LGBT History Month Jamaica’s First Gay Organization – Gay Freedom Movement (updated 2011)

Originally posted October 6, 2008
The first gay organization in Jamaica was the Gay Freedom Movement (GFM), founded around 1974 by five Jamaicans and an American Jesuit then working in the island.
It focused on consciousness-raising within the LGBT community and professional organizations, issued a newsletter, Jamaica Gaily News, and ran a Gay Youth Program, Prison Outreach Program and a free STD clinic.
General Secretary, Larry Chang, who was also publisher and editor of JGN, was the first Jamaican to come out publicly, being interviewed on radio and the then JBC-TV and through his letters to the press.
Before he fled to the US in 2000 where he was granted political asylum in 2004, he had helped found Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG)
The Gaily News Publication (previously The Toilet Paper) – Original documentation draft outlay and typeset (front cover)

(owned by GFM and was held by JFLAG although not stored in proper conditions) this copy was digitized during my tenure as Administrative Assistant at the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays JFLAG as at that time I was very concerned as to the conditions some of the pieces were in when I came across them, luckily we were able to get them to him thus preventing some important cultural objects being lost forever and thrown away and deemed on no value. 

(Items have since been returned in 2010 to the GFM originator Larry Chang who now resides in the United States)

This was a then handmade and typed set via typewriter gay tabloid circulation that was done by the first gay activist movement in Jamaica in the late seventies to early eighties the Gay Freedom Movement. It was named the “Toilet Paper” before but only two editions were produced before the decision to change the name came about.

Computers weren’t so readily available as yet on the Jamaican landscape so drafts were hand made thus adding more value to the early work by these pioneers.

This captioned photo above is actually one of the original drafts design for the outlay of the publication. It was so named to parody the then mainstream Jamaica Daily News newspaper now merged to be known as the Gleaner.
The archives since this original post entry have since been retrieved by the former General Secretary of the movement Mr. Larry Chang who now resides overseas after seeking asylum in 2000 and was successful. They are stored on the captioned site above for viewing and purchase from same.

Authors and contributors would literally spend hours researching and coming up with interesting and sometimes patois written pieces for the paper. Based on the old archives of the publication it was circulated for a good two some years before it ended. It contained letters to the editor of the respected newspapers of the day, the Daily News, Gleaner and the Daily Star.

The Jamaica Observer was not birthed as yet.

Events and other intervention activities were also included with rich comedic content as homophobia was not as rife as now so the community was more relaxed and could entertain themselves effortlessly.

Thanks to the Gay Freedom Movement for opening the door to activism in Jamaica.
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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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