Former Miss LGBT World on being Transgender in Jamaica

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The following is a post done earlier this year with Miss LGBT World 2009 and dancehall queen winner Tiana Miller who granted an interview. Also see other posts for the week:

Transgender Awareness Week 2013

Transgender Awareness Week 2013: Internalized Transphobia

Tiana Miller. (Photos courtesy of Tiana Miller)

Last week, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 16-year-old Dwayne Jones was shot and stabbed multiple times for turning up to a party in women’s clothing. Jones was reportedly transgender and the murder has once again highlighted the awful reality of life for Jamaica’s LGBT community. And it really is fucking awful.

In 2006, TIME magazine called Jamaica “the most homophobic place on Earth,” and the anti-gay sentiment prevalent in the country’s media and most popular musical genre, dancehall, has been well-documented. The Jamaica Gleaner, one of the country’s largest newspapers, regularly publishes stories about the gay community with a homophobic slant. Last month, it referred to a group of men who were evicted from an abandoned house as a “gay clan” and ran an op-ed (in the year 2013) that rubbished the idea of being born gay, saying people who are attracted to the same sex actively decide to do so, in much the same way that they decide to “eat snails (like the French)” or “like the taste of jackfruit.”

In the wake of Jones’ death, I got in touch with Tiana Miller, a transgender Jamaican, who hopes that her openness about her gender and sexuality will inspire others to display similar levels of bravery.

VICE: Hi Tiana. So, back to the start—at what age did you first realize that you were transgender?
Tiana Miller: It was at around age five when I first started thinking like a female. Then I gradually came to the realization that I felt more comfortable in a female skin. It was difficult. Because of the social norms of my country, I really felt as if I was doing something wrong.

Were your family and friends supportive?
Yes, they were, especially my dad.

That’s good. What about Jamaican society as a whole? Do you agree with the description of the country as, “the most homophobic place on Earth”?
Yes, I do. The challenges that we face are difficulties in surviving, as they relate to jobs, education, and housing. High school was OK for me because I hadn’t transformed yet, but it’s hard now education-wise because I would love to get a college degree, but can’t because they won’t allow me in college.

That’s awful. I’d imagine gay people in Jamaica are quite economically disadvantaged if they are unable to get a decent education or find work.
Yes, they are forced to be poor. The lucky ones are those who find rich partners and dedicate their lives to them.

There have been a few high-profile cases of police brutality towards gay people in Jamaica. Do you feel that the police give transgender people the protection they deserve?
No, they definitely don’t. Homeless transgenders are on the street, and the police—who should be their protectors—have literally run them down and chased them because of their lifestyle.

Is homelessness a common problem for transgender people?
Yes, and they are homeless because they have difficulties in sourcing income to rent houses or locate safe houses to live in.

Have you been physically attacked due to your gender?
Yes, I have been attacked before. I ran, so I didn’t suffer much harm. But naturally this had a traumatising effect on me.

So I take it there are a lot of areas that are out of bounds for gay and transgender people.
Naturally there are. This applies to anywhere where there are slums.

Some of the homophobic attacks over there have been horrific. I remember hearing about a gay rights activist who was killed before people celebrated over his body. Doesn’t stuff like that make you fear for your safety?
Yes, it does. I put myself out there, but I’m still aware of how vicious these homophobic homosapiens are.

Are there many people who dare to be open about their sexuality?
The gay and transgender communities aren’t united, as people fear for their lives, so not many people actually identify themselves with the communities.

So do you consider yourself brave for being so open about your gender and sexuality?
Yes, I am brave. If I wish to see a change, I myself have to inspire it. I had to put myself out there and make myself seen so that people know that transgenders do exist and see that we are normal people trying to live our everyday lives like human beings. We need people like myself who are willing to challenge this country and its government.

The media often hold dancehall culture responsible for the homophobia in Jamaica—what’s your view on that?
I think the main contribution comes from the church and their social ethics concerning what is right and wrong. It puzzles me how cruel human beings can be and how biased they are because the church claims that we are demons and bashes us instead of trying to counsel us.

Yeah, it seems a little illogical.
I know, right? But, like, seriously—I care zero.

So I take it there isn’t much of an LGBT nightlife scene where you are? 
Well, there was, but there’s nothing now—just regular venues that they rent to us.

Do you think Jamaica will ever get round to changing its anti-sodomy laws and modernizing its stance on homosexuality?
Well, it actually seems to be on the verge of doing this.

Because gay culture is growing or because of pressure from other countries?
Both. But time will tell, and I don’t wish to make predictions.

Where do you see yourself in that battle?
I see myself as being the first transgender to be an ambassador for the country. I want to advocate for human rights, be a feminist choreographer and also be a whole lot of other things.

Great. Thanks, Tiana.

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Gov’t Hush Hush On Gay Pressure …As Promoters Forced To Pull Queen Ifrica From Canada Show

Hasani Walters, Gleaner Writer

Queen Ifrica

Pressure from the Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA), a Canadian gay-rights group, has led to the removal of dancehall/reggae artiste Queen Ifrica from the roster of performers at the Rastafest International Reggae Concert which was held at Downsview Park, Canada, yesterday.

Early last week, a Facebook campaign was launched by the group in an effort to prevent Queen Ifrica from performing at the stage show.

“The campaign was started because we discovered that Queen Ifrica was slated to perform at an event called Rastafest in Toronto. Off the heels of her recent homophobic outburst (at the Grand Gala) days after the death of Dwayne Jones, our members felt disrespected that she would be allowed to perform in our country. It’s a gross double standard on her part, to even travel to Toronto, one of the most diverse countries in the world, to perform for money,” a representative from JAGLA told The Gleaner prior to the show.

Lobby pleased

In a press release to The Sunday Gleaner, the group expressed their support of the move by the promoters to withdraw the entertainer from the line-up.

“This is a welcomed move by the promoters. We have to send a clear message that persons who make comments that jeopardise the well-being of members of the LGBT community in Jamaica will not be welcomed in Canada. We hope that other homophobic persons will use this instance as a reminder that acts that incite hate will have negative consequences. We hope as well that the Government of Jamaica will move swiftly to put in place measures to protect members of the LGBT community,” the release stated.

Efforts to contact Queen Ifrica proved unsuccessful. However, in an earlier interview, when asked about her utterances at the Grand Gala, Queen Ifrica said that she had only expressed what she believed in.

“Like myself, I think they are exercising their right to speak for what they believe in. However, I think it is unfair for them to incriminate me when there is no incrimination there. I simply spoke for what I believed in. They should simply speak from what they believe in but not try to tarnish my character in the process,” she said.

The Government was also hush-hush on the matter, as efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna only returned an emailed response from Sasha-Gay Lewis, the senior communication officer at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, which read, “We have no comment.”

A statement by Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) stated that the group took “note of recent local and international developments subsequent to Queen Ifrica’s performance on August 6, 2013 at the Grand Gala”.

J-FLAG also acknowledged that less explicitly anti-gay music is being produced and broadcast in Jamaica. They believe, however, that dialogue is important in order for a greater understanding about the impact of anti-gay sentiments on the exclusion of and hostility towards LGBT people in Jamaica.

ENDS

also see: Queen Ifrica’s “Freedom of Speech” & advocacy found wanting it is indeed sad that yet again the guardians of the local struggle have become so impervious to the population that another group overseas has had to step in in frustration it seems on the face of it with JFLAG’s stewardship especially after the exclusion of the homeless men from the symposium on homelessness in Kingston on May 17th International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia since then many persons have been up in arms about that and have been very critical of the J’s overall advocacy some of whom were once staunch supporters. So pronounced is the discord that JFLAG own staff especially the Programs Manager have been removing themselves from engaging the community on a whole on social media. It is sad that this new group although with good intentions have left us with a black eye and another layer added to the struggle that of the lobby now stifling free speech. Persons overseas who have our interest at heart NEED to take the lead from persons on the ground as there are consequences for such agitations, indeed all public agitations have such and are to be expected but care must be taken and proper communications and strategising be done prior to execution.

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JFLAG’s initial reaction was what actually set the stage for this latest impasse for all intents and purposes their continued over intellectualized style of crisis communicating has landed us in drama again. The very first sentence in their press release labelled Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel as vitriolic and carrying some anti gay animus; for God’s sake will the J just get direct with the cynical public that they want to convince so much so that Tony Rebel in that ill fated interview on Nationwide Radio where Mr Rebel humiliated the ED of JFLAG Dane Lewis as he asked Dane where did he Tony said any anti gay remarks that were suggesting violence and Mr Lewis could not then came the laughter and ridicule of the use of the words “vitriolic and anti gay animus” and he basically mopped up the floor with the press release and Dane fumble while cleverly forcing Mr Lewis to an apology, however Dane stopped short of a public apology and instead suggested they meet face to face but even that was met with laughter yet again as Mr Rebel suggested meeting in private may have some sexually suggestive undertones. It was that sequence of events it seems that have caused this new Canadian based group to be formed and acting on their own devoid of the real thrust that is the Stop Murder Music Campaign. Queen Ifrica and Tony Rebel are in my eyes second tier homo-negative reggae acts and not as vitriolic as labelled by JFLAG landing us with a backlash we may yet to recover from in years to come.

Peace and tolerance

H

Thugs warn drag wearing scammers ……………

At least two of the over 70 cross-dressers detained in Saturday morning’s raid on a nightclub on the St Ann/Trelawny border might not be able to return to their inner-city homes in Montego Bay.

During the raid, which was carried out by the Leon Clunis-led Lottery Scam Task Force, 130 persons were taken into custody. It turned out that while the vast majority of them were clad in women’s apparel, only 11 were females.

“Dem caa come back yah, yuh mad? Come back weh? an obviously angry thug from one of the inner-city communities in Montego Bay told The Star. “This is not an aquarium. This is a proud ghetto community.”

According to the thug, while he hardly knew one of the men, he and other residents were taken by complete surprise when they saw the better known of the two in a video footage shown on television.

“We always si him a neat up himself and a gwaan ‘stush’ but me use to think him just boasy,” the thug told The Star. “Me neva know a dem thing deh him a gwaan with.”

Tough Laugh* a thug from another inner-city area told THE STAR that he had heard that a member of his community was among the cross-dressers.

“Yow, mi a hear seh di bwoy in a it. Mi get it from good source seh him did deh deh a try hide. Mi waan si him back bout yah. Yuh know wha, ‘im better tan weh him deh, cause dem bwoy deh caan come roun’ mi, mi ooman or pickney,” Tough Laugh said.

Another thug from central Montego Bay said he also knew of individuals from his community who were held.

“Yuh have one weh did always look like a pretty bwoy but we never too deh pree him. But, mi nuh think him can come round here again,” he said.

When the police swooped down on the scammers, the police said they thought it was females having a good time.

“When we entered the club, we thought most of the patrons were females but it turned out that only 11 were females, most of them were males dressed as females,” Superintendent Clunis told The Star.

hide their faces

While the men were being processed at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium, many desperately tried to hide their faces from the cameras.

“A wha unoo a tek we picture fah”. A kill unoo want people kill we?” one angry ‘cross-dresser’ screamed at The Star’s cameraman. “Some a unoo have b … man inna unoo family. “A wha unoo a gwaan suh fah?”

However, while one of the irate men threatened to throw a bottle at one of the cameramen, others, including an individual said to be the son of a popular dancehall deejay, seemed totally unperturbed by early morning attention.

“Weh me come from everybody know that I am gay,” he said, striking a nonchalant pose. “Unoo can tek as much picture as unoo want.”

Hold on deh, mek me give unoo some real good %&$#@ pose.”

During the raid, the police seized drugs, machetes, knives, one imitation firearm, several cellular phones, four laptops and 11 vehicles.

It is suspected that in addition to its nightlife activities, the club, which is located in a secluded area, was also being used for lotto scamming activities.

Among the men detained were popular Montego Bay personality Kenrick ‘Bebe’ Stephenson, who the police said was wanted for absconding bail, and another man, of a Kingston address, who was wanted for housebreaking and larceny.

Name changed*

Bounty Killer claims Beenie Man apologized to gays for money

Internationally acclaimed Dancehall superstar, Bounty Killerwon’t let his long-time rival, Beenie Man live down his decision to issue a recent video statement in which he tried to bury the hatchet with gay and lesbian critics who have long bashed his lyrical content.

Beenie Man responded to recent comments from Bounty Killer criticizing his perceived apology while implying that he sold out his beliefs by making this move. The self-professedKing of the Dancehall steadfastly denied apologizing to the homosexual community, insisting that his purpose for the video statement was to ask gay, lesbian critics to stop holding lyrics from his younger years against him. Additionally,Beenie Man took shots at the Alliance leader, claiming thatBounty Killer should have been talking about a performance in Amsterdam in which he claims fans left before the self-proclaimed War Lord took the stage.

However, Bounty Killer refuses to back down; taking to Twitter to refute claims by Beenie Man that Jamaican artistes will see an increase in overseas shows, in part, because of his video statement.

According to Bounty Killer, he would not have done the same thing if put in such a position and that Dancehall music has helped boost Jamaica’s stance on homosexuality; intimating that artistes should not back down from said stance regardless of the possible financial implications.

“Me can’t ever put a dollar over Jamaica and its culture. If it wasn’t for dancehall and its culture I don’t know where or who I’d be today. Mi nuh sorry fi nothing that I said or sang; I am sorry to know it offended anybody but that’s how I see it. My views and beliefs, all I can say is that homosexuals fi stop try ban we shows and dancehall must leave dem alone to God still and let peace reign,” he said.

Most a these artistes nowadays only standing up 4 their careers and income. If Yellow Man, Shabba, Ninja, Super Cat, etc. was doing the same back then, how’d we come to have dancehall to elevate out of the slums. So why today I must sell it out 4 my career or a dollar. Nuh body not doing ntn to preserve the industry that made dem who they are today. All mi can hear a man family affi eat so sell out Jamaica and Dancehall that’s the only way to eat nowadays sell ur soul???

He also implied that Beenie Man’s decision to issue his video statement was motivated by money.

“When since a money control Jamaicans’ morals? Leave the gold and save unuh souls. It no look good,” he said.

According to Bounty Killer, there was no need for his rival to apologize given that in the last two years, Dancehall music has steered clear of violent lyrics against any group.

“What are you apologizing for? You don’t apologize for what you sincerely believe in. You can only regret if it offended or hurt anyone,” he said.

Bounty Killer recently returned from a two and a half week European tour, which he insists went well. He retorted Beenie Man’s position that the stadium in Amsterdam was near empty when he took the stage in Amsterdam and also believes that Dancehall music remains in good shape despite many claims to the contrary.

Potential Kid’s potential cut as communications giant LIME drops artist over offensive lyrics

So as developments unfold a new artist on the scene named Potential Kid who has shot up the charts and on radio and dancehall turntables with his song “A Yah Suh Nice” (It’s Here That’s Nice) which basically describes good vybz in a party or anywhere else for that matter but the offensive section of the song comes where he said before he turns a battyman (gay man) he would rather be a raper (rapist) which appears in the last line in the first verse of the song.

This being a rapist versus being gay choice of sorts has been echoed before by other artists and is not a new phenomenon which suggest a rebellious mode on which dancehall is predicated from its inception. The choice suggest a love for vaginal sex so much that one would break the law, hurt women (as they are deemed submissive and the weaker sex) and thus risk imprisonment as a stripe or mark of being a real man in Jamaica.

The artist was to have appeared on several upcoming LIME sponsored shows and sporting events including the recently concluded boys and girls championships.

Verse 1:
Har breast rub up pon mi teeth like a chicken gravy,
She mek mi feel like a likkle baby.
Har p**sy tight mi think a Madda Mary
A yah suh nice mi tink a God a save mi
And she come inna mi house and she neva fraidi
Panty fly like mi bredda beigie,
Har p**sy pretty like a madda baby, she mek mi feel…
She wine pon mi cocky put mi c*#ky outta socket
Boom pon mi cocky put it back inna di socket
Come in like a door wen mi knock it and mi knock it
Knock it and mi knock it foot a wah mi like har

She si mi Manley and she tek mi Sheara,
Har heart bitter like a Ole Vera, before mi a yuh mi tun a saviour
Before mi tun battyman mi prefah tun a raper (before I turn a gay man I prefer to become a rapist)

In an article in the Gleaner confirmation came after a meeting yesterday with some LGBT advocates, allegedly the artist himself and other representatives led to the company’s decision, the article read: 

Telecommunications company LIME has dropped emerging artiste ‘Potential Kidd’ from a promotion which would involve the artiste performing at a school concert.

In a release issued this evening, LIME said following concern about the content of the unedited version of Kidd’s single Ah Yah So Nice, it decided to facilitate a meeting between the artiste and some people who were troubled by the lyrics.

In a message posted on its social media pages, LIME said, after analyzing the unedited version of the song, it agreed that the lyrics were unacceptable.

“What we would want is for our artistes to express themselves freely but responsibly and we think civil society can play a big role in this regard,” said LIME Jamaica’s Managing Director, Garry Sinclair.

Sinclair also said LIME does not support any idea or sentiment that promotes unlawful or anti-social behaviour against any person in the society.

Potential Kidd has reportedly apologized to persons who may have been offended by the lyrics.

“I do not support violence against women or homosexuals,” he is quoted as saying in a release from LIME.

The development comes shortly after LIME made changes to a ‘Champs’-related campaign which featured Potential Kidd.

ENDS

Frankly there is a element pf hypocrisy to all this as here some local advocates went to this meeting with Lime and the artist yet we (including the very representatives we have since learnt) dance readily to more caustic dancehall acts who have called for our death repeatedly such as Beenieman whose “All Battyman FI Dead” song is still played in the dancehall and several others for example albeit the songs are old but they still get rotation by DJs. Murder music or hints to such by artists do not need the acts to publicly perform them, they still earn from them in a way once they are published and their A&R (artistry and repertoire) manages their rights distribution/earnings which is now being done as a way for artists to earn as the market crunch is being felt as live shows opportunities dry up worldwide outside of pressure from gay rights activitst but economic and musical apetite changes dictate where the industry goes. Artists are finding  ways to earn outside or shows by using the more administrative methods via copyrights etc.

What is also apparent is that LIME and its marketing/promotions division may either not have gone through the material by Potential Kid or did not expect the vigilance on the inclusion on the artist seeing he is the hottest act now in their promotions.

Ironically the song is hugely popular in the gay community as have been other anti gay themed songs or songs with offensive lines in them hitting at homosexual life and even an event recently was titled as the song and drew a large attendance, I did not spin at that one as I was out of service mourning my father’s passing in late February. This is precisely why I only spin house music and vogue femme materials over the last many years.

I know we are going to hear that a young artist is getting a fight from pro-dancehall and anti gay supporters which may very well fuel or re-ignite the cooling temperature of homophobia in Jamaica. Meeting with artists and organizations maybe a start but for me as I have said before artists with anti gay lyrics need to fully recant their offensive materials and pull them from the market and public domain including Youtube and other outlets. Buju Banton’s Boom Bye Bye for example still gets several hits on Youtube and the song is still available on iTunes seen listed HERE so he does not have to perform the songs live similar to Sizzla’s Nah Apologize is still on Youtube and other outlets for sale as well.

Hit the artists in their pockets where it hurts since the ethical suasion is not forthcoming from them.

Potential Kid is just a new kid on the block the older artists still need to be pressured or convinced that hate music or offensive lyrics are not welcomed no matter how old the tracks are as they have a life of their own via the various platform on which they are hosted and sold for profits.

Peace and tolerance

H

Sizzla cancelled yet again in Belgium

Reggae musician Sizzla has had the Swedish leg of his European tour cancelled on account of the anti-gay lyrics which feature in his music for a second time in Belgium …… see a previous post:

Sizzla Cancelled in Belgium

Sizzla Kalonji was scheduled to perform later this month in Stockholm but public condemnation of the artist, whose lyrics have incited violence against gay people, led organisers to call off the date, The Local reports.

Other concerts in the tour are still planned for Italy, France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands and Spain.

Concerts by Sizzla have been cancelled in the UK in 2004 and in Toronto in 2007.

In 2008, he was denied a visa for the 29 European countries then signed up to the Schengen agreement after a German LGBT group appealed to their government. Sizzla was stopped at Madrid airport that year and returned to the US.

In July 2007, Sizzla and numerous other acts signed up to the Reggae Compassionate Act in a deal brokered with top reggae promoters and Stop Murder Music activists.

The Act reads: “It must be clear there’s no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia.

photo taken from a previous post on GLBTQJA on blogger where in 2010 Sizzla was pressured by activists lobbying promoters to remove murder music artists. See: Sizzla Concert Cancelled from Chiemsee Reggae & Austrian Sunsplash Shows

“We do not encourage nor minister to HATE but rather uphold a philosophy of LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING towards all human beings as the cornerstone of reggae.

“We agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community.”

But he later went on to deny ever having signed the pact. The Local now reports that the appearance at Stockholm was titled “The Reggae Compassionate Act”, though it is not clear this morning why the name had been chosen.

The European tour dates are believed to be Sizzla’s first major appearances since a motorcycle accident late last year led to widespread reports he had died.

In August 2010 he was scheduled to perform in Belgium as well at RIDER’S PARK in Massancy, In 2001 in particular, he chanted, for example: «Shot battybwoy, my big gun boom» («Shoot queers, my big gun goes boom»). Few weeks after apparently having signed the REGGAE COMPASSIONATE ACT (RCA) in 2007, which was supposed to have put a stop to such statements, he performed the title «Nah Apologize» («No excuses for buggers»).

On my sister blog Gay Jamaica Watch just some weeks before I had posted a petition to put pressure on the artists who have strong anti gay lyrics in their music and chief among them was Sizzla himself who has not recanted or seems to have softened on his position despite pressure placed on him, he recently played a club in Kingston in acoustic fashion but no anti gay tunes were reported to have been voiced in that show.

see the post here: Say No To Hate Music Petition for anti gay artists where the news of the petition is also available.

One would have thought that artists such as this would have learnt by now but to think he is described as a reggae act when he does predominantly dancehall songs. It is dancehall that the problem of homophobic lyrics mostly emanate as reggae acts unfortunately have been made to bear the pressure sadly as they are not involved for the most part in direct hate lyrics although some say the silence on their part is consent in support of the artists who make and deliver such hate songs.

Seeing that Europe also predominantly consumes more Jamaican music overall than even we do here in terms of sales and response maybe the LGBT lobby locally and internationally needs to strike a balance and be fair in while opposing hate or murder music as it is known we also encourage real reggae that is clean and uplifting so as not to harm the entire industry as is perceived by our detractors. In recent times though we have seen reggae acts also releasing more subtle materials using the word “burn” instead of kill which also suggest anti gay sentiments.

One such act was I-Wayne when in October 2011 his last album “Life Teachings” the title track is a huge hit about empowerment and thinking but some Rastafarian artists usually have great songs as debuts that is until the Sodom/anti gay bit comes into the mix then the claws come out or in this case the fireball(s).He has a track entitled “Burn down Sodom (5:30)” on the disc where he supposedly hits back at gay adoptions, procreation while linking male homosexuality to paedophilia, a common mistake that feeds our homo-negativity and by extension strong homophobia. Read more here:  I-Wayne’s “Burn Out Sodom” hits at gay adoption, homosexuality & accuses msms of paedophilia

Excerpts from the lyrics are clear what this song is about of course when one sees the words “Burn” and “Sodom” or “Fire” in the same sentence be they in song, written or the spoken word then look out there is bound to be trouble for same gender loving people.  Lyrics include (in patois and translated in part below)

  • Dem a drop dem fadda back, people good good pickney dem adopt
They are erasing their bloodline, not having own children but instead adopting other children (hinting at homosexualiisng children)
  • Baybylon you wrong you wrong you can’t live long then
Babylon you’re wrong you cant live long then (suggesting finality for gays)
  • Wicked promote the freaky girls and nasty man dem
The wicked are promoting freaky girls (lesbians) and nasty men (gays)

additional reading on Stop Murder Music from 2010:
Gays Move to Ban Reggae/Dancehall in Germany says the Xtranews where German authorities including a gay MP joined the discourse as reported in the now defunct XNews tabloid.

Peace and tolerance

H

UPDATE March 27.03.12

please see: Sizzla Hits Back At Gay Rights Critics …………..

Attack at an LGBT party in western Jamaica ………………

A party which was hosted by two same gender loving females as thought which occurred on Tuesday March 6th an unusual day in the week for a party as our events do not happen mid-week but on a Friday, Saturday and sometimes on a Sunday if it precedes a public holiday was the scene of attacks, fear and homophobic slurs by persons allegedly aligned to the event. The party which was held on the western end of the island was a birthday celebration and several uninvited male guests turned up who were friends of one of the security detail who was hired it was suspected that they eventually assumed it was a freaky affair with lesbians present so they turned up according to reports.

As the male patrons from our community began to arrive however mostly dressed not in usual masculine garb and upon reaching the security check point they were heavily scrutinised and cross questioned especially one who was dressed in pink who was harassed by the men who inquired what were they doing there? As more guests arrived including regular patrons of lgbt events it was clear that an air unease was present as persons saw the strange faced men who were in no mood to entertain effeminate males, other female guests also were uncomfortable as the men began to openly hurl homophobic slurs and threats, it was also alleged that men had guns at the time of the event but was not substantiated by my sources. The men threatened other male guests who arrived that they would have been shot as they do not belong there in typical Jamaican parlance . Word quickly spread to other patrons via messenging services and blackberry who were either getting ready for the event or making their way that they should turn around and head home, some however braved the reported threat and turned up in true defiant fashion as many of these patrons are seasoned ones who have been through extraordinary events like this before and know how to respond.

One male patron managed to escape the men as he surmised something was wrong the moment he drove in and was being directed to park by the unofficial valets, one of the valets upon seeing it was a man aboard he lashed out that no more men should be there as ” ….battyman fi dead, a weh unu a go?” etc. the would be patron took evasive action by turning on his headlights on full bright to temporarily blind his attackers and floored the gas pedal of his vehicle making good his escape as they dove for safety away from the fast approaching vehicle. One other male patron was not so lucky according to reports as he was chased after a verbal spat with one of the unofficial security detail and his uninvited friends who were on the prowl.

The patron ran and hid in nearby bushes then covertly making his way back to the motor vehicle under the cover of darkness and through shrubbery timing the movements of the unofficial valets darting between other cars then managing to reach his vehicle, disarming the alarm then starting his engine, he then messaged his other friend who had arrived with him who fortunately had made his way out of the immediate party venue as things heated up, the driver then drove out and met the friend at an agreed spot sent in a previous message, they both left where he reportedly attended to his injuries at the friend’s house.

Other drag divas who passed easily as females were spared the initial horror but as the party progressed before its premature end the thugs present were obviously examining patrons by making their way through the crowd, the “girls” eventually subdued their dancing and stuff during the night so as to avoid any untoward and unwelcomed moves by the thugs and eventually left as quietly as they could. Reports also suggest the DJ at the time was being coerced into playing anti gay lyrics but the hosts of the event would have none of it at the time when the attempts were made to do so as they tried to calm the fears of those present while other activity were taking place behind the scenes.

Other  minor skirmishes were said to have occurred as other patrons just wanted to have a good time and argued with the security detail and their thug friends to allow persons who were invited to enter freely no matter who they were as the hosts of the event also had gay friends but this did not go down well with some members of the thug group who said they would have no battyman around (noticeably lesbians were not targeted for attack both verbal or physical) There was one reported physical exchange as a male patron who was reiterating the message of acceptance of non conforming guests was slapped in the face he reportedly return blows to his attacker and reminded him in a few choice words where he was from etc.

The even reportedly ended well before the normal time that it should have as under regular circumstances.

This incident in my mind brings the need to be vigilant despite the level of comfort we feel these days in attending same gender loving hosted events although we have not had any serious mishap such as this in years, the last one that came to mind was that awful picketing and bonfire by neighbours at a venue in Kingston where tyres were lit just by the gate and photographs were taken of patrons by persons hiding in the trees by the perimeter fence and motor vehicles that were parked on the outside as no parking was allowed on the property where the party progressed.

Thankfully the Half Way Tree Police who myself and the event’s host visited and filed a report which they took and accompanied us to the venue, they ordered the fire be put out by the picketers and that patrons must not be interfered with upon leaving the venue peacefully given a 20 feet distance be maintained, this of course after the party was stopped and the equipment secured and packed.

The picketers however continued ……….. taken from the post on sister blog Gay Jamaica Watch on February 16 2010 entitled High Drama as Homophobes attempt to disrupt and picket party –  “The protest apparently stemmed from a party that was held the week before which at its climax had a very public altercation between several patrons of that event, that event indeed was a gay party as I was in attendance but left before the damming proceedings unfolded. The immediate neighbours said that they were upset at last week’s public brawl on the streets and demanded that no other “dutty, nasty Battyman and sodomite come bout yah” (dirty nasty gay men and sodomites come here) the leading female protester said. The host of the current event that was being picketed tried to defuse the situation several times by explaining to the protestors that she only knew of the previous week’s incident in detail on the same night of finalizing her event and couldn’t be held accountable for that. She said she was assured that all would have been well by the respective parties involved in its organizing. The protesters however went into overdrive saying that they didn’t care about that and we must move our nastiness elsewhere among other unmentionables inclusive of expletives.

I strongly suspect that they never expected the patronage to stay their ground and basically ignore their agitation outside the precincts of the private property bearing in mind the owner was present. While we must respect the right of freedom of speech/peaceful protest, igniting a fire just at the entrance to private property is way out of place and the hurling of threats and abusive remarks dotted with plagiaristic lines to look as if they are tolerant to a point but …. That never impressed me. As one patron commented we are here and we all are going to have to learn to live together and stop this foolishness one day. The action as how it unfolded was totally uncalled for. “

The other that came to mind as well was that stoning in Stony Hill some seven years ago after an event at a venue next to Boone Hall was invaded by curious persons living nearby who heard the music and were enthralled, a river that ran just alongside the property where the event was hosted separated it from a hillside squatting community, they soon realised it was not the normal dancehall typed gig as have happened there before (by mainstream promoters) and notified other persons who lay in wait when nervous patrons realised there was trouble and started to leave, almost every car that left that night upon reaching the only narrow road exit to go to Stony Hill square was stoned with many owners suffering serious damage with broken wind-shields and dented areas, while mostly men could be seen cheering and jeering panicking patrons as they left with stones still being hurled at other vehicles making their way out the venue.

Please encourage all you know and even yourself that when going to lgbt planned and hosted events find out and try to do the following:

Who is hosting

Where is the venue and safety (try to get some guarantees)

Make sure hosts have a track record of previous successful gigs

Scope the area upon arrival at the venue, look for suspicious characters

Be on your guard as this incident proves we cannot be complacent and my nearly two decades of being in the lgbt party business as a DJ, promoter and planner I urge you not to take matters lightly.

Peace and tolerance

H

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

H

Paul Canning on: Why is Coca-Cola Sponsoring ‘Murder Music’?

A protest against Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of a ‘murder music’ festival in Jamaica has hit a dead end as the company has stopped negotiations with activists.

The group AIDS-Free World, as well as the veteran Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson, have been talking to them since ‘murder music’ was performed during the four day Coke Zero Live concert in Montego Bay, Jamaica in late April 2011.

‘Murder music’ promotes violence against LGBT people through its lyrics. It primarily comes from certain dancehall and reggae artists such as Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Sizzla and Capleton. There has been a campaign against it since the 1990s, which has won important victories.

At the Coke Zero Live event, Sizzla performed the notorious hate anthem ‘Boom Bye Bye‘ which literally calls for the murder of homosexuals (Here is the video; Sizzla performance begins at 13.55). Sizzla is unable to find performance venues in either the UK or USA because of his reputation. In 2004, he was among a group of artists who were being investigated by Scotland Yard for allegedly inciting murder of homosexuals through their lyrics.

Tomlinson says that there is at least one documented instance in Jamaica where ‘Boom Bye Bye’ was directly linked to the murder of a gay man.

AIDS-Free World has now written to Steve Bucherati, Coca-Cola’s Chief Diversity Officer, accusing them of engaging in a “protracted but unproductive written and phone communication.”

“It is inconceivable to us that you have utterly failed to respond to our efforts to focus your attention on Coca-Cola’s indefensible sponsorship decision,” they write.

“Our patience has run out.”

Bucherati had claimed, says Tomlinson, that the company’s local staff were are not aware of Sizzla’s global reputation for inciting the torture and execution of homosexuals. He also claimed to have submitted a letter of apology to regional Jamaican newspapers, which was never published.

Bucherati, says Tomlinson, promised to submit an article to all Jamaican newspapers once the sponsorship policy review was completed, apologizing for the Sizzla concert and announcing a new corporate policy.

“The Coca-Cola Company’s sponsorship of any murder music is inexplicable. Your subsequent failure to act immediately to ensure that Coca-Cola disavowed the sort of public frenzy of homophobia whipped up by Sizzla cannot be excused,” they say.

“Months ago, you assured us that Coca-Cola had suspended all concert sponsorships in Jamaica, and had in fact undertaken a worldwide review of its sponsorship policies in all of its global markets so as to avoid another incident like the Sizzla debacle. However, you failed to commit to a timeline for this alleged sponsorship policy review, and gave us no way to gauge the review’s progress, if any has been made.”

Coca-Cola, says the letter, “has the resources and capacity to initiate and complete projects with great speed, provided that it considers them important.”

In September, Coca Cola’s CEO, Muhtar Kentwas honored at the Clinton Global Initiative for being among the first to join the 10-year-old Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (now known as GBC Health).

Says AIDS-Free World:

“Coca -Cola hasn’t just fallen short of the voluntary corporate social responsibility ideals to which the company has committed itself under the UN Global Compact; Coca-Cola’s actions have affirmatively produced damage … Until Coca-Cola takes the lead in denouncing homophobia, and takes decisive and public action in remedy, the public will be left with the impression that The Coca-Cola Company endorses violence, human rights violations, and homophobia.”

This is what Coca-Cola is being asked to do:

1. Publish a full-page advertisement in the Sunday edition of the three major Jamaican newspapers (the Jamaica Gleaner, the Jamaica Observer and the Sunday Herald) as well as a full-page advertisement in the Western Mirror denouncing Sizzla’s homophobic performance and expressing support for sexual diversity;

2. Issue a formal statement explaining that it will no longer sponsor artists who are known to have performed and refuse to apologize for homophobic songs;

3. Include a clause in all future sponsorship agreements prohibiting homophobic speech or actions against performers, and in the event of a breach, specifying sanctions, including a termination of the sponsorship arrangement; and

4. Sponsor a concert in Jamaica devoted entirely to artists who have not engaged in homophobic slurs, and that specific condition would be the centerpiece of the advertising for the concert.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/why-is-coca-cola-sponsoring-murder-music.html#ixzz1afh5PVIB

UPDATE October 17 – directly on this blog this apology came from a representative:

This is Carlos from Coca-Cola. We, too, were deeply disappointed that a program intended to celebrate the heritage of Jamaica included an unacceptable performance that in no way represents the views or values of the Coca-Cola system.

Diversity is one of our key values, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As a result of this regrettable incident by one artist, we are reassessing and strengthening our efforts to ensure that events we sponsor are not used as platforms for espousing hatred and discrimination. We are continuing to work with the advocacy groups that brought this situation to our attention.

We apologize to all who were offended by this performance, and we we want to ensure that our views on this incident are clear.

Carlos Diaz
Coca-Cola Caribbean

Update October 19 – the same representative wrote the Gleaner’s editor

Coke Sorry For Anti-Gay Lyrics

THE EDITOR, Sir:

In response to complaints about the performance of anti-gay lyrics at the Coke Zero ‘Live on the Waterfront’ music event held in April, I would like to express our disappointment that a programme intended to celebrate the heritage of Jamaica included an unacceptable performance that in no way represents the views or values of the Coca-Cola system.

Diversity is one of our key values, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As a result of this regrettable incident, we are reassessing and strengthening our efforts to ensure that events we sponsor are not used as platforms for espousing hatred and discrimination.

We are continuing to work with the advocacy groups that brought this situation to our attention. We apologise to all who were offended by this performance.

CARLOS DIAZ

Coca-Cola Franchise

Operations Director – South

Caribbean

 

 

LGBT History Month: Allies – Posthumous Recognition ’11 Part 1

In remembering some of the Allies of the community and outside the community as well folks we lost in this year and times before, here are two individuals who were fearless in their own right and contributed much over time in their various forms. Unfortunately one Paul Bailey was murdered earlier this year in St. Ann under strange circumstances and the case is yet to be properly solved as a trial has commenced with the suspects, he will be remembered for his ability to galvanize the members of the MSM communities outside of Kingston for advocacy and HIV/AIDS work especially on behalf of a functioning Jamaica AIDS Support at the time. He was also a party promoter occasionally as he would host events at his homes or at selected venues in that part of the country. His surprise death has still a chilling effect on some who were close to him who were not expecting this shocking news. On the  night April 15th the news quickly made the rounds in the community as it became apparent, he was said to have had multiple stab wounds also, last reported as seven and his throat slashed. The North Coast Times as strange circumstances at the time but it was surmised as a meeting gone bad with himself and a possible hookup.

Rest In Peace Paul as in your own way you have served us well.

 

In loving memory of my dear beloved friend & brother, who departed this world a decade ago today. Donald, when u left we lost an angel, you were the most genuine, honest, loving, caring being I’d ever known, and im honoured to have been able to call u my friend. You always made us laugh, miss that goofy infectous laugh of yours, id give anything to hear u laugh just one more time. Your candle burnt out way too soon, but your memories never will. Love and miss you loads D, RIP my friend. As penned by a close friend of his.

DONALD STANFORD THOMPSON
Sunrise 17/10/72 – Sunset 13/04/01

Party promoter, a willing helper to those in trouble, he assisted greatly at a moment’s notice sometimes those who were homeless or displaced in the early nineties long before a JFLAG or other such organizations were formed to deal with the issues. He was also an avid experimenter of cross dressing and dabbled in the art form for a while before his death on Good Friday morning of Aprl 2001. He suffered greatly at the hands of complications due to HIV/AIDS long before the new generations of anti retro-viral therapy and was an integral part of my own legal troubles and displacement in 1996 when he offered help and a roof as I sorted out my life then, he would often attend my court dates in the early parts of my time in Kingston and introduced me to Brian Williamson formally as a DJ as then I was spinning in the mainstream.  Many other persons gay and non gay can attest to Donald’s hand in their lives though seemingly small but important when one reflects on the deeds of kindness.

 

Micheal Melbourne, long time friend, ally to the community, philanthropist, art dealer, club owner/manager and an activist in his own right, was taken from us in October 14 2001 to be precise brutally by assailants in his home. He was known as the bubbly manager of the then Entourage LGBT nightclub in Kingston as owned and operated by late activist Brian Williamson who was also  murdered in 2004, a fate that seems to follow open hearted persons in the community and it begs the question were they duped into scenarios and towards persons with ulterior motives that lead to their own demise?

Michael was also known for his contributions financially and otherwise to non governmental organizations and was very active during the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Jamaica.

Remembering, if only briefly contributions from unsung individuals.

http://soundcloud.com/glbtqja5/lgbt-hist

here is an older audio post LGBT History Month Jamaica I had put together on some of the happenings gone by, if you know of any important dates I might have overlooked please email: lgbtevent@gmail.com

Peace and tolerance

H