While the status of being LGBT is not criminalized in Jamaica, same-sex intimacy between males is outlawed under the Offences Against the Person Act, which contains anti-sodomy provisions and infringes on basic human rights. The law also becomes a pretext for treating sexual and gender non-conforming persons as ‘un-apprehended criminals’ and ‘second-class citizens'. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often times subject to harassment and abuse by families, communities, service providers and the general public.
J-FLAG is the foremost among several organisations in Jamaica that advocate for the rights and equal treatment of all LGBT persons. Envisioning’s research looks at the ways that stigma and discrimination are being challenged by J-FLAG and their allies. The voices of homophobia include a church-organized anti-gay “Love March”, displacement of gay youth under the pretext of trespassing laws, mob threats, and murder.
The LGBT community has responded with a constitutional challenge to the ‘Buggery Laws’, J-FLAG’s #iChooseLove Campaign, and partnerships with other civil society organizations and the Ministry of Health. Several government ministers have made supportive statements calling on Jamaicans to respect the rights and dignity of all persons.
Keywords: Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ); Lesbian; Family; Human Rights; Same-Sex Relationships; Resilience; Stigma.
Jalna: “When you’re constantly hiding some part of you that’s important to you, it’s almost like that part of you does not exist.”
Synopsis: Jalna Broderick is the Co-Founder and Director of Administration at Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ), which advocates on behalf of lesbians and bisexual women. Jalna has a long history of human rights advocacy serving persons living with HIV/AIDS, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons. She talks about her personal struggle with coming out to family and how they would not accept her partner. Jalna believes in living truthfully, and says not hiding who you are is freeing and empowering. She encourages people to affirm their nonconformity.
Keywords: Gay; Family; Stigma; Activism; Human Rights; Reggae.
Tanya: “I grew up hearing that ‘batty man fi dead’ [gays must be killed]. To be honest, at first it was something that I was just used to hearing, and I knew that you’re not supposed to be gay, by upbringing…from the environment, the society.”
Synopsis: Tanya Stephens is a Jamaican Reggae artist whose repertoire features social commentary hits such as What a Day and Turn the Other Cheek. She uses her talent as singer and writer to raise awareness about social justice issues affecting the most vulnerable. In 2006, she released Rebelution, featuring the hit single Do You Still Care? which addresses anti-gay discrimination. Tanya speaks about social attitudes when she was a child that assumed that people were not supposed to be gay, and that queerness was ‘wrong’. Her experiences meeting gay people changed her perception. Tanya works to spark conversations and to force people to get out of their comfort zones.
Anonymous 1: Jamaica 2014:
Keywords: Sexual Orientation; Gender Identity; Gender Non-Conforming; Queer; Stigma.
Quote: “I identify as queer, which for me means non-gender conforming. Queer for me, is opening up the possibilities of how I can live as an individual. I don’t accept the boundaries associated with the body that you’re in. I don’t want to move in the world according to some unquestioned gender rule.”
Synopsis: Anonymous 1 speaks about their transformation from a homophobic person immersed in Rastafarian culture to someone who embraces their particular place in the LGBT community. They discuss what it means to be queer, or gender non-conforming, and their journey to arrive at an understanding of the self – including the concept of love, the struggle to reject boundaries associated with the body, and being open to possibility.
Anonymous 2: Jamaica 2014:
Click here to listen to Anonymous 2's story.
Click here to listen to Anonymous 2's story.
Keywords: Education; Employment; Discrimination; Sexual Orientation; Gender Identity; SOGI; Violence; Human Rights; Refugee; Asylum
Quote: “I didn’t want to risk my life, even though I wanted to have a great education…I want to try to leave Jamaica, I want to go get a job, I want to be myself... [My goal is] to find somewhere I can go, seek asylum, try to stay there and feel comfortable.”
Synopsis: Anonymous 2 speaks about their difficulties in school and in the workforce, due to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. They speak candidly about feelings of alienation, facing outright physical violence, and being forced to leave school or employment for fear of further persecution. One of the major issues addressed by anonymous 2 is the lack of rights protection in Jamaica.
Anonymous 3: Jamaica 2014:
Keywords: Gay; Family; Stigma; Education.
Quote: “To see my mother, who was always so affectionate towards me, direct such hatred at me was incredibly painful. But it also made me realize just how deep the paranoia and the misunderstanding of homosexuality is.”
Synopsis: Anonymous 3 speaks to the difficulties of coming out; and specifically, the deterioration of their relationships with family members. They discuss the deeply ingrained paranoia and misunderstanding of homosexuality in Jamaican society that could push a parent into the position of feeling hatred towards a child. They go on to call for the need for greater education to address this problem.
Anonymous 4: Jamaica 2014:
Keywords: Sexual Orientation; Gender Identity; Social Movement Organizing Violence; Employment.
Quote: “I don’t want to change myself to fit in, I want the country to change so I can fit into the country.”
Synopsis: Anonymous 4 talks about the stress of having to deal with societal pressure to conform and having to defend their sexual orientation and gender identity to family members and friends. On a more positive note, Anonymous 4 recalls their experience of being interviewed at a fashion week and not being identified as either male or female, which was empowering. They note that they would like to be part of a Jamaican revolution.