Local LGBTQ advocacy group Colours Cayman has extended support to Cayman Brac artist Ronald “Foots” Kynes since his arrest on July 18 for “obscene publications.”
Mr. Kynes has been at the center of public debate about artistic expression related to a recent series of his nude sculptures, several of which depict women in a sexual embrace.
The works, displayed in public view on his property, play off religious and LGBT themes, which Mr. Kynes said intend to promote a message of love.
Mr. Kynes was arrested after refusing to comply with Royal Cayman Islands Police Service orders to have the sculptures removed. He is on police bail until Sept. 6.
Colours Cayman coordinator Billie Bryan described the controversy as an example of the greater social pressure facing the islands’ LGBTQ community.
“This is just another example of our struggles, our experiences, our identity as a whole being snatched at, censored or demonized,” Ms. Bryan said.
“It perpetuates this idea that is still pervasive in our community that being gay or gender nonconforming is somehow immoral or sinful. It’s the 21st century. We need to demolish that attitude. … It leaves [youth] with a feeling that their very existence is wrong or something to be ridiculed. It’s causing a lot of damage, not just to Foots’s reputation, but to our LGBT youth as well.”
Ms. Bryan and Mr. Kynes met for the first time after his arrest when a mutual friend put the two in contact. Ms. Bryan said his case presents an opportunity to bring LGBT issues to light in the Cayman Islands.
“One of our main objectives as a grass-roots movement, hopefully soon to be a nonprofit, is to give visibility and provide education. What Foots is doing with his artwork is promoting visibility. It may be controversial but still, it’s something. There is certainly not enough of it,” Ms. Bryan said.
Colours Cayman is hosting a free gender and sexuality workshop Friday at 4 p.m. at the George Town Public Library for youth, teachers and families. Ms. Bryan said she has already experienced pushback on the workshop and anticipates the LGBTQ focus will attract more resistance.
“The workshop is primarily targeted at teens and adolescents, as well as parents and teachers, anyone dealing with our LGBTQ youth, to open their eyes to what’s out there. Our general understanding of gender and sexuality is, for the most part, false. It’s to strike up conversation,” Ms. Bryan said.
The Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission declined to comment on Mr. Kynes’s case for legal reasons. However, the commission did highlight the guarantee of freedom of expression established in Section 11 of the Cayman Islands Constitution.
“This is a qualified right which means that the right can only be lawfully restricted or taken away by the government in certain broadly defined circumstances,” a commission spokesperson said.