The terms "men who have sex with men" and "women who have sex with women" are attempts to move around these rigid classifications.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The terms "men who have sex with men" and "women who have sex with women" are attempts to move around these rigid classifications.
February 17, 1999
Concerns Re Jamaica's Homophobia and the Tourist Market
March 6, 1999
Response to Daily Observer Article on Child Abuse Case
March 17, 1999
Response to United Kingdom's Call for Repeal of Buggery Law as Condition for Granting Citizenship
June 20, 1999
"Gay Summit" for Caribbean LGBT Organisations
July 16, 1999
J-FLAG Meets with South African Judge
August 24, 1999
16 Allegedly Gay Inmates Killed in Riots at Correctional Facility
September 28, 1999
Response to Daily Gleaner Article: "Buggers Caught in Montego Bay"
December 15, 1999
J-FLAG Celebrates One Year Anniversary
April 25, 2000
Response to Jamaica's High Homocide Rate
September 19, 2000
Response to Prime Minister's Support for Anti-Gay Laws
January 24, 2001
Hate Crimes at Northern Caribbean University
March 1, 2001
J-FLAG Commends Public Defender and Cornwall Bar Association
April 10, 2001
J-FLAG Opposes Scout Association of Jamaica
April 27, 2001
Support for Chief Medical Officer's Call to Decriminalize Homosexuality
June 1, 2001
J-FLAG Receives International Felipa Award
June 5, 2001
J-FLAG Presents to Parliament
June 21, 2001
J-FLAG Receives International Award for Diversity
December 10, 2001
J-FLAG Celebrates 3rd Anniversary
We also monitor the media's reporting on issues of human rights, and maintain an archive of newspaper articles. This archive is available to students and researchers by appointment; call 978-8988 to make arrangements.
The following link provides an example of the kind of articles available,
THE JAMAICA FORUM FOR LESBIANS ALL-SEXUALS AND GAYS (J-FLAG) WITH REGARD TO "AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION OF JAMAICA TO PROVIDE FOR A CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FOR CONNECTED MATTERS"
A constitution should provide a foundation of principles upon which the laws of a society are built. It should ensure, for all its constituents, the rights to equality before the law, and to dignity of the person.
Rights such as these are integral to the very foundation of this country. The birth of Jamaica as a modern nation occurred out of a history of oppression and colonialism that necessitated the claiming, by the disadvantaged black majority, of a new rule of law that idealised these two rights.
A Bill of Rights should seek to protect the inherent human identity from abuse. By this we mean that features which are inherently and innately a part of one's identity ought not to be allowed to form the basis for discrimination or exclusion by others. The Jamaican Constitution currently protects against discrimination based on race, and it is now proposed that gender be included as a head of non-discrimination. We believe that sexual orientation also ought properly to be brought under the protective umbrella of the anti-discrimination clause.
What, then, is "sexual orientation"? Professor Edwin Cameron (now a Judge of the South African Constitutional Court) writes, at pp. 450 of the 1993 volume of the South African Law Times ( S.A.L.T. 450):
"Sexual orientation is defined by reference to erotic attraction: in the case of heterosexuals, to members of the opposite sex; in the case of gays and lesbians, to members of the same sex. Potentially, a homosexual or gay or lesbian person can therefore be anyone who is erotically attracted to members of his or her own sex".
The sexual orientation of a person does not merely refer to the preferred gender of one's sexual partner. It speaks to the person's individuality and personality - one's notion and expression of self, social and emotional bonding, lifestyle and conduct.
The balance of scientific opinion is weighted in favour of the view that sexuality, including sexual expression, is indivisible from individual identity. More than thirty years ago the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would no longer consider homosexuality to be a pathology; after all, one's sexuality is as much a fact of life as one's race, or gender.
The notion of "sexual orientation", therefore, is clearly neutral, and an anti-discrimination clause would protect all persons from injury to their person, property or interests on the basis of the fact or perception of their sexual orientation. Discrimination, or institutionalised prejudice, based on one's sexual orientation is an issue that affects mainly the minority lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community.
In Jamaica, the law reflects a manifestly heterosexist worldview, illustrated not only by the absence of any kind of protection based on sexual orientation, but also by the criminalisation of male homosexual intimacy.
The Offences Against the Person Act prohibits "acts of gross indecency" (generally interpreted as referring to any kind of physical intimacy) between men, in public or in private. The offence of buggery is created by section 76, and is defined as anal intercourse between a man and a woman, or between two men. No force is required for the commission of the offence of buggery. Most of the prosecutions in fact, involve consenting adult men suspected of indulging in anal sex. To the best of our knowledge, a man and a woman engaging in consensual anal sex is seldom, if ever, prosecuted for buggery.Justice Albie Sachs of the South African Constitutional Court (SACC) who, on his recent visit to Jamaica, attended a special meeting with the Steering Committee of J-FLAG and other members of the gay and lesbian community, is reported, at para. 108 of the Judgement of the SACC in Case No. CCT 11/98, The National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) et al versus The Minister of Justice et al, as saying:
"It is important to start the analysis by asking what is really being punished by the anti-sodomy laws. Is it an act, or is it a person? Outside of regulatory control, conduct that deviates from some publicly established norm is usually only punishable when it is violent, dishonest, treacherous or in some other way disturbing of the public peace or provocative of injury. In the case of male homosexuality however, the perceived deviance is punished simply because it is deviant. It is repressed for its perceived symbolism rather than because of its proven harm. If proof were necessary, it is established by the fact that consensual anal penetration of a female is not [prosecuted]. Thus, it is not the act of sodomy that is denounced… but the so-called sodomite who performs it; not any proven social damage, but the threat that same-sex passion in itself is seen as representing to heterosexual hegemony."
The social effect of these laws is that homosexuality is seen as perverse/ "bent", not because of what the actors do, so much, but because of who they are - namely, homosexual men. Effectively, the buggery and gross indecency laws sanction discrimination against gay men, for being gay men.
Notwithstanding that there are no penal sanctions attending lesbian conduct, homosexual females are affected by the same taint as male homosexuals. Ironically, the best evidence of this is the fact that the Jamaican word for lesbian (i.e., sodomite) is actually derived from sodomy, the other word for buggery. And in socio-cultural terms - jobs, housing, general treatment - the Jamaican lesbian is just as discriminated against as her male counterpart, although she is less likely to face physical violence.
The right to equal treatment before the law is entrenched in our current constitution, which also speaks to the right to privacy, as part of the legal framework for protection of the dignity of the person. Unfortunately, by virtue of the savings clauses at section 26 (8) and (9), which preserve laws that pre-existed the Constitution, the interpretation of these rights is, essentially, crystallised in pre-1962 law -both common law and statute law as it was transplanted from Britain. (Today, the British have rid themselves of laws such as the buggery law, which by virtue of our savings law clause remains constitutionally preserved here.)
We do not propose any ingenious interpretations to make the present Constitution progressive. We argue, simply, that the right not to be discriminated against by virtue of sexual orientation should be expressly and unequivocally propounded in any reformed Bill of Rights. This is the approach of the new South African Constitution (1996) which provides, at section 9(3):
"The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth."
Our recent political history indicates the dangers of allowing ourselves to be led, legally and socially, by a tyranny of the majority. The bloodshed that has resulted from tribal politics over the past two decades graphically demonstrates the natural progression of intolerance for difference, particularly when supported by the force of might.
This type of intolerance is based on a fear that difference, particularly when it appears as a departure from norms, or "deviance", may lead to a destruction of society as we know it. But this fear is totally unjustified. History is replete with challenges to various norms - racist, classist, sexist, even biblical norms - and such challenges have often-time contributed to, rather than detracted from, the development of mankind.
Nonetheless, we do not propose the removal of heterosexual norms in favour of homosexual ones - that would only create another type of homogeneity, with a different basis for discrimination in this regard. Furthermore, no amount of legislative activity could achieve that. What we propose, instead, is the development of a normative framework of law, which acknowledges, and ensures respect for, all types of differences - political, ethnic, cultural, religious, sexual, social, economic and physical.Justice Sachs, at para. 134 of the same case report mentioned earlier (NCGLE vs Min. of Justice) says, in relation to the SA constitution:
"What the constitution requires is that the law and public institutions acknowledge the variability of human beings and affirm the equal respect and concern that should be shown to all as they are. At the very least, what is statistically normal ceases to be the basis for establishing what is legally normative. More broadly speaking, the scope of what is constitutionally normal is expanded to include the widest range of perspectives and to acknowledge, accommodate and accept the largest spread of difference. What becomes normal in an open society, then, is not an imposed and standardised form of behaviour that refuses to acknowledge difference, but the acceptance of the principle of difference itself, which accepts the variability of human behaviour."
As he explained in his meeting with the Jamaican gay and lesbian community, in arriving at this type of approach, the question for the framers of the South African constitution was, simply, what kind of society were they in the process of creating? If the intention was to create a truly plural society, which had learnt its lessons from a history of institutionalised oppression, there was no place for the exclusion of any recognisable constituency from the protection of the new constitution.
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE
Broad-based anti-discrimination clauses are in keeping with prevailing international human rights standards. In 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, under the Optional Protocol of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, to which Jamaica was, until recently, a signatory) had occasion to consider sections 122 and 123 of the Tasmanian Criminal Code, which is similar to our gross indecency law.
The Committee found that the provision violated articles 2 and 17 of the ICCPR which, respectively, prohibit discrimination and protect privacy. In response to government arguments that the legislation was designed to meet concerns about the spread of HIV-AIDS, the Committee declared that "the criminalisation of homosexual practices cannot be considered a reasonable or proportionate measure", and noted that such legislation would only worsen the situation by driving (infected) homosexuals underground.
It also rejected Tasmania's claim that "moral issues are exclusively a domestic concern" and interpreted "sex" in the non-discrimination clause of the ICCPR as including "sexual orientation".
There are a growing number of countries that are being guided by these principles: Namibia and Ecuador have recently incorporated into their constitutions, clauses similar to section 9 (3) of the South African constitution, while Chile and Georgia (USA) repealed their sodomy laws just this year. The Netherlands and other European countries have always had progressive policies in this regard, even granting legal recognition to homosexual domestic partnerships.
As a country that relies so heavily on international aid and trade, and prides itself on being a leader in the Caribbean, Jamaica should seek to be at the forefront of these international trends. The European Union is considering including human rights conditions, with particular reference to gay rights and the death penalty, in any future aid grants to the Caribbean territories; we believe it would show both economic and political wisdom, to be pre-emptive in this regard. Otherwise, we might be forced into a position where we are seen as bowing to international pressure, and/or "selling out" our moral values.
SOCIAL ATTITUDES AND REALITIES
Jamaica's intolerance of homosexuality is so acute that it has gained international notice, through the lyrics of gay-bashing songs like "Boom Bye Bye", and the hostility to our gay visitors, which they have reported to international organisations like the International Lesbian and Gay Travel Association. It is not only the international gay community that has been incensed by such incidents, but also persons of heterosexual orientation who value human rights and justice. Some boast that intolerance towards the gay and lesbian community is "part of our culture," and that protection of homosexuals from discrimination is, likewise, counter-cultural and even anti-nationalistic. But should bigotry and prejudice be perpetuated by constitutional silence, and endorsed by express legislative provisions?
In any event, it is precisely this intolerance, and its potential for harm, which creates the necessity for protection from discrimination, and so to rely on it for the opposite effect is very much like Caesar appealing to Caesar.
It is claimed that our homophobia finds its justification in the pages of the Bible, and particularly in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the purity laws of Leviticus. While we recognise that established ethical and moral guidelines have certainly been influenced by the Bible and related biblical documents, we hold that the appropriation by legislatures of the Christian condemnation of homosexuals is a purely arbitrary process, guided largely by individual biases and collective prejudices. In the case of adultery, of which much more mention is made in Biblical text, Jamaica has no law pertaining to its condemnation or prosecution. The same applies to the act of fornication.
Furthermore, the Bible (or, rather, one or other interpretation of it) ought not to be a source of laws in a country whose constitution guarantees freedom of conscience/religion. In a non-theocratic society where the separation of Church and State has long been established, legal norms cannot be based on declarations of any one religious document. This is not to undermine the importance of the Church in the lived experiences of Jamaicans, but rather to encourage a less universalistic, more inclusive approach to the legislative process, one which recognises the variability of those lived experiences.
Mark Wignall, in his article "J-FLAG must cool down its homosexual heat" published in the Jamaica Observer of 21st December, 1998, captures the Jamaican attitude of revulsion and condescension towards homosexuals:
"Jamaicans expect homosexuals to be quiet as they indulge in their watchamacallit. Jamaicans expect them to be ashamed, remorseful, penitent and retiring. None of us want them to take their song and dance routine to the National Arena, or Jamaica House."
It is precisely these types of stereotypical and derogatory comments that affect the ability of gays and lesbians to make their contributions to Jamaica national life. Despite the significant contribution of the gay and lesbian population to all areas of national life, but particularly in the professions and the arts, we are marginalised, victimised, abused - emotionally, verbally and physically - and even, sometimes, killed. Thus we are denied, in real terms, the basic rights of self-expression which heterosexuals take for granted.
How does this affect us? Justice Sachs answers this question so well in pares 127 and 128 of the NCGLE vs. Min of Justice judgement:
"In the case of gays, history and experience teach us that the scarring [of the sense of dignity and self-worth] comes … from invisibility. It is the tainting of desire, it is the attribution of perversity and shame to spontaneous bodily affection, it is the prohibition of the expression of love, it is the denial of full moral citizenship in society because you are what you are, that impinges on the dignity and self-worth of a group. …Gays constitute a distinct though invisible section of the community that has been treated not only with disrespect or condescension, but with disapproval and revulsion; they are not generally obvious as a group, pressurised by society and the law to remain invisible; their identifying characteristic combines all the anxieties produced by sexuality with all the alienating effects resulting from difference; and they are seen as especially contagious, or prone to corrupting others. None of these factors applies to other groups traditionally subject to discrimination…"
Any framework of laws that encourages this type of treatment of any section of the society, as apartheid did, is illegitimate and should not be supported or perpetuated. The changes we propose will not in any way detract from the rights of any person. Gays and lesbians, contrary to another popular stereotype, are not interested in "recruitment" of others to any cause. We are quite simply requesting the same rights and protections under law, which have already been afforded the majority of Jamaican society. Such inclusion, in effect, will only enhance the right of self-determination and self-expression for all citizens in this plural society. We are, after all, "out of many, one people".
Among the many myths created about Africa, the myth that homosexuality is absent or incidental is one of the oldest and most enduring. Historians, anthropologists, and many contemporary Africans alike have denied or overlooked African same-sex patterns or claimed that such patterns were introduced by Europeans. Among African Americans questions surrounding sexuality and gender in traditional African societies have become especially contentious. In fact, same-sex love was and is widespread in Africa. Boy-Wives and Female Husbands documents same-sex patterns in some fifty societies, in every region of the continent. Essays by scholars from a variety of disciplines explore institutionalized marriages between women, same-sex relations between men and boys in colonial work settings, mixed gender roles in East and West Africa, and recent developments in South Africa, where lesbians and gays successfully made the nation the first in the world to constitutionally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Also included are oral histories, folklore, and translations of early ethnographic reports by German and French observers. The first serious study of the subject, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands is a significant contribution to anthropology, history, and gender studies, offering new, often surprising views of African societies, while posing interesting challenges to recent theories of sexuality. An invaluable resource for everyone interested in the continent's history and culture, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands reveals the denials of African homosexualities for what they are--prejudice and willful ignorance.
Historians, anthropologists, and many contemporary Africans alike have denied or overlooked African same-sex patterns or claimed that such patterns were introduced by Europeans. Among African Americans questions surrounding sexuality and gender in traditional African societies have become especially contentious. In fact, same-sex love was and is widespread in Africa. Boy-Wives and Female Husbands documents same-sex patterns in some fifty societies, in every region of the continent. Essays by scholars from a variety of disciplines explore institutionalized marriages between women, same-sex relations between men and boys in colonial work settings, mixed gender roles in East and West Africa, and recent developments in South Africa, where lesbians and gays successfully made that nation the first in the world to constitutionally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. An invaluable resource for everyone interested in the continent's history and culture, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands reveals the denials of African homosexualities for what they are - prejudice and willful ignorance.
Reviewed by: Nietzsche
"To achieve their aims, gay people have infused themselves with the resilient spirit of the disenfranchised, the empowering spirit of pride and hope. But too much spirit without enough soul is like an automobile running with a tank near empty. ... What is needed to refuel our progress is not more spirit but a deeper understanding and embracing of soul." - Mark Thompson
GAY SOUL, stands out as an epitaph among books on gay issues. It provides a lively forum in which sixteen prominent and thoughtful gay men, in taking the time to consider the deeper possibilities of their lives raise substantive issues about our lives.
It is a pleasure sharing their experiences. It is easy to relate to the road they have traveled and revealed in their expressions. Their expressions give us a chance to agree and disagree, to argue and debate, to remember important things that we tend to forget as we explore the contents of our souls as gays and lesbians trying to remain soulful or simply just trying to survive. Finally we are left on the frontier of understanding how flesh and spirit can be integrated into a soulful life as we continue on the journey to spiritual strength and personal joy.
"Not Following The Rules Can Be Liberating."
Thomas Glave breaks the rules in his writing and his politics as he creates language
Author: Sidney Brinkley
"He's taller than I thought," was my first thought as writer Thomas Glave stood to greet me. Not that he's "Tall," just that the photograph I'd seen gave the impression of a smaller man. I had interviewed him by phone a few weeks earlier and we were meeting for the first time in San Francisco as he swung through the Bay Area to promote "Whose Song?," his collection of short stories. Keen featured and reed thin, he had that mismatched, rumpled look that has become the stereotype of university professors: a well-worn gray tweed jacket, a yellow plaid shirt and brown slacks. But where he departs from the model is his hair, a mass of dreadlocks, wrapped in a beige scarf. Not the mannered style seen on Blacks here, but the thick unruly ropes more common in Jamaica.
He was born in the Bronx thirty-five years ago but has dual U.S. and Jamaican citizenship. He spends several weeks each year in Kingston where his family has roots. "I have the best of both worlds," he said. "African American through cultural adoption and Jamaican by heritage. I have access to both languages."
Language is a word, a concept, that pops up frequently in conversation with Glave. Such as, "I take great care about the craft and the skill of working with language." And, "I haven't watched TV since the age of eighteen. It was beginning to effect language."
It's his way with language, with words, that got him published in literary journals such as, "The Massachusetts Review," "Callaloo," and "The Kenyon Review." Nadine Gordimer, Clarence Major and Gloria Naylor are just a few of the writers that have noted his talent. He says writing is something he's been doing all his life; he can't remember a time when he didn't write.
"I started when I was around four-years-old," he said. "My aunt would buy books that came with records, 'Alice in Wonderland,' 'Winnie the Pooh,' and the English classics. I started memorizing the books."
Despite being at it for many years now, he doesn't find writing particularly easy, but he is a disciplined writer. He will sit down and do it.
"I don't write everyday except when on a special project," he said. "But I try to be a disciplined writer; I use different tricks. One is, I'd go running in the morning for five or six miles, then work. I'd tell myself, 'I did this hard thing [running], now I can this hard thing [writing]. Writing is not glamorous if you sit down and do what you have to do."
Reading Thomas Glave can be challenging. His style is moving further towards the unconventional, an onslaught of words. There are no cues to when a sentence ends, if they exist at all. A period isn't seen for pages at a time as in his novel in progress "Hurricane."
Who could have stopped them, who could have, so much smoke and flame, so many mouths groaning open on the floor, red gums and black, white teeth, redteeth and white gums making colors all over the: but the gags didn't always succeed, no nor the billy clubs dipped in (uh huh), people either lived or they died, livedied as I did and lost their teeth and all sense of time, who could tell what time it was, who wanted to know, the passing of time helped only if it passed into silence that loved the darkness not with them beating us again, shouting question at us again, what do you know, what do you not know, how long have you been the cocksucking son of a bitch you are. . .
"I look at African American literature in the past and don't see wild experimentation," he says. "I wonder if that's because writers were concerned with dealing factually, convincingly, with the problem and experimentation didn't come into the picture. There's a freedom with dispensing with punctuation. I wanted to retain the way memory works in non-linear work, to suggest the rhythms of a hurricane, the problems that enter into a journey where you smash language apart. Not following the rules can be liberating.
While it may be liberating for him, it can prove frustrating for readers who are accustomed to more linear work. But he admits he does not think about the reader while writing a story.
"[Considering the reader] happens once I start working with the editor," he said. "I do try to step back, 'is this getting across what I want to get across?' But I can only think and speak from my own point of view.
"Hurricane" shows he's continuing to explore a theme seen in some of his short stories, torture and a level of brutality that may leave some cringing. Limbs are hacked off with machetes; women, children, and men are raped and beaten. Other degradations are described in graphic language. Glave can be unrelenting in the brutality heaped upon his characters. But it's not the musings of a creative yet twisted imagination. Glave says his stories are rooted in the everyday brutalities that many in the world live with, that we, rather naive Americans, barely glimpse on the evening news.
"I travelled extensively through Guatemala in 1991, during one of the 'calmer' periods in their severely violent history. The year before I went there, a civilian had been decapitated by the army, and his head stuck on a pole in front of a local church, as a warning to that area's residents not to engage in anti military or insurgent activity. Four months later I went to Chile; the seventeen-year Pinochet dictatorship had just ended. It was a uniquely strange experience to walk around in a country, in such a gorgeous country, seeing so many people smiling and going about their daily business, knowing all the while that some of the most horrendous human rights violations had taken place there. There's a very thin line, or no line at all, between a regime like Pinochet's, or Hitler's, or Duvalier's, both of them, or Abacha's in Nigeria, or Idi Amin's, or Rafael Trujillo's in the Dominican Republic, and this country's lynchings. I feel that, as a writer of conscience - and that's what I consider myself to be, what I feel I have to be – I have to document some of these things. I have to bear witness to them, even if only through the paltry, poor representation of fiction."
In 1997 Thomas Glave became only the second Black Gay writer to win the O'Henry award for fiction. The first was James Baldwin. "It was totally unexpected," he said. "It's not something you apply for. I always thought it was an extremely august award and not given to a Black Gay Writer. Of course, Baldwin won it - but that's Baldwin. I was excited about it for Black Gay writers, that a Black Gay theme was recognized in that venue.
He won the O'Henry for "The Final Inning," one of the stories in "Whose Song?". It's based on a true event that occurred at the funeral of openly Gay writer Donald Woods, who died of AIDS, and is now part of the lore of Blacks and their attitudes about homosexuality.
"The story developed out of [writer] Assotto Saint's telling me about the funeral of Donald Woods," Glave said. "He told me how he'd attended Donald's funeral, and how, as "Out" as Donald had been in life, his family refused to deal with his sexuality in any way during the funeral. Assotto sat there in the church feeling more and more incensed. Since he owned the deed to Donald's grave, he decided, spontaneously, to get up and verbally challenge all of Donald's family on their hypocrisy and silence. Donald's family was furious, but what could they do? After telling me this, Assotto said, 'There's the story, dear. Now go write it.'"
Glave says his own family has no problems with his being Gay.
"I came out when I was twenty-two. My parents suspected I was Gay and they've been very accepting. Living [in the U.S.], tempered their attitude. I've seen homophobia in my family but I don't feel I'm in exile."
Jamaica, however, has not been so embracing. He is not yet well-known to the general public. "Literacy is a problem there," he said. "Many in Jamaica don't have access to books. They would not be pleased at the stance I take politically. Many of the [Jamaican] writers who are 'Out' like Michelle Cliff, Makaeda Silbera and Patricia Powell, live abroad."
Among Jamaicans who are literate he has created a sensation on that small, socially conservative island, where anti-Gay sentiment is part of the culture. Angered by the vicious homophobia of Jamaican singer Buju Banton's dancehall hit, "Boom Bye-Bye," in which Banton urged that "battybwoy" (Gay men) be killed, Glave wrote an essay, "an open letter to the People of Jamaica," titled "Toward a Nobility of the Imagination: Jamaica's Shame" in which he took Jamaican society to task.
Because in fact we are not noble. We are cowards, hypocrites. Hysterical in our hatred and ignorance, seeking to cast aspersions and impose ostracism via state and social persecution--death sentences--upon those whom we consider already damned. Upon lesbians and gay men: those whom we would briskly vilify as "sodomite" or "abominations" -- denunciations heard in recent public discussions about homosexuality in Jamaica. But how swift and smug our judgments. How devoid of simple human compassion. How shallow our reasoning.
"I am Gay. Jamaican. And proud to be both." Glave boldly stated. The essay was printed in two Kingston newspapers.
"Some people were outraged," he said. "Some people appreciated it. The fact that they printed it at all is positive. I don't think it was printed to cause scandal. It was printed to engender sympathy."
Glave is, at this moment, in Jamaica for the seven week break between semesters. He will be working with the Jamaica Forum of Lesbian, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), of which he is a founding member. In January he returns to the State University of New York in Binghampton to teach his course on Black Gay writers, while doing the second leg of his book tour. He's appears calm despite facing what seems to be a hectic schedule ahead. "I'm very pleased with life as it is," he said. "I'm very grateful for the simplicity of my life. Quiet and uncluttered."
Simple? Quiet? Uncluttered?
Taking on the Jamaican status-quo, shouldering the expectation (the burden?) of being the next big thing -- the "Village Voice" voted him a "Writer On The Verge" and compares his work to early Toni Morrison -- along with the challenge of turning critical acclaim into popular, would not appear to be ingredients of an uncluttered life.
In any case, "Whose Song?" has arrived to good reviews - "gorgeous prose" gushed one reviewer - and his appearances this fall were well received. He's not at all self-effacing; he never gave the impression that he does not deserve it all, but at the same time there's no posturing, or attitude, an easy conversationalist. There was, however, a hint of the inscrutable; I sensed much more going on in that brain than he's articulating.
ESP 101 aside, he clearly has a respect for the "craft" of writing, as well as a reverence for many Black Gay writers. He can also reel off a list of names of writers from around the world that he admires.
"When I begin to think about what it means...to think about the craft and practice of writing, the ego leaves," he said, choosing his words carefully. "The world of literature that's out there humbles you."
By Sidney Brinkley
Documented by Robert Carr, PhD, DipSW, MSW
In September of 2001, a group of 12 members of Jamaica AIDS Support's Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Community (GLABCOM) intervention had just left a safer sex and behaviour change support meeting at about 10pm. As they headed home from the meeting on foot, the group noticed a police car drive past them, stop, turn around, and drive past them again and stop. Three policemen got out of the car. About half of the group became suspicious of the policemen's behaviour and turned back to walk another way. One of the policemen then addressed the remaining six members of the group and commanded them to approach him with the phrase "Battyman, come here." [Editor's note: Battyman is a derogatory term for a male homosexual; who engages in anal intercourse.]
Some of the men stopped; one member walked on. When this member heard the policeman demand to be told where the group was coming from, and realised that his peers were paralysed with fear, decided to rejoin the group and try to provide some leadership to the group in handling the situation. The men responded to the policeman that they were coming from a meeting. One of the policemen then asked "A which meeting oonu battyman a come from?" The men did not respond out of fear of bringing reprisals and harassment on the GLABCOM meeting.
One of the policemen then told them that none of them were to move because they were all going to jail that night. While he was saying that, one member asked him 'what for,' and the policeman responded that they had broken the law already, and there was no need to explain it, while another one was on his radio calling for backup saying that there was a situation on that road and they needed a van. One of the policemen pointed at one of the guys and said that he knew him and that he was always on the street and asked him then and there if he was "a battyman." The member did not respond. The policeman then asked him for his name; the member gave him a false name. The policeman then responded that he knew that was not his name. The member who had come back to help the situation interjected and argued that the policeman was not in a position to tell the young man he was lying as the policeman did not know his name. The policeman responded by trying to intimidate him into silence in order to prevent him from continuing to intervene in defence of the group members' rights.
He then said he wanted to talk to the members of the group individually. They started doing this and so the group lost contact with what was being said and asked of whom. Then the member of the group who had turned back to lead the fight for the group's rights asked if he could make a call to the organisation that had held the meeting to straighten the matter out. The phone booth was clearly visible from where the policemen and the group were. The policeman asked if the member was planning to call more "battymen" because if that was the case they would simply arrest everyone.
The lead member of the group then called Jamaica AIDS Support collect and contacted the then Director of Targeted Interventions, Mr. Michael Johnson. Mr. Johnson came to the scene. One policeman looked at him and announced "a di battyman leader dat." Mr. Johnson asked the policemen what was the situation because he had gotten a call to say that the police were harassing the group. One of the officers said he was not to use the word "harass" because they were only doing their job. Mr. Johnson again asked what was happening. The policeman then said he recognised Mr. Johnson from his other job at a bank. Mr. Johnson confirmed that he did work at a bank.
The policeman then began referring to Mr. Johnson as "sir," and offered to take him aside and explain what was happening. He told Mr. Johnson the group was "loitering" and pointed to one particularly effeminate member and said that what he thought that member was doing he thought the whole group was doing and that he cannot support "man with man because God never mek man with man." He said the only reason he was not arresting the group was because they knew Mr. Johnson. The policeman told Mr. Johnson that what Mr. Johnson needed to do was to talk to the group about being gay, and the fact that being gay is wrong and against the law, and that the next time they were not going to give them a break. Their last comment was to point to the effeminate group member they had singled out and say that they had marked him as the ringleader and a marker of homosexual activities and so anyone he was with they would know was a homosexual and so liable for arrest.
This kind of rejection by our churches and our communities is very damaging to our spirits. Many people internalise this message and it takes a lot of strength and courage to reject this way of thinking, especially when the fundamentalists have armed themselves with quote after quote from the bible to justify their bigotry. Fundamentalist Christian churches dominate the spiritual landscape in Jamaica, making it difficult for people to explore alternative thinking on homosexuality.
However, there are alternatives to the mainstream church, including some Christian churches which focus more on nurturing the spirit and drawing the positive from people, rather than on condemning people and focusing on guilt and sin. Some of these alternatives operate from a Christian perspective, and others present alternative belief systems.
Contact us for information on gay-friendly churches in Jamaica.
Check the links below for gay Christian and alternative spirituality sites.
This inspiring bishop was invited to speak in Jamaica in 2001 by the Universal Centre of Truth:
This is a listing of alternative gay spiritual sites:
Metropolitan Community Church:
Gay muslim site:
What Jamaican Law says about Homosexuality:
Contrary to popular belief, it is not actually illegal to be homosexual in Jamaica. Being a homosexual does not contravene any of the existing laws; however, the law makes certain 'homosexual acts' illegal, and these laws are used to persecute gay men. They state that "acts of gross indecency" and buggery [anal sex] are illegal. Although buggery refers to anal sex between a man and another man, a woman or an animal, in practice the law is predominately enforced against two men. Lesbians are also discriminated against in the wider society, however no laws target lesbians or lesbian conduct.
Offences Against the Person Act
This act prohibits "acts of gross indecency" between men, in public or in private. (This is a very general term which can be interpreted to mean any kind of physical intimacy)
Article 76 (Unnatural Crime)"Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery [anal intercourse] committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years."
Article 77 (Attempt)"Whosoever shall attempt to commit the said abominable crime, or shall be guilty of any assault with intent to commit the same, or of any indecent assault upon any male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour."
Article 78 (Proof of Carnal Knowledge)"Whenever upon the trial of any offence punishable under this Act, it may be necessary to prove carnal knowledge, it shall not be necessary to prove the actual emission of seed in order to constitute a carnal knowledge, but the carnal knowledge shall be deemed complete upon proof of penetration only."
Article 79 (Outrages on Decency)"Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 2 years, with or without hard labour."
YOUR Rights, Duties and Responsibilities as a Jamaican Citizen:
As a Jamaican citizen you also have, through the Constitution, the right:
To have your privacy respected within your home and family.
As a citizen, you have a DUTY to assist the police in the apprehension of an accused or wanted person.
If through your own actions, conduct or behaviour, you do not show RESPECT for other citizens, the security forces and the laws governing the country - whether within or outside your community - some of these rights may be taken away from you, by law. This means that you may be liable to prosecution and conviction leading to imprisonment or you may be sued.
POLICE Rights, Duties and Responsibilities:
In pursuing their duties as members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, police officers have the right:
To search the body of any person if they have reason to believe that an illegally-held item, relating to your search, is being concealed;
To search premises, once they have a search warrant, duly signed by the appropriate authority*;
To remove property which justifies their search, as evidence.
If through their actions, conduct and behaviour they do not show RESPECT for citizens, or they abuse those citizens' rights or property, they can be removed from their professional responsibilities, by law. They may also be liable to prosecution and conviction leading to imprisonment or they may be sued.
*(Judge or Justice of the Peace. In the case of dangerous drugs, Sergeant of Police or higher officer.)
If you want to know what protections are available under the national constitution for you as a citizen of Jamaica, and what JFLAG is doing to have those protections widened to include protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, see our Parliamentary Submission.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also available online at: http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/index.htm
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Thanks for your Donations
thank you for your donations via Paypal in helping to keep this blog going, my limited frontline community work, temporary shelter assistance at my home and related costs. Please continue to support me and my allies in this venture that has now become a full time activity. When I first started blogging in late 2007 it was just as a pass time to highlight GLBTQ issues in Jamaica under then JFLAG's blogspot page but now clearly there is a need for more forumatic activity which I want to continue to play my part while raising more real life issues pertinent to us.
Activities & Plans: ongoing and future
- To continue this venture towards website development with an E-zine focus
- Work with other Non Governmental organizations old and new towards similar focus and objectives
- To find common ground on issues affecting GLBTQ and straight friendly persons in Jamaica towards tolerance and harmony
- Exposing homophobic activities and suggesting corrective solutions
- To formalise GLBTQ Jamaica's activities in the long term
- Continuing discussion on issues affecting GLBTQ people in Jamaica and elsewhere
- Welcoming, examining and implemeting suggestions and ideas from you the viewing public
- Present issues on HIV/AIDS related matters in a timely and accurate manner
- Assist where possible victims of homophobic violence and abuse financially, temporary shelter(my home) and otherwise
- Track human rights issues in general with a view to support for ALL
Information & Disclaimer
Individuals who are mentioned or whose photographs appear on this site are not necessarily Homosexual, HIV positive or have AIDS.
This blog contains pictures that may be disturbing. We have taken the liberty to present these images as evidence of the numerous accounts of homophobic violence meted out to alledged gays in Jamaica.
Faces and names witheld for the victims' protection.
This blog not only watches and covers LGBTQ issues in Jamaica and elsewhere but also general human rights and current affairs where applicable.
This blog contains HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please view labels, post list or exit.
Since HIV infection is spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics.
This blog is not designed to provide medical care, if you are ill, please seek medical advice from a licensed practioner
Thanks so much for your kind donations and thoughts.
As for some posts, they contain enclosure links to articles, blogs and or sites for your perusal, use the snapshot feature to preview by pointing the cursor at the item(s) of interest. Such item(s) have a small white dialogue box icon appearing to their top right hand side.
Recent Homophobic Incidents
CLICK HERE for related posts/labels and HERE from the gayjamaicawatch's BLOG containing information I am aware of. If you know of any such reports or incidents please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What to do if you are attacked (News You Can Use)
Try to reason with the attacker: Establish communication with the person. This takes a lot of courage. However, a conversation may change the intention of an attacker.
Do not try anything foolish: If you know outmanoeuvring the attacker is impossible, do not try it.
Do not appear to be afraid: Look the attacker in the eye and demonstrate that you are not fearful.
This may have a psychological effect on the individual.
The police 119
Crime Stop 311
Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it
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