Reflections of Incidents past – JAMAICA, ISLAND OF HATE — Its Leading Gay Activist Speaks:

JAMAICA, ISLAND OF HATE — Its Leading Gay Activist Speaks:

“Jamaica is not a safe environment for gay people to survive in, either physically, emotionally, or psychologically,” says Gareth Williams, the 29-year-old former leader of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), the country’s LGBT group. “The climate here is very, very hostile to gay people. We have been hunted and beaten and killed because of who we are,” Williams added. “Families turn against their own members because of sexual orientation.”
Williams spoke to Gay City News from Montreal, where he had gone last week to receive the International Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights given jointly every year by Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS program said that Williams was given the award because, “Against enormous odds and at great risk to his own physical safety, Williams has been a courageous campaigner against human rights violations targeting lesbians, gay men, and HIV-positive Jamaicans.”

“Williams” is the gay activist’s organizational pseudonym, necessitated by the fact that his predecessor as J-FLAG’s leader, Brian Williamson (above), was brutally murdered in his home at the age of 59 in June, 2004 by anti-gay thugs, who mutilated his body with multiple stab wounds.

A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed a joyous crowd that gathered outside Williamson‘s house to celebrate the murder. A smiling man called out, “Battyman he get killed!” (“Battyman” and “batty-bwoy” are Jamaican patois for “faggot”.) Many others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “let’s get them one at a time,” “that’s what you get for sin,” “let’s kill all of them.” Some sang “Boom bye bye,” a line from a popular Jamaican song about killing and burning gay men that was made a hit by reggae singer Buju Banton. The lyrics from Banton’s song (in patois) are:

“Boom bye bye / Inna batty bwoy head / Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man /Dem haffi dead / Send fi di matic an / Di Uzi instead / Shoot dem no come if we shot dem / Guy come near we / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel.”

Translated into standard English, those lyrics read:
“Boom bye bye / In a queer’s head / Rude boys don’t promote no queer men / They have to die / Send for the automatic and / The Uzi instead / Shoot them, don’t come if we shot them / If a man comes near me / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up badly, like you would burn an old tire wheel.”

(Banju Banton [left] is currently on a U.S. tour. A mass demonstration to protest Banton’s appearance at San Diego, California’s House of Blues was called for Wednesday, October 4, by a coalition of San Diego gay groups. Banton appearances at clubs in Hollywood and San Francisco to promote his new album were cancelled after protests by gay organizations. In an interview with Billboard magazine last week, Banton responded to gay protests with two words: “Fuck them!”)

Another Jamaican gay leader and prominent AIDS activist, Steve Harvey – “Brian was the only out gay person in Jamaica who had the courage to put his face on television — I was very close to him,” Williams says with sorrow audible in his baritone voice. “His murder was really a traumatic loss for our community. After his death I was motivated even more, and so when J-FLAG asked me to serve as its lead advocate I didn’t hesitate, and took on the challenge. I just won’t allow society to trample over us.”

Another Jamaican gay leader and prominent AIDS activist, Steve Harvey
(at left in photo, right), (white Shirt)
was murdered on the eve of World AIDS Day last November 30. For a decade, Harvey had directed the outreach program of Jamaica AIDS Support targeting gays and lesbians and sex workers. A gang of at least four armed assailants invaded Harvey’s home, and demanded of Harvey and his two housemates if they were gay — Harvey said yes, the others denied it. The thugs then bound and gagged Harvey and bundled him into a car. Steve Harvey was later found a few miles from his home, dead from bullet wounds to his back and head.
“Steve’s murder was a personal blow for me,” says Williams. ‘We were very close–we grew up together, and we even used to share an apartment. He has left a huge void in my life. We always feel hurt when a gay person is killed, but when it’s your buddy, your friend whom you talked to every day…” Williams’ voice trails off, before he resumes:
“There have been many other murders of gay men and lesbians whose lives have been taken because of their sexual orientation. Just two weeks after Brian’s killing, a young gay man named Victor Jarrett was killed in Montego Bay in a murder instigated by three police officers. I was there. The police had arrested Jarrett and were beating him in the street. A large crowd gathered, and yelled, “Hand the battyman over to us and we’ll finish him off!”

“I was standing only 80 meters away watching this, and I felt so helpless. The police handed the young man over to the crowd, and stood around laughing as the crowd beat him to death. If I’d opened my mouth, I would have been killed too, so I did and said nothing. When I got home, I called the police three times to report the murder — they simply hung up on me each time. I’m still living with the horrible memory of that day,” Williams says softly.
Williams relates other homophobic killings, one that happened “just three weeks after Steve Harvey was murdered last year. A young man named Nokia Cowan was chased by an angry mob who said he was gay — the chased him into the harbor, where he drowned. And just this summer, in June, two lesbians, Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie, were knifed to death, and their bodies were found dumped in a shallow septic pit behind a home they shared in Bull Bay.” A Jamaican newspaper said a “lesbian DVD” had been found near the bodies.
The police, says Williams, “never qualify the anti-gay violence and murders as hate crimes, they always find a way to say it was not gay-related. But there is no question that these crimes are motivated by homophobia. Often, as in the case of the two lesbians, even when the police have a suspect and know who did the killings, they don’t really push the investigations.”

“If a gay man is set upon and chased down the middle of a town, the people in the town are laughing and joining in, including everybody — young, old, both male and female, once a gay man is being beaten they bond together to do this. And if the person being assaulted goes to the police, they slam the door in their face, and the gay person is forced to look elsewhere for refuge.”
Incidents of anti-gay violence like this, Williams reports, “happen on a daily basis, but the police turn a blind eye to it. I’ve had police officers turning up at my house, calling me ‘battyman’ and saying that I’ll be murdered like Brian and Steve. In February, after a gay man was killed, there was a gang of police outside my house saying the same thing would happen to me.”
Williams and J-FLAG provide material care and support for victims of homophobic violence, help document their cases and take them through the hostile justice system. J-FLAG also organizes parties to help break the social isolation of gay people, but has to take extraordinary precautions to prevent these social gatherings from being attacked. “We usually have a once a week party,” Williams says, “but always in remote areas, and not under overtly gay auspices — they’re not publicized except by word of mouth. Some people are willing to take the risk of coming, because they are so desperate for social interaction. We have over 2,500 people with whom we have constant contact — and, we have a strong female community.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, and the so-called sodomy laws carry a penalty of 10-15 years in prison. But, says Williams, “even though it’s hard to convict under these laws, just being hauled into court and humiliated is enough to destroy people’s lives. For example, earlier this year 2 young men were arrested and charged with ‘buggery.’ The judge set their bail at $100,000 each. The somewhat older man of the couple managed eventually to make bail, but he lost his job, had to move, and later died of a brain tumor that may have been brought on or aggravated by the beatings he received in prison. The younger of the two, an 18-year-old boy, spent three months in jail and was beaten every single day! [DUNCAN PLEASE ITAL every single day] Although we eventually got the case thrown out of court, the younger boy has been rejected by his family, has nowhere to live, and survives by going from place to place where he can get refuge for a night or two. The destruction from being dragged into court, even if there is no conviction, is as great as prison would be.”
J-FLAG, says Williams, “is in desperate need of funds. As it is, most of what we want to do to benefit the community we can’t do because we don’t have the money. Our needs are great.” Another urgent need is for expert help in modernizing, updating, and expanding the group’s website, “and gay-friendly computer experts are pretty scarce in Jamaica,” he adds with a laugh.
If you want to help J-FLAG, e-mail the organization at jflagoffice@gmail.com or admin@jflag.org. Financial contributions may be mailed to:
J-FLAG, P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica, West Indies.

Bruce Golding Blasted for Homophobic Remarks

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding is being blasted at home and in London for remarks he made about gays and lesbians during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Golding condemned Britain and other Commonwealth countries for criticizing the treatment of gays in the Caribbean nation.
”Jamaica is not going to allow values to be imposed on it from outside,” he said during the interview. Golding is in London on an official visit to the UK.

Asked if he would ever appoint an openly gay person to his cabinet the Prime Minister bristled, saying “never”. Golding told the BBC that he has the right to make that decision and to form a Cabinet that represents the Jamaican people.
Golding has been a staunch supporter of maintaining Jamaica’s sodomy law.
Gay sex is illegal in Jamaica, punishable by ten years in jail, with the possibility of hard labor.
Jason McFarlane, a spokesman for Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), said Golding’s remarks were likely to incite more violence against gays in the country.
The situation for gays in the Caribbean nation has been of concern to other Commonwealth countries and international human rights groups for several years following a number of violent attacks.
Jamaica has been described as having the worst record of any country in the New World in its treatment of gays and lesbians.
One of the most recent attacks occurred on January 29 when a group of men approached a house where four males lived in the central Jamaican town of Mandeville, and demanded that they leave the community because they were gay, according to Jamaican human rights activists who spoke with the victims.
Later that evening, a mob returned and surrounded the house. The four men inside called the police when they saw the crowd gathering. The mob started to attack the house, shouting and throwing bottles.

Those in the house called police again and were told that the police were on the way. Approximately half an hour later, 15-20 men broke down the door and began beating and slashing the inhabitants.
Human Rights Watch, quoting local activists said that police did not arrive until a half hour after the mob had broken into the house – 90 minutes after the men first called for help.
One of the victims managed to flee with the mob pursuing. A Jamaican newspaper reported that blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting he had fallen inside or may have been killed nearby.
The police escorted the three other victims away from the scene; two of them were taken to the hospital. One of the men had his left ear severed, his arm broken in two places, and his spine reportedly damaged.
There have been no arrests.
The attack echoes another incident in the same town on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007 when approximately 100 men gathered outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man.

According to mourners, the crowd broke the windows with bottles and shouted, “We want no battyman [gay] funeral here. Leave or else we’re going to kill you. We don’t want no battyman buried here in Mandeville.”
Several mourners inside the church called the police to request protection. After half an hour, three police officers arrived.
Human Rights Watch said that instead of protecting the mourners, police socialized with the mob, laughing along at the situation.
A highway patrol car subsequently arrived, and one of the highway patrol officers reportedly told the churchgoers, “It’s full time this needs to happen. Enough of you guys.”
The highway patrol officers then drove off. The remaining officers at the scene refused to intervene when the mob threatened the mourners with sticks, stones, and batons as they tried to leave the service. Only when several gay men among the mourners took knives from their cars for self-defense did police reportedly take action by firing their guns into the air. Officers stopped gay men from leaving and searched their vehicles, but did not restrain or detain members of the mob, Human Rights Watch said.
More than 30 gay men are believed to have been murdered since 1997 J-FLAG says. In most of the cases the killers have never been brought to trial.
Arrests, however have been made in several cases which received international attention.
In 2004 Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading LGBT civil rights advocate was brutally murdered. He had been stabbed at least 70 times in the neck. A 25 year old man is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.

In December 2005 Lenford “Steve” Harvey who ran Jamaica AIDS Support for Life was killed.
Harvey was shot to death on the eve of World AIDS Day. (story) His organization provided support to gay men and sex workers. Four men were arrested almost a year later.
In 2006 the bodies of two women believed to have been in a lesbian relationship were found dumped in a septic pit behind a home they shared. The killers of Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie have not been caught.
Students at University of the West Indies in Kingston rioted last year as police attempted to protect a gay student and escort him from the campus. The incident began when the student was chased across the campus by another student who claimed the gay man had attempted to proposition him in a washroom.
The same year a young man plunged to his death off a pier in Kingston after reportedly being chased through the streets by a mob yelling homophobic epithets.
In February, 2007 three men in “tight jeans” and wearing what some witnesses described as makeup were cornered by a mob of 2000 in a drugstore. There were yells of “kill them” along with gay slurs and demands the three be sent out “to face justice”. Police had to fire teargas into the crowd to rescue the three.
Reggae, or Jamaican dancehall music, is blamed for fueling homophobia. Reggae star BujuBanton’s hit song Boom Boom Bye Bye which threatens gay men with a “gunshot in ah head”.

For Other stories go to: http://www.365gay.com/

Boycott Suspended

The tourist boycott of Jamaica has been called off despite an official response from the island’s government that barely mentions homosexuality.

Stop Murder Music Canada (SMMC), the group organizing the boycott, cancelled the action after receiving an official response from Anne-Marie Bonner, the Jamaican consul general.

The response refuses to specifically recognize gays and lesbians as a protected group in Jamaica’s constitution and doesn’t even mention repealing laws against homosexuality.

But Akim Larcher, the founder of SMMC, says the response was enough to call off the boycott. The response was dated May 15, three days after the deadline set by SMMC.

“The letter may not suffice in every respect but it is definitely a step forward that they see a responsibility to protect their citizens,” says Larcher. “There are quite a number of positive things, especially around police and law enforcement.”

SMMC — a coalition of groups including Egale Canada and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto — had demanded that the Jamaican government immediately denounce homophobic violence in the country and begin work on repealing laws criminalizing homosexuality, including sexual orientation in the Charter of Rights and developing education campaigns for the country and for the police.

Bonner’s response doesn’t specifically address any of those demands, although it does address questions of police accountability and structural reform. She writes that she wants to “draw attention to some of the relevant actions being taken by the government of Jamaica:

“A bill for consideration by Parliament at this session to establish an independent authority to have statutory responsibility for investigating instances of abuse by members of the security forces;

“A bill to establish a special coroner to conduct speedy inquests in cases where a citizen dies at the hands of agents of the state…

“Budget provided for continuation of the Citizens Security and Justice Program (CSJP), which had a positive impact on community strengthening and crime reduction.”

The Jamaican Ministry of National Security describes CSJP as a “national crime and violence prevention strategy.”

Bonner writes that “The government is focused on the need to dramatically reduce the incidence of crime in the country, regardless of cause…. You would be aware of the public statement issued by the government on Apr 14, 2008 reiterating its strong condemnation of ‘mob attacks and violence against any individuals or groups for any reason whatsoever,’ whilst underscoring the obligations of the state, in particular the police in such cases.

“In the context of your specific concerns it is to be noted that the constitution and laws of Jamaica provide protection for the rights of all. There is not an intention to write into the constitution specific reference to any particular group, as all groups and individuals have equality under the law.”

Larcher says he is not disappointed by the letter’s failure to mention homosexuality.

“That was totally pretty much expected,” he says.

Larcher admits that the defiant response of Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding also made SMMC think twice about a boycott, as has the possibility Golding may soon call a snap election.

On Apr 23 Golding told reporters asking him about a possible boycott that he had “seen nothing yet to convince” him to repeal Jamaica’s antisodomy laws, saying, “There is a road down which I’m not going to allow this country to go under my leadership.”

But Larcher says the boycott call has had positive effects.

“It has not left us where we were,” he says. “It’s forced the Jamaican government to face the issue head-on. It’s put them on alert. In terms of the international support it has raised the level of support.”

Larcher says SMMC will try to force the Canadian government to use its trade relationship with Jamaica to effect change.

“We will continue to raise the education level here in Canada,” he says. “We will continue putting pressure on the government here to raise human rights and sexuality in the current situation in Jamaica.”

Bonner’s letter also makes reference to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) — the country’s queer lobby group. It is, in fact, the only time the letter uses any words to do with homosexuality.

“You would, I am sure, be aware, that the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays does not support your strategy for a boycott of Jamaica’s tourism and trade….” she writes. “It is to be assumed that, naturally, the views of the persons whose interests are ostensibly being promoted will be respected.”

“We are continuing to have an ongoing dialogue with JFLAG,” Larcher says. “We are going to try to provide more strategic support for them.”

The program coordinator of JFLAG says the boycott proposal has led to additional homophobic violence.

“We’ve had about four cases [of attacks attributed to the boycott] which have come to us,” says Jason MacFarlane. “Our perspective is still the same. A boycott is not helpful, especially since the prime minister has made a statement that he won’t be going down that road.”

Travel agents say that a tourist boycott was not likely to have a major impact anyway.

“I’m not sure if they’re getting a lot of queer dollars so I’m not sure how much impact a boycott will have,” says Deb Parent of Toronto’s Conxity travel agency.

Parent also says a boycott might have hurt gay Jamaicans more than it helped them.

“There are many poor countries around the world where poor queers are part of that tourist economy,” she says. “It might be better to actually make a point of going and hanging out with queers who are on the front line in a way that I, as a Canadian, am not.”

John Tanzella, the president of the Florida-based International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, agrees a boycott would accomplish little.

“Zero,” he says. “If anything it’s going to hurt the gays and lesbians in Jamaica who are trying to survive on visits from gay and lesbian visitors. It wouldn’t be proper for us to go against the wishes of the local gay organization. It would be kind of arrogant.”

Example of a Homophobic Incident


this young male was chased from his neighbourhood of his birth and then later to be attacked on the streets of New Kingston (Jamaica’s Premiere Business district) by a group of bike riding thugs.
The police were not helpful when he tried to make a report at the station.

One Voice Conference April 10 – 14 2008 in Washington DC

One Voice Speech
By Dwayne Brown

“Out of many, we are one people” says the Jamaica motto. Is life a mystery, an unseen tale, or a simple spontaneous reaction that brings about instant change? Is this change reversible or irreversible? In Jamaica the cry ‘one too many’ has led to certain cultural and behavioral responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic amongst the Jamaican people. Let’s assume that HIV and men is a spontaneous reaction
Hiv + man → (HIV+man)

Is this a reversible or irreversible reaction? Unfortunately, this is irreversible and is a reality for many Jamaican youth.
In Jamaica, HIV/AIDS is hurting the standard of living and social viability of youth, regardless of their sexuality, ethnicity, class, race, or culture. Even at present, the thought of being infected scares me.
The reality for my friend was not the same. An intelligent young man, who was ready to take on the world, never knew what was in store for him around the corner. On July 15, 2004, his exuberance, dreams and aspirations were robbed by his aggressors who raped him at the age of 18. Four months later he was diagnosed with HIV.

In 1982, Jamaica reported its first HIV case. Since then, the total number of AIDS related case in Jamaica has been 12,063 and deaths, 6,848 respectively…one too many.
The proliferation of HIV/AIDS among Jamaica’s young people is alarming. In 2004, HIV/AIDS was the second leading cause of death for young men and women in Jamaica.
Being sexually active is common among our peers. I can vividly recall the silence around discussing sex and sexual issues in schools and churches.
Furthermore, Jamaica is seen as a Christian country, yet still the churches fail to educate the young people within their congregation and surrounding communities about HIV/AIDS. As a result, we are not informed about how to make right and responsible decisions about our sexual health and we become more vulnerable and susceptible to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

We are also vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies. During, my final year of junior high school, almost all the girls with whom I had attended school , had dropped out because of pregnancy. Who are we to blame? We the young people? The government of Jamaica? Or is it in fact our parents? The reality is that far too often we are missing information and are mislead by our parents and the leaders of our society about sexuality, sexual intercourse, and HIV/AIDS.

Contemporary Jamaican society is one of disparity, confusion, and obscurity. The government has said that youth are the priority of the nation, but clearly we are not the #1 among the long list of government priorities.

One too many breaches of confidentiality by health care providers and the lack of youth-friendly services is a crucial concern among young people. The fear of the repercussions of being stigmatized and discriminated against is reflected in the young people’s reluctance to seek health care. (Disparity)

Most recently the government refused, on several occasions, to issue condoms in High schools, although they are aware that young people are sexually active from video recordings of students on the school grounds.
In terms of policy, we have a National HIV/AIDS policy. In it, for example, there is a non-discrimination clause that states “In respect for human rights and dignity of persons infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, there should be no discrimination against workers on the basis of real or perceived HIV status.” However, this is not the reality in practice in the Jamaican work environment.

Discrimination, in my opinion, is the main factor preventing the reduction of HIV infection in Jamaica. Fear of discrimination keeps people from finding out their status and seeking care and treatment if they are infected.

Homophobia also plays a detrimental role once it is perceived that you are gay, by the wider society. Research indicates that homophobia in Jamaica is a powerful cultural influence which forces HIV/AIDS infected and affected young gay men from accessing medical care. I strongly believe that the politicians and wider Jamaican society need to reform its approach to homosexuality in order to reduce HIV transmission among young gay men.

We,the young people of Jamaica, have proactively engaged ourselves in reforming health policies and advocating for changes in the government and health sector approaches to providing health services for youth. We have made strides in raising awareness about these issues among policy makers and our communities. Youth activists in Jamaica are increasingly mobilizing to improve existing policies or make it known when the policies we support are not being implemented.

But when I look within my society, I see a lack of unity and a lack of understanding of the immense amount of struggles and suffering young people undergoe, which leads back to the mystery of life.
Besides the fact that being HIV positive is an irreversible reaction it is not a death sentence∙ We the youth of Jamaica need a reversible to fight against HIV?AIDS and discrimination

Definition of All-Sexual

“All-Sexual” is a term used in the Caribbean Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (C-FLAG) network to indicate that it considers all-sexual behaviour to be part of a sexual continuum in which classifications such as “gay”, “lesbian” and “bisexual” often cannot be rigidly applied.
The terms “men who have sex with men” and “women who have sex with women” are attempts to move around these rigid classifications.
The term “all-sexual” refers not only to biological and sexual characteristics, but also to social attitudes related to them. “All-Sexuals” therefore refers to same-gender-loving persons whose actions are not in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that is to say, whose actions are not abusive to minors and other persons who are in dependent circumstances or of diminished capacity, or otherwise in violation of the rights or personal dignity of any person.

Press Release Examples

J-FLAG routinely sends out press releases to the major media outlets, Government Officials, and Human Rights groups. These releases address major issues affecting the gay, lesbian and all-sexual community. The following is a sampling of our press releases since our inception.

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,
www.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/gay/indexa.html

Parliamentary Submission by JFLAG

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 ([1993] 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 LAW
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 CONSTITUTION
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”.

JFLAG – Reviews Body and Spirit Religion and Spirituality

The following reviews have been contributed by volunteers and patrons of our library. If you would like to contribute a book or movie review, please send it to admin@jflag.org

Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualitiesby Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (Editors)

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.

GAY SOUL Finding The Heart of Gay Spirit And NatureAuthor: Mark Thompson
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 traveled 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