Rowdy Gays Strike - J-FLAG Abandons Raucous Homosexuals Misbehaving In New Kingston
Here is the piece in response to
I had hoped the former Executive Director of JASL would "say her piece" as well and now that she has--and I've read it--I just want to add a few things. This is important too because there are two very different opinions being slanted here and based on your (the reader's) persuasion, you're likely to believe one and nothing of the other. I have volunteered with JASL, particularly its GLABCOM Steering Committee, which, among other things, was tasked to deal with and come up with ideas for the LGBT community. I have never volunteered with J-FLAG but am very familiar with persons within its office.
The first thing to note is the most obvious: being a neighbour to the area in question means I witness a lot when both organizations (JFLAG & JASL) and various advocates are not there. Quite a lot happens that a lot of readers are not privy to and for too long I think that's been the case. I was there before, during and now after the rise and fall of both the ED and the housing project. I've been there during JFLAG's tenure of the handling of these MSMs. I've basically been there...
I'd like to start by giving my personal impression of the former ED. Our Steering Committee was very pleased when she was managing JASL finances as she was always willing to assist us and was at all meetings she needed to be. She was very attentive, bubbly personality and genuine. When she became ED there was a lot of celebration because it was felt that greater emphasis would be put on our specific tasks. GLABCOM, which was really just getting fully restarted thrived under her leadership.
After reading her recent blog post however I found it odd that GLABCOM was not mentioned once. It feels as if all the hours we spent dedicating our time to come up with solutions pales to the point of not even being recognized by her. She did not come up with the idea of a homeless shelter without assistance from us. Let me be clear on this point. We spent an entire Sunday once formulating so many ideas---a homeless shelter of sorts being one of them. We came up with a bank account idea, fund-raisers, personal grooming ideas, educational fairs, ect. In fact, one of the first meetings she held with these homeless guys came out of a meeting I had with three of them at a bus stop in New Kingston. I had passed them the morning going to work and saw them there en route back home. When I stopped to speak with them, they mentioned housing as a problem and that JASL (then run by the former ED) was not doing enough for them. When I asked if they had ever mentioned it before, the answer was "no". I went home the same night and saw the former ED before she left and mentioned it to her. She asked to see them and the very next day she did.
I mention this point to say that although it may have felt or been perceived that she was alone in the battle to start a homeless shelter, this was not so. Indeed, she was in the extraordinary Sunday meeting where we were looking at a rural area for the project. At no point was a city in the corporate area considered. What happened next caught virtually everyone off guard. A tenant moved out, leaving a vacancy that became filled by a housing project. Now, I understand the need to see an opportunity and move quickly but, here in the long run, the former ED must admit that this was very hasty planning. No neighbour was notified. I woke up on the Saturday after to a loud lawnmower noise by my window. When I opened the window, I asked the gentleman (who I know personally) what was happening, he simply said "we've moved in". That was the move in. So when she says in her post that she heard no vocal opposition I'm puzzled by what she means because if no one outside of herself and her organization didn't know about it, what was there to say?
When she finally gave us (the neighbours) answers as to what was happening, then the concerns came. She reassured us that it would all work out blah blah blah. Now, I had other concerns but as I am not a prying person, I let them slip. That was until the issues started to hit. For one, the mismanagement of the programme was immediate. I got entangled by way of a light bill that JASL's incompetent then-accountant---an idiot that the former ED allowed to harass me--paid my bill in error, causing the light to be shut off on the guys. JASL staff left the compound by latest 7pm, leaving these guys virtually on their own except for a type of house warden. The rules as far as I saw were iffy: no entertaining in the house but apparently outside was okay. No sex but yet the condom wrappers were always visible outside, where they were thrown. The loud, effeminate (pronounced too) behaviour and cross-dressing became all-consuming. This is a huge space where my other neighbour has a certain need for discretion aka heterosexual males.
I'm not saying that effort was not made: there were daily check-ins and prayer meetings. Visitors came and gave them stuff. The former ED was always present and willing to meet. But, she didnt recognize a few things. One, there was no real male presence within this structure. Two, she was too emotionally attached to the programme, so much so that a lot of men who ended up crammed in the space should not have been there in the first place. Three, she didn't learn the word "no" fast enough. The behaviour of the guys got increasingly worse and when we had meetings with them, what kept popping up was one maxim: they were being encouraged by her to think that their vulgarity was empowerment. Because, she only views things in a combative way, hence, the "gayness" of the advocacy must always be full-throttle...blinding all who come in contact. That, i dare say, has been her true legacy as ED of JASL, not the effort to start a homeless shelter. A lot of the subsequent issues that have arisen stem from that moment where she conditioned them in that thinking.
She barely gives three lines in her post on the behaviour of the guys. Let me be clear on this: in any social setting, the disgusting behaviour IS not and WILL NEVER be acceptable. What is this behaviour? Well, the lying. The stealing of stuff, personal and from both offices. My neighbour lost panties that she hung on the line. Even the very house rules were disregarded once JASL staff left. The loud, vulgar chatting that disturbed everybody. The proposing of any male that came on the compound, either for sex or money. I have male family members and friends that visit me whenever and it was always worrisome that they've be hit upon. This was a rinse and repeat cycle for the entire time the project was there. When I hear advocates say, "but it can be tweaked", I then ask, "then why wasn't it?" JASL does not own the compound nor resides on it solely, therefore it was always unfair for neighbours to be expected to tolerate this for a sustained period of time especially when the programme was flapping around headless towards the latter stage.
Did she get the funding support needed to keep it going? I don't know. Could it have continued? She knows the answers to that. All experiments either end or evolve...they're not conducted on love only. Was it a great idea? Yes, and she has my unending support on that point. Did she heed advice? A resounding no. She is hard-headed...one needs to be in this line of work but when even friendly voices are cautioning you, you must stop to pause. I felt she lost sight of everything: JASL became a place no one really wanted to go to anymore...young gay men--some very shady, were employed by her or simply hung out. She likes to have young, effeminate types around but she forgot that this was still a business. She, as told to me, stood by one and heard one famous shady kind say a lot of bad stuff about me and didn't show the very same leadership qualities that she accuses others of. She and her motley crew (including the dishonest accountant) started to avoid contact.
Now, I've never run an organization, so I can't imagine the immense pressure she came under. Let me make that clear. But leadership at times means accepting blame where blame is due or to acknowledge when you need another type of help. It also means putting in line those you seek to help. If she had put different mechanisms in place, things could have been different. If the leadership is weak-willed then of course failure will set it. She wanted reform but to hold their hand as if they had a choice in the matter. She needed to have less guys in the project...a three bedroom cannot support in excess of 20 individuals. A middle-class environment is not a ghetto yard. You cannot have a gay thug with a criminal record among other persons on a compound. You cannot continue to baby persons who walk around with knives and acid. You cannot have only at risk, unemployed guys present where working class types were being totally ignored.
For two years, this continued. To the gay-rights advocates out there willing to ignore the behaviour issue, I wonder how many of them would put up with it in their neighbourhoods? This "behaviour issue" continues because now that she opened their eyes to "empowerment", its a lost cause. She says she has had personal trauma, which is regrettable but m'aam, you've helped to leave us with onging personal trauma here too. This set of guys have turned on practically everyone who has tried to help them. I heard only this morning of a dear friend who they held up after threatening him with acid. You name the organization that helped, they've all stopped now...not because of homophobia as advocates love to say, but because of disgusting behaviour that advocates want to gloss over as if it is not real or pertinent. Even the former ED's bar had to stop the guys from coming there eventually! What does that say!
In my view, neither JASL nor JFLAG is perfect---and Lord knows I've cussed them daily for stuff but at the end of the day, they serve some purpose. Are they incompetent I think some persons there are surely. Do they care about MSMs? They have to but JASL now especially isnt what it was 10 years ago. If anyone out there can do better then please come forward and show the way. If not then one has to work with the system. I've never seen JFLAG refuse entry to the guys here. In fact, it took a lot of complaining to get JFLAG to even partially admit that the status quo could not hold. It is dishonest of anyone to leave with an impression that neither organization has done NOTHING to help these guys. Maybe it has not done enough but that is something left to their conscience.
That's my say for now. If anything else needs to be added then I shall surely do so it the future.