel that way. Fact.

    • and a lot of people in this region are intolerant of gay people.
      So you choosing to say it’s not the same thing, is really just you trying to not have yourself lumped with them (the alt-right)
      Intolerance of people for who they are is the same regardless of the reason for the intolerance.
      People are who they are. Can’t pray the black away. Can’t pray the gay away.

    • We gone too deep miss Chabeth Haynes & i don’t wish to turn what is essentially & simply a bad sporting decision into a philosophical debate of religion & gay rights in Caribbean society- since we likely won’t agree

      But the struggles of black people worldwide against racism is no way comparable to gay rights

      That’s one argument I consistently see from gay rights activists – which I find offensive to the black culture & will never tolerate and accept – so we can respectfully leave it there

    • you think that because you’re not gay and have never been threatened with bodily harmed or actually beaten for being gay. But sure… let’s leave it there.

    • Colin Benjamin White American gays started that false equation back in the ’70s. Live and let live I say but enough with the philosophical fiction.

    • It could never be the same. One can hide their sexual preference and never openly experience discrimination one could never hide the colour of their skin. Tolerance is key but gay rights and the right to be actually accepted as a human is two different things.

  5. Reading the part with the exchange between Mc Grath and Sawarn just shows the old saying “Yuh cyah play mas and ‘fraid powder” and saying that you can’t tell a man something and ain’t expect to hit you back one,this is our Caribbean picong ,but the question is why wasn’t Joe Root wasn’t penalized as well ,because the ICC is corrupted and they saw the need to penalized our own players because they’re carrying a grudge for the loss and Gabriel was the target .

  6. The so called gentleman’s game. How would these snowflakes survive on a football field?

    • But much much worse is said during a cricket game, especially by the Australians. You can googlw sledging and get examples. Nothing ever happens to them. That’s the issue to me. Pretty sure if Anderson had said what Gabriel did and Bravo responded ‘ask yuh mudda”, you would have heard things like ” we heard the response so we can’t act on what started it” or some crap so

  7. In terms of the suspension being justified I think a lot of us are forgetting that Gabriel already had 4/5 demerit points, so this level 2 breach made it 8 in a 2 match period which equals a 4 ODI ban or 2 Test Match ban. After hearing his side of the story I wouldn’t call it a level 2 breach. However, I hope the Windies team Management looked at it and decided with the WC coming up it would be easier to include him in the ODI squad against England (where he wasn’t initially included), let him miss the 1st 4 games of this series rather than against India or games in the WC.

  8. Well done!

  9. Thanks to the British media and our feeling to always not offend the lgbt community many ppl chose a side because of what Joe Root said, but reading the release by Gabriel how was this suspension justified!

  10. Nah man…”do u like boys” is offensive language on a cricket field? So when Flintoff told Tino Best to aim for the windows, Tino Best shoulda respond ” are u calling me a field nigga?”. If Root had responded ” nothing is wrong with being a pedophile” would Shannon have been charged? Root could have said “Michael Jackson is my hero”. Would there have been an issue then?

  11. Having seen Gabriel’s statement I am surprised that the WI team did not advise him to defend the charge.

    IMHO what he asked did not deserve a 4 match ban!

  12. Colin Benjamin who is the team manager?

  13. Not sure how I feel about the manager advising him to sign that breach of ICC code of conduct document…

    • Hmmm. Sounds like he was treated harshly. But maybe in this PC era what was considered picong long time is unacceptable 🤔

    • Rose-Marie and I think that is the troubling piece, people not willing to grow

    • I challenge school boys when they may the ever easy “do you like boys or are you gay” comnent. They hear it all the time and the homophobic nature of this space robs men of close relationships with other men they can count on when they need them or for their own emotional development especially when a positive role figure is missing. The whole incident I thought was a great teaching moment. If I might add, if our regional body was that swift with Gayle, the Australia incident wouldn’t have happened with the female announcer.

    • Lasana, it would be interesting to find out what would be the sanction if he has another violation before the 2 year period expires. If strangely there is nothing catered for, it could suggest that he was advised to plead guilty, since he was going to be rested anyway. Like deliberately getting a second yellow dependind on the next game.

  14. Validity of suspension just took a new twist after this Gabriel statement smh ‍♂️

  15. Hey, thanks for this, and all the places it hits.

  16. LasanaLiburd….rolls eyes and walks away….on second thought runs

  17. Insightful well written article. Thank you Lasana and Wired868.

  18. Maya Angelou’s words come to mind. A growing number of us know better, so we have to do better.

  19. Very good article Lasana. I particularly appreciate your treatment of the LGBTQI subject. Regarding the penalty of the WI team for the slow over rate. . . . .. well that happened several times in the past when the likes of Roberts, Croft, Holding (especially), Garner paraded their venom on the field and unprepared teams. I see nothing wrong with it, in general, however, I’m drawn to remind the umpires that “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”. As long as the over rate was slow we deserve the fine! If the match finished well within the allotted time, then exercise some thought and listen to the words of Douglas Bader as quoted above – then excuse the team ….. that they didn’t do

  20. The ambiguity here!!
    did Gabriel accept the charge for misconduct or solely on the basis of Roots’ response, with no evidence of exactly what Gabriel said!!!
    Thats like telling someone, ah locking you up for air, but ah have no evidence of how much you take.

  21. My take away from this article is something my mother always says… “when yuh din know.. Yuh din know”. Meaning when you know better you must do better. And many of us who in our younger days may have derided and jeered and joined in the teasing of gays. Or at the very least stood idly by. Many are now are more inclined to speak up in defense of anything that might be considered an alternative lifestyle. While there is still an unhealthy amount of homophobia especially among certain religious groups, I like to think many of my generation has grown to become more tolerant and accepting.

  22. Nice read. Couldn’t remember that exchange with Glen McGrath. I remember they had words. Brilliant reply by Sarwan tho. Lil bit again he quote Jack Warner… Ask yuh mudder.

    On a more serious note though.. What exactly did Shannon say? Four match suspension kinda rough. Did they have proof? Can’t picture a Trini saying B****bwoy… More like B*****man. Just saying he might have been unfairly treated

    • Apparently Shannon accepted that he said something unwise. Not sure if he will make a public statement on that.
      Honestly, I think an Aussie or Englishman might have wheeled out the lawyers for that. Sigh.
      All the same, we do have an issue to address on attitudes regarding that topic.

    • Rose-Marie Lemessy-Forde no he told McGrath about his wife who had cancer at the time.We in tnt use faggot buller gay very very loosely even to describe our friends.D officials still trying to ge d English dey pond of flesh if yuh ask me

  23. Excellent and thoughtful writing Lasana LiburdLasana!!

  24. I cannot put enough ❤️s on this.
    I hope you are truly proud of your personal growth.
    It was heartwarming to read those parts.