Club Heavens “The Rebirth”

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes she emerged on the night of February 11, 2012 LGBT history was made under new management, with new interior designs, new and some old staff members returning and certainly a new lease on life after closure for some time now due to a rapid decline in interest as other spots within Kingston and neighbouring parishes took center stage, other mitigating circumstances and a much younger and discriminating audience who also have an aptitude for mainstream entertainment offerings that also seem to appeal to LGBT senses but it was good if not refreshing to see the old haunt revived and kicking once again.

The north western Jamaica spot is up and running again and it’s hoped that it will remain open with steady loyal patronage for years to come.

The name supposedly came about as at that time the issues with stop murder music, the repetitive homophobic incidents and the missing entertainment spots around the conceptualizers wanted to find and run an outlet for release so the term Heaven(s) was used to bring a kind of relief and happiness as was thought implied in the term as it related to a religious perspective to the spot.

(due to the limited photo policy I cannot show you more than the basics)

The simple yet effective decor was a fierce start upon entering, new acoustics, lighting, security arrangements, fogging, VIP section and the free admission for opening night were part of the clever marketing ploy to re-introduce persons to the spot and open up another offerings to first timers, in fact it is to open on Sunday night as well with a $500 admission. Club Heavens which officially is now the longest running LGBT entertainment spot/club in local terms if one is counting we could assume some 7 years or more between the closings and reopenings.

It’s original conceptualizer the late Kirk Lester who was murdered in 2007 whose funeral made international news after the stoning incident that took place marring the final rights in Mandeville opened the spot in early 2000 and at that time there were few permanent spots for fun and socializing with peers. Individual party promoters were offering their own brand of private shingdigs while the defunct Entourage Nightclub was no more as we recall after its closure due to pressure from the surrounding business district and a series of sensationalized articles in the tabloids of the day on supposed happenings there then the awful murder of its proprietor and co founder of  a noted LGBT entity Brian Williamson in June 2004 a small attempt was made to revive the brand but was reprised for safety reasons and for memory of him.

At or around the original opening of Club Heavens as well we had lost two major disc jockeys on the circuit due to that infamous party DVD that made its way to the mainstream and was sold on the streets with the outcome being the jocks identified by their voices as they worked in the mainstream as well, then came the backlash which compromised their safety also resulting in a lull in offerings for some time out of fear of exposure hence the no cameras policies or limited photo/video capture that are instituted with some events to this day. So the market responded by attending this new spot in droves weekly which also catered to a wide cross section of the LGBTQIQ2S communities as well thought out themes were offered and well received at the time.

Club Heavens also had come to represent the tradition of drag entertainment and has hosted some noted internationally recognised divas including Harmonica Sunbeam and the legendary Michelle Ross and also our version of the Miss World pageant and Oscar typed award shows recognizing persons in LGBT entertainment locally. This was not lost at the Rebirth and old and new divas strutted their stuff on the stage with appropriate short sets this time around, Diva Nastacia Waugh legendary performances was welcomed as she lip synced to Whitney Houston’s “I Look To You” in the tribute segment and the fab one BeBe from western Jamaica proved that 6 inch pumps are a breeze for a tall lady. It was Nage Trendsett that dominated the performances however proving yet again the calibre of shows she has been serving since last year, she delivered a three song set including two tracks from Beyonce where she lip synced flawlessly with only a chair in the centre of the stage as a prop. Her ability to have her audience transfixed during multiple songs was proven yet again, no one moved and no one gawked and there was no heckling as often follow some other queens, her use of space to enhance her performance had not gone unnoticed and her eye contact with her loyal subjects was commendable, all the above are traits some performers need to tighten up on and hold patrons’ attention. Four major DJs served the beatz including yours truly and Dr B from western Jamaica was a toast for the kidz and of course DJ David with hot Peppa.

A packed house rocked as persons from just by the look of it all walks of life were present and the mingling was good to see, also what was evident were the rural faces some of whom have not been seen in ages proving that the club has the pull to cover the tiles. Influentials could be seen darting about and other party promoters were present too to show their support, I know the late Kirk Lester would have liked that real unity as some persons from that era reminisced on his impact on the club’s development. Persons recalled his own antics darting about the floor seeing to the smooth running of the activities especially the bar sales and his own brand of drag often taking the stage himself with that infamous Tina Turner wig and gesticulating to his favourite Diana Ross song “The Best Years of my Life”

Also not to be outdone in as far as reminiscing goes was Mr. Gareth Henry who took over management after Kirk’s departure from us and carried it until he moved to that infamous villa on the north coast where the old party DVD was shot of a previous private LGBT event, scenes of which are still on Youtube and the subsequent threats on his life from a public incident he was involved in at a pharmacy that caused him to seek asylum elsewhere among other things. I will not mention too much of the ugly history of the club during the tumultuous period of its immediate past manager but it is water under the bridge as she too was in attendance to shake a leg.

The brand also changed hands with the likes of former Crisis Interventions Officer from the J, Miss Artis who now resides elsewhere, the property’s owner at one point, a former promoter from western Jamaica and of course legendary Macey Antibellum Grey before its rebirth in 2012.

The shenanigans of the hypermasculine brothers (thugs/heaviots) are not to be left out of this summary as they too made their presence felt at the spot which has usually attracted them in better numbers than elsewhere. International vogue queens were also present a few of which made the trip to Jamaica just for the reopening/reunion as described by the masters of ceremonies during the drag show presentation.

here is more in audio:

Club Heavens The Rebirth 12.02.12

There were just two dark spots in the scheme of things, the alcohol inventory had ran out and there was a small skirmish after the proceedings ended on the outside with minor injuries but overall the rebirth was flawless. I guess some things won’t change so easily eh?

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It has indeed fulfilled its mandate in a sense and so appropriately named as the spot for some time also doubled as a spot for church services for the Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica services in some instances, offering an LGBT version of heaven on earth through Jesus Christ, literally after a busy club night sections are cordoned off, janitorial staff go into action, chairs are erected a podium placed and covered with the banner and other paraphernalia, a large Bible is laid, a chalice brought out, tambourines, wine and communion wafers are placed when needed, candle sticks and the collection plate. As one lead pastor from the mother church in Florida puts it “it was church from a box.” From LGBT entertainment including raunchy teasing strip shows to spirit filled services attracting two different audiences, talk about functionality.

Let us hope they grow from strength to strength and continue this long held tradition of offering a wide array of entertainment for us.

Peace and tolerance


Human sexuality and the buggery law

NUMEROUS viewpoints have been expressed on the matter of homosexuality and the Jamaican buggery law since it was first mentioned in the political leadership debate leading up to the December 2011 general election.

Supporting and opposing viewpoints have included the notion that the church is picking on gays, that some personal rights can be sacrificed for general public morality, that we are irrational and selective in how we deal with minority groups in our society, and that we should tackle homosexuality through moral suasion rather than through the criminal law.

These approaches generally coalesce around the concepts of religious morality, human rights and justice as fairness. However, there are more fundamental issues to be considered before we form our opinions or make decisions based on morality or legal grounds.

The matter of human sexuality

Human sexuality speaks to how people experience the erotic and express themselves as sexual beings; how they express love and their connections to other human beings. Sexuality is fundamental to being human, and it includes at least five different elements: sex, gender, affective/emotional relationships, eroticism, and reproduction.

It is expressed and experienced through thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, values, attitudes, activities, practices, roles and relationships (PAHO/WHO, 2000). As human beings we are assigned a ‘sex’ at birth based on the physical appearance of our external genital organs. We are defined as either ‘male’ or ‘female’, although one in every 2,000 infants is born with genitalia that is ‘in-between’ or ‘intersex’ (the word that has replaced the old term hermaphrodite).

No determination is made at birth of the chromosomal sex (genetic sex) of the newborn — whether XX (female) or XY (male) genotype in the somatic cells, or any other chromosomal expression. No determination is made of the gonadal sex (tissue present in the gonads — ovaries or testicles), and the assignment of a baby’s sex is based only on the external appearance of the phenotypic sex (the manifestations of sex as determined by endocrine influences).

‘Sex’ and ‘gender’ are similar but not the same. Sex refers to the anatomical organs as they appear to us at birth. Gender is a social construct that varies from one society to another, and is about various societies’ expectations of us based on our biological sexual characteristics (World Health Organisation – WHO).

Gender socialisation begins the moment we are born, based on the appearance of our external genitalia, and specific expectations about how we should behave and what we should or should not do begin at that time. What is expected of us as a boy or girl (no ‘in-between’ is allowed) — whether we cry too much or not, how big we are or how small, how pretty we are or not, or how aggressive we are, and so on.

This social construction and expectation is very powerful, and people treat gender roles as if they are inevitable and a product of ‘nature’. Is it inevitable that women cook meals while men sit and wait to be fed, or women mop and wash clothes while men watch TV? As men or women, specific behaviours are expected and society does not expect a man to behave like a woman or a woman to behave like a man! Worse — no ‘in-between’ is tolerated!

And so gender and gender roles are learnt, and these vary from one society to another. In contrast, however, is the matter of gender identity. This is the degree to which, in growing up, each person identifies as male, female, or ‘in-between’. It is an internal subjective framework that is constructed over time, and subjected to many influences — internal and external — which enables each person to organise a concept of ‘self’ and to perform socially in regards to his or her perceived sex and gender.

It is during this phase of development that persons psychologically perceive themselves to be male, female, bi-gender, or trans-gender. Trans-gender is a ‘continuum’ term for persons whose gender identity and expression does not conform to the norms and expectations traditionally associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

Persons may also have masculine features, feminine features, androgynous (male and female) features, and a complex interaction of sexual attractions. And so as a society, we need to understand the background to our development and socialisation as human beings, in order to comprehend how a person born with anatomical organs that we judged at birth to be male could grow up with female gender identity, or vice versa, or ‘in-between’. Hence ‘tolerance’ of difference must be the order of the day!

The current law against buggery

When we view these issues against the current law on our books against buggery (and similar laws), we can understand why many persons are arguing that our laws be updated to include our current understandings of our social and physical development as human beings.

Let us now look at some of the implications of the current Jamaican law against buggery. To enforce it, we have to peer into people’s bedrooms and, if this is done, it has the potential of incarcerating a large portion of our adult population (both men and women) — prison space we can ill afford at this time.

Why is this possible? Because the buggery law prohibits anal intercourse. Full stop! It says nothing about sex between two men. So if a husband decides to have anal sex with his wife in the course of their love-making, or any man with his partner — they can be thrown in jail!

Now, would it be only the husband that would go to jail (he did the penetrating), or would the consenting wife be also incarcerated? It takes two to do the buggery act. What would be the welfare of their young children left at home when their parents are carted off to jail? What about the ensuing embarrassment?

These are just some of the possible implications of the current buggery law ‘on our books’. Are members of our society aware of all these implications? Shouldn’t we be talking about them? Why shouldn’t we review our buggery law at this time? Should we maintain the current level of injustice, simply because some persons fear a slippery slope?

The ethical answer to slippery-slope possibilities is not the denial of basic human rights, but rather moving to a just position and holding firm at that position.

Dr Derrick Aarons JP, MD, MSc (Bioethics), PhD is a Consultant Bioethicist, Palliative Care and Family Physician providing specialist advice in ethical issues in Jamaica and the Caribbean, and is a member of the Executive Council of RedBioetica UNESCO.


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