LGBT History Month – Symbols & their meanings

October is LGBT History Month worldwide except for the UK where they celebrate it in February other jurisdictions have been doing their own recollections and recognition of icons and important dates relevant to their own development and achievements but some of the representations and symbols we have come so used to have meanings as to why they were formed. I have been collecting all I can via materials and oral histories on a host of happenings in advocacy, entertainment and more.

See previous posts from Gay Jamaica Watch HERE

and from GLBTQ Jamaica on blogger HERE

Where did some of the symbols come from and what do they mean?

Gay men and gay women.

The rainbow flag is the most widely used and recognized symbol of the gay pride movement. The flag was developed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. At the time, there was a need for a gay symbol which could be used year after year for the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. Baker took inspiration from many sources–the hippie movement to the black civil rights movement–and came up with a flag with eight stripes.

Baker explained that his colors each stood for a different aspect of gay and lesbian life:

  • Hot pink for sexuality.
  • Red for life.
  • Orange for healing.
  • Yellow for the sun.
  • Green for nature.
  • Blue for art.
  • Indigo for harmony.
  • Violet for spirit.

Baker and thirty volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed the flags for the 1978 parade, and they were an instant hit. But when he took his design to the San Francisco Flag Co. to have it mass-produced for the 1979 parade, he had to remove the hot pink stripe. At that time, pink was not a commercially available color.

Later that year, when Harvey Milk, was assassinated, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee realized that baker’s flag was the perfect symbol under which the LGBT community should unite. The committee got rid of the indigo stripe to make the colors evenly divisible along the parade route: red, orange, and yellow on one side of the street; green, blue, and purple on the other.

This is the flag we see, and use, and fly, today.

Most everybody recognizes the Pink triangle as a symbol taken directly from the Nazi concentration camps. When concentration camps are mentioned, most people tend to think of the Holocaust–for good reason–but the fact is that there were many homosexual prisoners in those camps as well.

The real story of the Pink Triangle began prior to World War II, Paragraph 175, a clause in German law, prohibited homosexual relations. In 1935, during Hitler’s rise to power, he extended this law to include homosexual kissing, embracing, and even homosexual fantasies. Over 25,000 people were convicted under this law between 1937 and 1939 alone, and were sent to prisons and later concentration camps. Their sentence also included sterilization, most commonly in the form of castration. In 1942, Hitler extended the punishment for homosexuality to death.

Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps were labeled according to their crimes by inverted colored triangles.

  • Green triangles were for regular criminals.
  • Red triangles were for political prisoners.
  • Two overlapping yellow triangles–to form the Star of David–were given to Jewish prisoners.
  • Pink triangles were given to homosexual prisoners.
  • Pink and Yellow overlapping triangles went to gay Jews, the lowest form of prisoner.

Although homosexual prisoners were not shipped en mass to the Auschwitz death camps like so many of the Jewish prisoners, there were still large numbers of gay men executed along with other non-Jewish prisoners. The real tragedy though occurred after the war. When the Allies defeated the Germany and the Nazi Regime, the political and remaining Jewish prisoners were released from the camps; the regular criminals were not released for obvious reasons.

The homosexual prisoners were never released though because Paragraph 175 remained West German law until 1969, so gay men and women watched other prisoners freed, and then spent another twenty-four years in prison.

In the 1970s, the pink triangle was used in conjunction with the gay liberation movement, and in the 80s, ACT-UP [AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power] adopted the it as their symbol, but turned it upright to suggest an active fight rather than passive resignation.

There are also people who were the triangle pointing up if they know someone who has died of AIDS.

The pink triangle is a symbol closely connected to oppression and the fight against it, and stands as a vow never to let another Holocaust happen again. Like the word “queer,” it is a symbol of hate which has been reclaimed and now stands for pride.

One symbol which continues to remain popular is the lower case Greek letter lambda. It was originally chosen by the Gay Activists Alliance of New York in 1970–a group which broke away from the larger Gay Liberation Front at the end of 1969, six months after it’s foundation in response to the Stonewall Riots.

Because of its official adoption by the GAA, which sponsored public events for the gay community, the lambda soon became a quick way for the members of the gay community to identify each other. The reasoning was that the lambda would easily be mistaken for a college fraternity symbol and ignored by the majority of the population.

Other meanings of the lambda symbol include:

  • The Greek letter “L” stands for “liberation.”
  • The Spartans believed that the lambda represented unity.
  • The Romans took it to mean; “the light of knowledge shining into the darkness of ignorance.”
  • The synergy which results when gays and lesbians work together towards a common goal.
  • The theory that straights and gays, or gays and lesbians, or any pairing of these three, are on different wavelengths when it comes to sex, sexuality, or even brain patterns.
  • An iconic rendering of the scales of justice and the constant force that keeps opposing sides from overcoming each other. The hook at the bottom of the right leg would then signify the action and initiative needed to reach and maintain balance.

Whatever the lambda meant or means today, it’s everywhere. Even though at one time it acquired a strictly male connotation, it is used by both gays and lesbians today. Back in December of 1974, the lambda was officially declared the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights by the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Red Ribbon Project was created by singer/songwriter Paul Jabara and the New York-based Visual AIDS group in 1991. Visual AIDS is a charity group of art professionals aimed at recognizing and honoring friends and colleagues who are dying, or have died, of AIDS. Visual AIDS not only encourages art organizations, galleries, museums, and other AIDS organizations to commemorate those who have died of AIDS, but also to educate the public about the transmission of AIDS and HIV and the needs of those living with AIDS.

The red ribbon was originally inspired by the yellow ribbons prominently displayed during the Gulf War in support of U.S. soldiers. The color red was chosen because it is the color of blood and its symbolic connection to passion and love. The red ribbon made its public debut when host Jeremy Irons wore it during the 1991 Tony Awards. Since then, wearing the red ribbon has become a fashion statement and extremely politically correct.

There are those who feel that the red ribbon has lost it’s importance, and is now simply lip service to AIDS causes, however, the Red Ribbon Project is still going strong and remains a driving force behind AIDS awareness. It is the Project’s sincerest hope that one day it will no longer be needed.

The White Knot.
The symbol for Marriage Equality.
The White Knot is the symbol for marriage equality.
Wear it to show your support and to create conversation.
Use it to tell everyone that equal rights are important.
Share it so that all loving couples can have the same rights.

Everybody deserves the right to Tie The Knot!


LGBT History Month: Remembering Howard Daly & his contributions

The first post in the LGBT History series for 2010, A Posthumous recognition commemorating the life of Howard Daly the Rastafarian gentleman originally from Guyana who passed away on September 4th 2010 from Complications due to Colon cancer. In the photo above with murdered HIV/AIDS activist Steve Harvey who passed on November 30, 2005

see more on him HERE: LGBT History Month – Steve L Harvey Remembered

The multi-talented Howard Daly

published: Sunday | September 7, 2003 (The Gleaner)

Michael Reckord, Contributor

IT WAS with amazement and delight that, 22 years ago, the multi-talented Guyanese teacher and performer Howard Daly heard about Jamaica’s Cultural Training Centre (the CTC, now the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts).

Four diploma-granting, tertiary level schools of dance, drama, music and art on one compound? Wow!

Daly vowed he would go to Jamaica and take classes in all four disciplines. Ambitious and with the confidence of youth (he was in his early 20s), Daly felt he had the capacity to absorb the training. After all, he had been involved in dance, drama and music for years.

At that time, he said in a recent interview, a typical weekday involved teaching music at a secondary school from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., conducting choir practice until 4:00 p.m., practising on the piano for 40 minutes, napping for exactly five, conducting classes with his dance group (The Swallows) from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., taking dance classes at the National School of Dance until eight and then dashing over to the Theatre Guild of Guyana.

There, for an hour or so, he would teach Movement for Actors, then take regular drama classes until 11:00 p.m. He

would be in bed by midnight and recuperating for a repetition of the activities on the following day.


Daly – a choreographer, dancer, pianist/organist, singer, actor and, most recently, personal coach – started performing early. One of his childhood memories, he says, is of himself singing and dancing to an audience on the base of a vat (water tank) in his yard in Georgetown, Guyana.

He was then three years old and had not seen any stage productions. He would not see one until he was seven when, on a visit to New York City and the Radio City Music Hall in the United States (U.S.) one summer, he saw Icecapades.

His performances continued, however, and in fact grew into concerts involving others children when he and his family moved to Timehri. This district, in the ‘bush’ of British Guiana (as it was then), was a British army base.

The concerts were held, Daly said, “under someone’s house”, an allusion to the fact that many houses in the country stand on columns high off the ground. In Timehri, Daly first saw, and started learning from, dance magazines given to his mother by a British soldier at the base.

By the time he was 10, he had started seeing plays at the Theatre Guild, opposite which his grandparents in Georgetown lived. At 10 he started going to school in the capital city and joined the school choir. Chosen to sing in the British Guiana Music Festival he was a favourite to win, but never took part because he was taken by his parents to New York again.


He started taking music lessons, got a distinction in Grade 1 exams within four months and continued getting distinctions until he reached Grade 5 and had to change teachers. His new teacher taught him to play the organ, with the result that Daly is now the organist at his church, the Temple of Light Church of Religious Science in Kingston.

He also joined the school choir, started acting in school plays and, at 13, began dance classes in Indian Classical Dance with a well-known dance instructor, Philip McClintock who, though Black, had an Indian dance troupe.

About the time he left school, Daly joined the National School of Dance and the Theatre Guild of Guyana. Major plays he acted in with the latter, included Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

His first job after leaving school was teaching music at North Georgetown Secondary School. There he developed a 70-piece school choir and led it into the annual Guyana Music Festival. Daly later took over the school’s dance group.

Dance, music and drama groups to which Daly had links gradually coalesced into a Theatre Guild group, and Daly became director of the Guild’s Dance Company. He held the post for three years, during which time he produced a number of shows.

With one of these he was able to start fulfilling his desire to see the world, performing with the company on Broadway in New York, in Los Angeles in the U.S. and Toronto and Ottawa in Canada. Travelling by bus, he says proudly, “We went through 25 states and three provinces.” He also made another tour of the USA with Chronicle, a Guyanese 42-piece steel orchestra.

In 1981 Daly enrolled at the Jamaica School of Dance. He left in 1985, without formally graduating and having only partially fulfilled his original dream. He did take drama and music electives at the relevant schools at the CTC, but had no classes at the School of Art.


Since then he has joined the L’ACADCO dance company and been rehearsal director for the University Dance Society, working at the latter with Jackie Guy and Joseph Robinson. He has choreographed dances for both groups, as well as for two Father HoLung and Friends productions.

His performance tours continued. With L’ACADCO he went to Cuba five times, Mexico twice; Spain; Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (which he sees as an American base and not part of Cuba), London, England; Ghana; Holland; Japan and Lithuania. In the last named, he says, “We did 42 shows in two months.”

A co-founder of Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS), and a former director, he has used his dance and drama skills in classes and productions to educate viewers about HIV/AIDS. He has also used dance as therapy in his work at the University Hospital Detoxification Unit.

Daly, a deeply spiritual individual, now works mainly as a personal coach, helping his clients to maintain physical, mental and spiritual health. He is a regular solo performer, on the piano and as a singer, at his church.

Bisexuality Day, September 23 …. Happy Bi-Pride to you

Happy BI-PRIDE to all my Bisexual readers, supporters and their friends

Celebrate Bisexuality Day is observed on September 23 by members of the bisexual community and their supporters originally in the United States but has been extended worldwide.

This day is a call for bisexual, pansexual, friends and supporters to recognize and celebrate bisexuality, bisexual history, bisexual community and culture, and the bi/pansexual people in their lives.

First observed in 1999, Celebrate Bisexuality Day is the brainchild of three United Statesbisexualrightsactivists: Wendy Curry of Maine, Michael Page of Florida, and Gigi Raven Wilburof Texas.

Wilbur said,

Ever since the Stonewall rebellion, the gay and lesbian community has grown in strength and visibility. The bisexual community also has grown in strength but in many ways we are still invisible. I too have been conditioned by society to automatically label a couple walking hand in hand as either straight or gay, depending upon the perceived gender of each person.



This celebration of bisexuality in particular, as opposed to general LGBT events, was conceived as a response to the prejudice and marginalization of the bisexual persons by some in both thestraight and greater LGBT communities.

In its first year, an observance was held during the International Lesbian and Gay Association, which occurred during the week of the 23rd. While at first it only took hold in areas with an extremely strong bisexual presence, it is now celebrated worldwide.

It features event such as discussions, dinner parties and dances in Toronto and a large masquerade ball in Queensland, Australia. At Texas A&M University, the week featured discussion panels and question-and-answer sessions. Princeton University celebrates this day each year by throwing a party at its LGBT Center.

It has also been celebrated in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


Bi-erasure or Biphobia by default from our advocacy structure???? 


Unfortunately in Jamaica either our advocates haven’t matured to the recognition of bisexuals as a part of our struggle or we can’t be bothered as “batty business” is more important when some of the very issues of homophobia as we call it are not really so but bi-phobia if one were to closely examine the details at times.

JFLAG has Allsexuals included in their acronym I suppose to cover all other orientations and variants outside of the original LGBT population but I never heard of any direct meetings, interventions or strategies to engage this section of the population.

I would hate to think that our advocacy representatives are themselves guilty of bi-phobia in the form of bisexual erasure (the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources.

In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists). Inclusiveness is the name of the game now if we are to get anywhere but with the elitist position taken by the group one wonders when will we begin to move on anything?


It is refreshing to see other individual voices saying their piece and going out on their own, I would love to see an all out Jamaican bisexual website or at the very least a couple of blogs

Let us hope in the near future something can be done about that either by them despite the insulation or some other group, organization or individuals.

Celebrate yourselves anyway my BI-FRIENDS.




Peace and tolerance



More Scenes from the Gay games & Jamaica’s small contingent

Identities warped to protect the persons involved but we WERE there folks, another proud moment in our history, photoed are two of the female participants from Jamaica, the males opted not to be photoed and understandably so.

Opening Ceremony

Closing ceremony

more from the opening ceremony

The Parade of nations setting up to enter the Stadium

Jamaica had a two man and two woman delegation team in this years staging of the games who were sponsored by various sources, the men appeared in combined track and feild races while the women appeared participated in the opening ceremony where a combined choir of nations sang, superstar diva Taylor Dayne performed and the nations paraded.

The other female participant played on a combined women’s football team match.

Thanks for sending in the photos guys so I could highlight this.

Peace and tolerance


The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name: Homosexuality

One hundred and forty years ago on May 6, 1868, the word homosexuality was invented.

Before then, there were very few value-neutral words to describe people who experienced romantic or sexual attractions toward others of the same sex. Pejoratives such as “bugger,” “molly,” “sodomite,” or “pederast” were common, words loaded with condemnation and shame. But as the budding science of sexology began to grow, and as same-sex loving defenders began to speak out about what same-sex love was all about, their first problem was with how to name it. “Abominable vice” wouldn’t do. A new word was desperately needed to describe their lives and feelings.

The love that dared not speak its name couldn’t. It didn’t have one.

The first to try to name this love was the German gay-rights advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. In the 1860’s, he described the urning as a “male-bodied person with a female psyche,” who is sexually attracted to men and not women. An Urningin was a “female-bodied person with a male psyche,” and Urningthum came to mean homosexuality itself. Ulrichs devised an entire system of classification based on different combinations of attractions and gender roles. Some of these words gained usage in English, although the less foreign-sounding sexual inversion and inverts to describe homosexuality and homosexuals respectively fell more naturally to English ears. But in a few short years, those words would become obsolete, replaced by the creation of an aspiring Hungarian writer.

Karl-Maria KertbenyKarl-Maria Kertbeny (or Károly Mária Kertbeny) was an Austrian-born Hungarian journalist, memoirist and human rights campaigner. Kertbeny reportedly became interested in homosexuality when a close friend committed suicide after being blackmailed by an extortionist. Kertbeny later said that this, combined with his “instinctive drive to take issue with every injustice” — as a Hungarian, he knew what it was to be a minority in Vienna — drove him to advocate for civil rights for gay people.

Kertbeny’s own sexuality remains unclear however: He described himself as “normally sexed,” but his diaries reportedly document his appreciation for the male form. When he moved to Berlin in 1868 at the age of 44, he was still unmarried. It was at around this time that Kertbeny coined the word Homosexualität — “of the same sex” — from the Greek prefix homo- (same) and the Latin root sexualis (sex). His first known usage of this word is documented in a letter he wrote to Ulrichs on May 6, 1868.

Karl-Maria Kertbeny’s letter

Karl-Maria Kertbeny’ pamphletHomosexualität made its first known public appearance the following year, when Kertbeny anonymously published the pamphlet Paragraph 143 of the Prussian Penal Code and Its Maintenance as Paragraph 152 of the Draft of a Penal Code for the North German Confederation. This pamphlet advocated for the repeal of Prussia’s sodomy laws, saying that private consensual sex acts shouldn’t be subject to criminal penalties.

Homosexualität gained usage as other German advocates began putting forth the idea that homosexuality was inborn, a “medical problem” which placed homosexuality as a form of pathology or illness. Today of course we recoil at the abuses which arose from this “homosexuality as pathology” mindset, but in the nineteenth century this “medical model” represented a significant improvement in attitudes to homosexuality. Before Ulrichs and Kertbeny, homosexuality was viewed as a mere wickedness or moral degeneracy to be severely punished — often by pillory or death.

But Kertbeny appeared to understand the dangers behind the “medical model.” He not only saw that the “innate” argument was potentially dangerous, but that it was also irrelevant. In that vein, his advocacy for gay civil liberties was remarkably modern:

To prove innateness … is a dangerous double edged weapon. Let this riddle of nature be very interesting from the anthropological point of view. Legislation is not concerned whether this inclination is innate or not, legislation is only interested in the personal and social dangers associated with it … Therefore we would not win anything by proving innateness beyond a shadow of doubt. Instead we should convince our opponents — with precisely the same legal notions used by them — that they do not have anything at all to do with this inclination, be it innate or intentional, since the state does not have the right to intervene in anything that occurs between two consenting persons older than fourteen, which does not affect the public sphere, nor the rights of a third party.”

Kertbeny had another thoroughly modern idea about homosexuality, and this one is probably the most salient for understanding homosexualität’s triumph over urning and invert. The word homosexual doesn’t refer to any assumptions about gender roles or attributes. An urning, remember, was a “male-bodied person with a female psyche.” This of course bore a direct reference to effeminacy, a presumed hallmark of all gay men. And urningin, a “female-bodied person with a male psyche,” referred to lesbians’ perceived innate masculinity. (The English term invert carried with it similar assumptions of “inverse” gender characteristics.) But in writing about homosexuality, Kertbeny pointedly noted that homosexual men were not necessarily effeminate, citing several heroic historical figures as examples.

In 1880, Gustav Jäger used Kertbeny’s homosexualität in his book Discovery of the Soul. That book also included Kertbeny’s other useful word heterosexualität. Then the German sex researcher Richard von Krafft-Ebing borrowed those terms for his highly influential 1886 Psychopathia Sexualis. Homosexuality appears to have entered the English language at about 1895, which is when Charles Gilbert Chaddock translated Psychopathia Sexualis into English. And when Sigmund Freud used it in his books and lectures, he propelled its use among psychologists and psychoanalysts as well as in popular culture.

But admiration for the new word wasn’t universal. English sexologist Havelock Ellis, whose 1897 work Sexual Inversion became one of the first widely published English texts to deal with homosexuality, hated its bastardization of Greek and Latin. “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word,” Ellis wrote in a footnote. “It is, however, convenient, and now widely used. ‘Homogenic’ has been suggested as a substitute.”

Homogenic never caught on, and Ellis ended up using the word homosexual himself more often in his text than the terminology found in his volume’s title. By the 1930’s the homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual had almost completely erased the Urning and the invert for describing an individual’s sexual orientation.

Kertbeny’s graveKertbeny however didn’t live to see his Homosexualität in widespread use. He died of a stroke in Budapest in 1882 at the age of 58, still unmarried. He was buried in Budapest’s Kerepesi Cemetery. In 2002, members of Budapest’s gay community placed a new tombstone over his rediscovered grave, where it is now customary to lay a wreath during Hungarian gay festivals.

Thanks to BOXTURTLE for this I was searching for the book and came across this, more updates to come where needed.

Read more on Karl-Maria Kertbeny from Wikipedia

Peace and tolerance


Malcolm X was bisexual?

A diversion of sorts to look at an article by Peter Tatchell as controversial as he gets appearing in the Guardian newspaper.

Peter Tatchell – Malcom X was bisexual, get over it

October is Black History Month in Britain – a wonderful celebration of the huge, important and valuable contribution that black people have made to humanity and to popular culture.
It is also worth celebrating that many leading black icons have been lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), most notably the US black liberation hero Malcolm X. Other prominent black LGBTs include jazz singer Billie Holiday, author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, soul singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, blues singer Bessie Smith, poet and short story writer Langston Hughes, singer Johnny Mathis, novelist Alice Walker, civil rights activist and organiser of the 1963 March on Washington Bayard Rustin, blues singer Ma Rainey, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker, Olympic diving gold medallist Greg Louganis, singer and songwriter Little Richard, political activist and philosopher Angela Davis, singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and drag performer and singer RuPaul.
Few of these prominent black LGBT achievers are listed on the most comprehensive UK Black History Month website, which hosts biographies of notable black men and women. In the section on people, only Davis is mentioned and her lesbianism is not acknowledged. The website fails to identify the vast majority of black public and historical figures who are LGBT. The Official Guide to Black History Month UK is equally remiss. Why these omissions? Black people are not one homogenous heterosexual mass. Where is the recognition of sexual diversity within the black communities and black history?
In contrast, LGBT History Month, which takes place in the UK in February, devotes a whole section of its website to the lives of leading black LGBT people and links to the websites for Black History Month. Disappointingly, this solidarity is not reciprocated. On the Black History Month websites I could not find a LGBT section or a LGBT History Month link.
Perhaps it is unintentional but Black History Month sometimes feels like Straight Black History Month. Famous black LGBT people are not acknowledged and celebrated. Either their contribution to black history and culture is ignored or their sexuality is airbrushed out of their biographies.
A good example of this neglect is the denialism surrounding the bisexuality of one of the greatest modern black liberation heroes: Malcolm X. The lack of recognition is perhaps not surprising, given that some of his family and many black activists have made strenuous efforts to deny his same-sex relationships and suppress recognition of the full spectrum of his sexuality.
Why the cover-up? So what if Malcolm X was bisexual? Does this diminish his reputation and achievements? Of course not. Whether he was gay, straight or bisexual should not matter. His stature remains, regardless of his sexual orientation. Yet many of the people who revere him seem reluctant to accept that their hero, and mine, was bisexual.
Malcolm X’s bisexuality is more than just a question of truth and historical fact. There has never been any black person of similar global prominence and recognition who has been publicly known to be gay or bisexual. Young black lesbian, gay and bisexual people can, like their white counterparts, often feel isolated, guilty and insecure about their sexuality. They could benefit from positive, high-achieving role models, to give them confidence and inspiration. Who better than Malcolm X? He inspired my human rights activism and was a trailblazer in the black freedom struggle. He can inspire other LGBT people too.

LGBTQ History Month – Oldest Lesbian on record

A diversion from the Jamaica LGBTQ History feature but important.
Ruth Ellis – US Lesbian Activist – credited as the oldest known lesbian on record, she lived to be a 101.

check: GLBT History Month’s site for more US related information
b. July 23, 1899
d. October 5, 2000

“I never expected I’d be 100 years old. It didn’t even come to my mind.”
Ruth Ellis, who lived to be 101, was credited with being the oldest known lesbian and GLBT civil rights activist.

Ellis was born in Springfield, Illinois, at the end of the 19th century—the youngest of four children and the only girl. Her parents were born in Tennessee during the last years of slavery. Ellis’s father was the first African-American mail carrier in Springfield.

Ellis attended Springfield High School at a time when very few African-Americans enrolled in secondary education. She was aware of her sexual orientation by the time she was 16. Ellis remembered her high school gym teacher as her first female attraction.

In the early 1920’s, Ellis met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin. They became friends and lovers for more than 35 years.

When Ellis moved to Detroit in the 1930’s, Babe joined her. The couple bought a house and Ellis started a printing business. She was the first woman in Michigan to own and operate a printing company.

Their house became the local hangout for African-American gays and lesbians. Known as the “gay spot,” Ellis opened her home for parties and dances, and never turned down a gay or lesbian friend who needed a place to stay.

In the latter part of her life, Ellis became a well-known figure in the GLBT community, first locally, then nationally. She attended events and programs across the country, often as a speaker or special guest. She enjoyed dancing and socializing, even in her old age.

In 1999, Ellis’s life was made the subject of the documentary “Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100,” directed by Yvonne Welbon. The film was screened at film festivals worldwide, and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 1999.

Ellis lived in three centuries; she passed away in 2000. The Ruth Ellis Center honors her life and is dedicated to serving homeless GLBT youth and young adults.

LGBT History – Hated to Death Report 2004, Human Rights Watch

One of the darkest moments on our nation as a people in general and as lgbt people specifically was in November 2002 where the photographed male was brutally attacked by a machete wielding, stick bearing, cursing mob outside of Falmouth in Trelawny. He was chopped several places on his body but survived his ordeal, thankfully to tell the tale. Out of that came the most pronounced collection of data at that time regarding homophobic attacks in Jamaica and related stigma and acts of discrimination as compiled by Human Rights Watch. It caused the gay community to pause and look at itself. That reflective action is urgently needed again as we seem to have fallen into a false sense of security and complacency.

Hated to Death Report by Human Rights Watch

This report though dated is a must have for anyone seeking to understand some of the real attacks that have happened over the years. Click the report’s cover image above the get the PDF version. Many in the anti gay establishment refuse to believe that gays are attacked partly due to the lack of evidence they say to show that they have happened. There is no doubt that several other attacks have occurred that have gone under the radar (some listed here under recent homophobic attacks label) but the scourge continues unabated it seems as there is very little fair justice for GLBTQ people on the island there have however been slight improvements in police relations and the general discourse on the matter of homosexuality but not enough to make a serious paradigm shift in the national psyche.
Another dark chapter in the sad history of GLBTQ Jamaica.

Remembering Mickey J

Remembering Mr. Michael Johnson, ally, friend, defender of anyone who was downtrodden, disciplinarian, adept management skills and a beautiful same gender loving human being.

He is best remembered for his pioneering work with Jamaica AIDS Support for Life in the Targeted Interventions Programs that linked MSMs and Commercial Sex Workers for access to ARV treatment and care and the Jamaica male netball team which included men from all walks of life and orientation believe it or not straight men too. He advocated tolerance. He was integral in seeing the team’s development and managed the affairs with a firm but fair hand.

Many of the successes the team gained overseas are credited to him and others. He was a staunch defender of rights and fairness as outlined in a testimonial report some years ago where a group of msms were harassed by police officers where he was asked to intervene.

“………..The lead member of the group then called Jamaica AIDS Support collect and contacted the then Director of Targeted Interventions, Mr. Michael Johnson. Mr. Johnson came to the scene. One policeman looked at him and announced “a di battyman leader dat.” Mr. Johnson asked the policemen what was the situation because he had gotten a call to say that the police were harassing the group. One of the officers said he was not to use the word “harass” because they were only doing their job. Mr. Johnson again asked what was happening. The policeman then said he recognised Mr. Johnson from his other job at a bank. Mr. Johnson confirmed that he did work at a bank.
The policeman then began referring to Mr. Johnson as “sir,” and offered to take him aside and explain what was happening. He told Mr. Johnson the group was “loitering” and pointed to one particularly effeminate member and said that what he thought that member was doing he thought the whole group was doing and that he cannot support “man with man because God never mek man with man.” He said the only reason he was not arresting the group was because they knew Mr. Johnson. The policeman told Mr. Johnson that what Mr. Johnson needed to do was to talk to the group about being gay, and the fact that being gay is wrong and against the law, and that the next time they were not going to give them a break. Their last comment was to point to the effeminate group member they had singled out and say that they had marked him as the ringleader and a marker of homosexual activities and so anyone he was with they would know was a homosexual and so liable for arrest……..” continue here

Upon returning from a successful netball tournament trip from one of the Caribbean islands he took ill with a mysterious virus and later succumbed to his unease in 2001. It was a shocker to the community as a wonderful leader was suddenly snatched from us. His work with the special Targeted Interventions project of JASL was also exemplary, he was a no nonsense man and everyone knew you had to be on your Ps and Qs when he was in office and you visited the space. He insisted on correct behaviour but was attentive to his clients and the general public who also access services at the organization.

MJ sadly missed but left an indelible mark on our GLBT landscape.


LGBTQ History Month – Health Interventions, GLABCOM

GLABCOM – Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Community was an arm of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life’s Targeted Interventions Department, the only private organization of it’s kind that interfaces directly the MSM community directly with programs and activities specifically targeted for HIV/AIDS reduction and safer sex. The GLABCOM project was started to act as a bridge between the groups and the organization through its Steering Committee to tap into the pulse on the ground of the concerns of the groups involved. Many MSMs in particular choose not to access the public health facilities due to fear of stigmatization and homophobia so the GLABCOM outreach helped greatly in this regard.

It sought to also assist with social intervention activities with the support groups primarily MSMs and Lesbians. Mostly MSMs however attended the bi-weekly meetings and peer educator groups and the breakdown of communication between the lesbian and gay groups was said to be the cause of the activities being scrapped in 2009, see full post on the reasons that ended the run and the replacement Gay Mens Association of Jamaica (GMAJ)
GLABCOM officially ended June 2, 2009.
Many had come to know the meetings across the various locations island wide and would attend if not to learn from the seminars and exchanges or to just meet others to socialise. The behaviour of some of our members too was cause for concern as safe spaces are hard to come by so persons were encouraged to protect the space by displaying proper conduct. Many persons benefited through the support services and counseling afforded to members who attended meetings or the planned clinic days to see the General Practitioner who would come in. Please support any of organization that help to provide these services to our marginalised groups here in Jamaica.