Happy Independence Day if you feel so moved but judging from the cartoon in the Observer last year August 6, 2009 and recent events it makes one question how independent are we and the state of our nation? This particular post is a follow up of sorts to a similar short installment I had done last year on Gay Jamaica Watch on Blogger; of course Jamaica was 47 years then, independent from our British rulers.
We have achieved much since among which are:
1) Economic and some political freedoms to an extent,
2) Excellence in the arts, entertainment and of course sports particularly athletics, we have moved away from the violent political years to a more sated scene. We have seen some tolerance in religious views over the years with many groups and denominations co-existing without any clashes although that does not seem to obtain elsewhere, just take a look at our neighbour Trinidad with its intermittent violent outbursts and coops.
Yes we are free from colonial rule and are supposed to be managing our affairs but our former colonial masters left a template for us to use in the form of the gift of the Westminster parliamentary system and as far as freedom of choice and orientation goes they the British have since removed the buggery and other related acts and laws to secure citizen’s rights and privileges while we still hang on to these old vestiges to secure the divide and rule mantra bordering on theocracy.
Let us not forget that we as a people have never really ratified our constitution since 1962 as it was basically prepared, decided and handed to us by the British through a meeting at Lancaster House and a subsequent act of Parliament according to historical records, so much for real break from bondage towards self rule.
We have lost some of our pride in our flag, purpose, the national anthem and its meaning, the pledge and its meaning, the symbols and their meanings and our all important motto – “Out of Many One People” We are not even enthused anymore for the actual celebrations in the season, the festival song competition that was once a well supported public event with the words of the songs would roll effortlessly from our tongues has waned, interestingly it is the old songs from the sixties up to the eighties that are replayed as they seem to have more oomph about them, the once heralded grand gala march that helped to instill pride in our country has also waned significantly despite its reintroduction by the administration although this year interest seems far better than previous ones.
A law for the rich and law for the poor is what we have ended up with for the past 48 years. I mean I never expected things to happen overnight but one would have expected more enlightened or progressive legislation and thought from the intelligentsia on class, sex, sexuality and sexual orientation. With three major University campuses with more popping up all over, various law schools and an additional 4 overseas institutions operating here all of whom offer some Psychological and related studies independent and liberal thinking are woefully lacking. The plethora of radio talk shows hasn’t seemed to help any, generally speaking we seem to have moved very little from the general homophobic sentiments from a national perspective such sentiments are relative to the reasons why they are made as we have come to realize not everyone who use these anti gay utterances really mean them and are hiding their own secrets, the conversations though have split and with the advent of social media and platforms such as blogs it has certainly diversified the points of view and has allowed for more independent voices to highlight respective concerns of the LGBTQI community , the opposite is also true as homophobes and anti gay supporters have also employed these outlets where they can to spew hate. Fortunately there are a vigilant few who find and take action to remove said unwarranted outbursts.
The are two types of justice in Jamaica that exists one for the rich and one for the poor this double standard literally determines even how you mount your defense in seeking justice in our legal systems but for gay people in general as we all know there is very little for us when we have to access the state mechanisms to achieve closure of cases when they arise, of course being economically off helps a great deal. We are ignored or vilified and accused of paedophilia even without proper investigative procedures in some matters, that misrepresentation of homosexual paedophila vs consensual adult homosexuality coupled with latent homosexuals who hide under the guise of the down low phenomenon has helped to fuel our homophobia over the decades. Since the new Police Commissioner (Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin at the time of the original post in 2009 now a new Commissioner Owen Ellington occupies the hot seat) stepped into office we have seen slight improvements in as far as police community relations are concerned. Gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and lesbians still have it hard and to think our motto says “Out of many, One People” we are eons away from it. Older gay folk will often tell you that in the sixties and seventies we never had this kind of trouble except for the occasional taunt by persons and sometimes kids whose parents would discuss a suspected neighbour over their dinner table or some ostracism but that was as far as it went, now even under the slightest suspicion you can be beaten or killed at the least warned before the impending doom is enacted. Police harassment is still an issue but fortunately it has fallen way down the list of complaints in as far as our community is concerned.
Justice, where is it for us?, we are still subject to ridicule and forced evictions from their homes or outings when allegedly caught in the act, we are dragged into court, cases are hardly tried, if they do get to full trial it’s usually after a long and sometimes embarrassing set of preliminary hearings in open court instead of “in camera” hearings meaning without the public present in the room, names of accused persons are often published in the papers, stories are embellished or sensationalized laced with stereotypical and prejudicial taunts to sell papers, said cases languish in court that is if we persistently attend mention dates (if it gets so far as arresting officers tend to scarcely follow up with after being subpoenaed) we may get a sine die adjournment (set aside for seven years but can be recalled by the prosecutorial authority if new evidence turns up) then there is the arduous task of clearing your police record if you want to access certain services, travel or just to clear ones name as the automatic removal often never happens.
Is it that we are going to have to consider civil unrest and have martyrs among us to get the point across or to effect change and how many of us a are willing to take that stand? We are so busy living in our own worlds and have become so individualistic we forget others because we are not poor so many feel we won’t get beaten or hurt and are far removed from the realities on the ground, so we can hop on a plane and go somewhere else. Justice is a reciprocal process as I see it we can’t just sit by and demand it, we have to act as well legally firstly and if needed, civil disobedience.
Even with Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals & Gays four public agitations this year the impact has not been felt nationally in the halls of rights and politics to at least push the conversations in the public domain to continue on sexuality, tolerance and the possible decriminalization of the relevant laws that affect us.
The agitations in case you missed them were:
1) The Walk for Tolerance (deemed by the opposition as a gay pride masked under an HIV walk)
2) The Stand for Silence in New Kingston (IDAHO)
3) Stand up To CARICOM Protest at the Heads of Government Summit in Montego Bay
4) The Tolerance ad campaign sponsored by UNAIDS
There are some within the community who are wondering if those agitations were really genuine moves to find solutions to our problems by the advocates or just a mere show of presence to keep jobs and funders thinking things are happening so as to maintain longevity. Meanwhile the Stop Murder Music Campaigns worldwide continue to mount pressure on our hate dancehall acts to much success, our lesbian and bisexual sisters in some circles continue to suffer at the hands of evil men who commit corrective rape in a bid to straighten them out, our trans friends continue to be invisible on a national scale.
Then again with a very “active” JLP administration since coming to power in 2007 legislatively speaking they have been changing other laws to suit themselves the buggery act has been overlooked and a limited Charter of Rights with an embellished Gay Marriage debate prior to its passage was used to silence the lobby for change. This move showed us clearly that we cannot trust our politicians even when they come on the fanfare and mantra of being new and different, have we forgotten the National Democratic Movement (NDM) Days of which our present Prime Minister was a founder? Along comes a new Christian political outfit run by no other than theocrat Betty Ann Blaine poised to shove the bible down our throats as her mantra is to espouse Christian principles on the nation. Ironically her former platform in the form of her talk show on a certain radio station we all know is gay owned so she eventually got her footing from a member of the very group she vilifies.
Here are some other questions I’d like us to ponder in the meantime:
1) Are you comfortable as a GLTBQ citizen in this country?
2) What has happened to the legal agitation that started in 1998 to decriminalize buggery?
3) What about the public engagement for tolerance and understanding?
4) Why do gay politicians ignore who they are and join the band wagon in the name of political correctness?
5) What changes would you like to see?
6) Why are we hiding in the shadows (DL) instead of coming out?
7) Are you satisfied with the representation over the years by our JFLAG advocates?
8) What can we do to begin to address our concerns as a people?
9) Are you willing to be a part of that change?
10) Why are we so lack luster in honouring and celebrating ourselves?
11) Why are we as LGBT people so divided amongst ourselves and by extension as a people?
12) Why are class and personal achievements used as benchmarks for acceptance?
13) Can’t we regard each other as human beings despite our supposed different stations in life?
14) Are you considering seriously what you can do in your corner to be the agent of change?
15) Are you willing to embrace tolerance in a true sense and not just being politically correct?
Independent in a sense yes, I think as far as gays, lesbians and transgendered people are concerned we have imprisoned ourselves in certain respects as well there are powerful movers and shakers in this land who can help to shape a more tolerant society instead they sit and are quiet or hypocritically join the “homophobic throngs” to cover up their own clandestine homosexual relationships.
Things done in the dark must and will come to light but unfortunately it won’t be shown in a positive sense.
Tolerance is what counts, we all can co-exist, we have been doing it all these years until some crap shows up to unsettle the situation and proving we have a long way to go.
FREE UP YUSELF
Peace and tolerance.