For several years, Tiana Miller has been a regular patron at Bacchanal. This year, she even attended the launch in January. But two Fridays ago, the avid soca fan told The Sunday Gleaner she was quite surprised and embarrassed when, for the first time, she was denied entry.
Miller is a fairly well-known transgender woman and human-rights activist. Last year, she appeared in the 'We Are Jamaicans' campaign, a landmark viral video spearheaded by the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).
"My friends and I went to the gate, and just as we were about to go in, a male security guard started gesturing at us. When we got closer to him he said that he did want any of us in there tonight. My friend asked him what he meant by that and he said 'no cross-dressers'," Miller stated.
Embarrassed and confused, Miller left the venue.
According to Dane Lewis, executive director at J-FLAG, "What has happened to Tiana is evidence of the very real exclusion and discrimination that many LGBT Jamaicans face. It's not just about violent homophobic responses to LGBT people, it's about homophobic responses overall," Lewis said.
'We are humans'
Though she has not ruled out returning to the event, Miller had strong words for the security officers and promoters of the event.
"You can't treat LGBT people like this. We are humans; please respect us. I go to Bacchanal to enjoy myself. I don't violate any rules. I behave like any other female patron would. I am a transgender woman. Don't treat me or any transgender person like this. You shouldn't deny people entry because you think they are not what you think is 'normal'," Miller, who is also trained to go into communities and organisations to talk to them about LGBT issues, told The Sunday Gleaner.
Lewis also expressed surprise at the incident happening at Bacchanal.
"I was quite surprised to learn about this incident because Bacchanal is known for being an inclusive space for LGBT Jamaicans. I hope the organisers will not only provide some clarity on this, but ensure that LGBT people are not excluded from the event," said Lewis.
Miller is certainly not the first transgender Jamaican to have experienced discrimination or hostility at an event in Jamaica, and Miller has had at least one similar incident at Bacchanal prior to this one, but she says it was dealt with very professionally by the organisers and the security personnel.
When contacted, Marcia McDonough, managing director of Touchstone Production, the public relations company in charge of Bacchanal, told The Sunday Gleaner she was unaware of the incident, but that it was unusual.
"I don't know anything about it, so I wouldn't be able to comment on it because I am not one of the organisers. Apart from persons who are underage, I am not aware of any rule barring anyone else," she said.