October is LGBT History Month …. links to some local facts and people

Well it’s LGBT or GLBT History month depending on how interchangeable you are or tolerant eh? I have been putting together a list of Jamaican historical facts I could find around in my archives and from other reputable sources.

Most of the posts however on local history appear here while on my other blog Gay Jamaica Watch includes other information so far in our young active gay community. To visit the direct posts on the subject click the LGBT logo on top of the page or follow the links on this post.

Feel free to contribute any news or bits of information you know of or were involved in, I feel we must begin to retrace our steps and remember the stalwarts who stood in stead before us in the fight for basic rights, decency and recognition.

Enjoy the posts and look out for new ones coming and feedback please.


Remembering Brian Williamson – September 4 1945 – June 9, 2004

a special post outside of the October History month but relevant non the less

the good days with his dog Tessa at home

Brian Williamson (September 4 1945 – June 9, 2004) was a Jamaican Gay rights activist and co-founder of the Jamaican forum for lesbians and gays, J-Flag. He was known for personally housing and looking after gay people in Jamaica.He was murdered with a machete, suffering multiple stab wounds to neck and face.Williamson’s confessed murderer, Dwight Hayden, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after fifteen years

Other posts and articles on Brian:

More related posts that named Brian: HERE

More from Gay Jamaica Watch: HERE


Sadly missed


What’s the point of LGBT History Month? (UK)

February is LGBT History Month in the UK, a chance to look back on the struggles of LGBT people throughout history, from the public executions of the middle ages to the Stonewall Riots of the 1970s, writes Milly Shaw.
But is there really such a thing as LGBT history?
After all, there’s still so much discussion about what it is to be LGBT now: are gay people born or made? Are we all bisexual? Is gender identity decided in the genes? Is lesbianism a political choice?

In addition there’s the prickly issue of the very terms ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender’– labels which sit awkwardly for many people in modern society, and which fit even worse when forced retrospectively on the long-dead.

Famous gay people in history
From the ancient Greeks to Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci to Pope Julius III, Richard the Lionheart to Edward II, there’s no shortage of famous historical figures who are rumoured to have been gay.
It suits us to look back on history through rainbow-tinted lenses and pounce on every historical mention of a same-sex relationship as evidence of an uninterrupted LGBT history. The problem, however, is that homosexuality as an identity is a fairly modern invention.
Homosexual acts may have been well practiced throughout history, but the idea of developing a sexual identity from the actions would have been baffling for much of history. The ancient Greeks, for example, are famous now for their apparent calm acceptance of male gay relationships. However the truth is more complicated, with gay male relationships often being displays of power and social status rather than mere love matches.
It’s not just modern homosexual relationships which are radically different from those from history of course. Heterosexual marriage as a union of love is a thoroughly modern invention which has come a long way from its original use as a strategic business tool to link families and distribute wealth.

Documenting gay history
If we can’t be sure that anyone actually identified as gay throughout history, how can we know they were even involved in same-sex acts? Could it all just be the overactive imagination of modern LGBT campaigners desperate to see themselves reflected in history?
The answer is simple – we know that male homosexuality existed because it was illegal. England’s Buggery Act of 1533 made ‘unnatural sexual acts’ punishable by death, but as far back as the Roman empire, accusations of homosexual behaviour led to punishments, fines and blackmailing.
And where are the women in these gay histories? Where they’ve always been, of course – on the sidelines, marginalised and silenced. With little influence in public life and few rights inside or outside the home, same-sex behaviour in women was largely ignored. The little we do know has come from love letters, occasional encounters with the law or medical records.
Ignorance can sometimes be bliss – lesbianism was never made illegal, and for much of history where it was noticed, lesbianism was considered just harmless girlish behaviour that didn’t threaten the institution of heterosexual marriage.
Why we need LGBT History Month
Understanding what – if anything – it means to be part of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in modern society is no easy task. And it’s precisely because of these ongoing discussions that we need an LGBT history month.
Regardless of whether or not it is accurate to speak of ‘LGBT history’, the fact is that literally millions of people have suffered persecution, torture and death because of their sexuality throughout history. And they continue to suffer – homosexuality is currently illegal and punishable by death or life imprisonment in 16 countries.

Revealing the historical context to our understanding of non-heterosexual identities and relationships gives us strength and solidarity to continue the battle for equality.
History is written by the winners, and for most of history gay men and women have been losers. But just because some kind of LGBT history isn’t easy to find doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We owe it to the LGBT people of history to remember them and their struggles.

LGBT History Month – GLABRISH LGBT Newsletter

The final post in the LGBT History month series for this year 2009, here is GLABRISH a monthly tabloid that was circulated in 1997 to 1999, which was revived by a Gay writer Chris Eaton for a short time in 2002 but was laid to rest finally as time did not allow himself and his allies to continue the tabloid and the community took a while to warm up to it as the original readers had since moved on to online publications and chatrooms that were fast becoming the rage, Mr. Eaton now resides in the United Kingdom, The Glabrish had everything from the local suss, facts, trivia and HIV/AIDS information. Limited copies are in my possession(see samples above) and was pulished by private individuals and JFLAG operatives. Some were held by The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays JFLAG but were not in so good a condition similar to the Gay Freedom Movement Archives that were subsequently returned to its co-founder Larry Chang after much agitation from myself and some others.
Fortunately we were able to find these before they went the way of done for in time to share them with the world as our culture  sadly is not one of preservation or archiving for historical purposes and reflection.
Look out for more on previous activities in the LGBT community here in Jamaica.
Pride in who we are …. luv unu self yeaaahhh!
Peace and tolerance

LGBT History Month – Hotness / Jamaica Outpost LGBT Newsletter

Now out of print but we thought I would remind you of this publication that ran in June 2004 – 2005 as done by GL Publishing.
The name was changed by its fifth issue to The Jamaica Outpost and continued so until its cessation.
Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays JFLAG were holders of limited archival copies of the publications courtesy of its originators but similar to the archives by Gay Freedom Movement they were not kept in proper condition under successive management. These were scanned by yours truly in my tenure there as I was pleasantly surprised to see that copies were kept, I since returned some of them to the original owners while the rest were filed away in zip locked bags, I hope they are in good hands there.
Sad our culture does not treat with importance archiving materials for preserving our history but thankfully the Gay Freedom Movement archives were finally retrieved by the owners after much to and froing.
thanks to
(GL Publishers)

Peace and tolerance


Early Jamaican LGBT History

1976: Meeting point in New Kingston: The Closet

It seems that the first gay club, named The Closet, was established in New Kingston around 1976.
1976: The first Jamaican gay association is founded
Chinese-Jamaican gay man and political organizer, Larry Chang, organized a gay group in Jamaica, called the Gay Freedom Movement (GFM) as early as 1976 in a fiercely hostile climate. He held the position of General Secretary and was Publisher and Editor of its newsletter: Jamaica Gaily News. The newsletter was first named The Toilet Paper. As of issue No.3, Larry decided that the name was no longer relevant and changed it to The Jamaica Gaily News, which was a take-off on the Jamaican daily newspaper The Jamaica Daily News. .
Songs Of Freedom documentary – Interview with Larry Chang

Songs Of Freedom: Compelling Stories of Courage and Hope by Jamaican Gays and LesbiansExcerpt taken from an interview recorded in 2002, available in the documentary Songs Of Freedom.’When I graduated, and it was time for me to think about coming back to Jamaica, I made a conscious decision that I would come back here to contribute to nation building and all of that sort of stuff but on my own terms. /// Having met more and more people, I sort of know my way around gay Kingston, at least what there was at the time. And after I got my own apartment, of course, it became open house for a lot of gay people. If those walls could talk, if my dining room table could talk. These stories it would produce. A lot of people would have come out in my house. There has been all kind of revelations, breakdowns, emotional trauma and everything that you can think of that happen at my house. /// Sometimes after, there happen to be a club called The Closet, which was actually in the heart of New Kingston. I was going on well for quite a while and then we had the eternal problem of gay on gay violence, we had a lot of who we now refer as downtown people who would come there, would pick fights, break bottles, try to stab each other all that kind of wonderful behavior.
And the viability of the club therefore would be threaten by this type of behavior.As a response to this problem of violence, a few of us decided to get together and call a meeting to see if we could develop some sense of community among gay people where by we could turn to each other, just to find out what was on gay people’s mind: why all this violence, why all this self hatred, because that what it was down to: self hatred. What could we, as a population, do to address this. So we called a meeting at The Closet. There was a fairly good turn out and a very good participation. And out of that came a comity of six people, who came together to form the Gay Freedom Movement. At the end of the first meeting, I remember that I pull together (a none page mimeograph – sorry – a one-sheet mimeograph), a one-sheet newsletter, just reporting on what the proceedings were. I irreverently called this The Toilet Paper, because after all, the meeting has taken place in a closet.
It was Toilet Paper No.1 and we went to issue No.2. And by the time the third issue was come out, I said “no, I can’t keep calling this ‘The Toilet Paper’ has it is no longer appropriate”, so I change the name to The Jamaica Gaily News, which was a take-off on the Jamaican daily newspaper The Jamaica Daily News. At about the same time too, a letter had come out in The Daily Gleaner from a Helen Sommers Overcan, on the subject of population control. She was basically giving an historical overview of all the different methods of population control that have been attempted by different people. Among these she listed infanticide, and fracticise all the other things that you can think of.

I found myself to write a letter back to the Gleaner, responding to this letter that it was a very good letter, but she had a gearing ommition that she had not listed homosexuality as a time honored and natural means of population control. I suppose the Gleaner couldn’t believe that anybody would have written a letter like this to them. So they called me to confirmed: “did you really write this letter and signed your named to it and blah, blah, blah”. And I said “yes”. Except that I didn’t just signed my name, but I put under it: Gay Freedom Movement. At that time, the Gay Freedom Movement did not exist, the meeting at The Closet has not yet been held, but I felt that if I put the name of an organization behind my name, that the letter would have a little bit more impact, a little more clout, and that I was not just a voice crying for inunamist. Those two things kind of came together at a point in time, to give us that historical event, which we now referred as the Gay Freedom Movement, which I think happen in the mid to late 70’s.It was at the height of Michael Manley’s area and democratic socialism where the political climate, emphasis durable values, participation, co-operation, sharing, rights and all of these things. It was a very fertile time for ideals, movements, concepts, people-based initiatives. I think the Gay Freedom Movement was born at the right time. There is nothing that happen before its time. It was time for it than. ///The GFM had basically two objectives, one was to educate ourself has who we were. We are talking about consciousness raising, self awareness, that type of thing. An the other objective was to educate others, meaning the public. /// We had connection with almost every gay group right across the world, from Scandinavia to South Africa, to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Israel, you name it.

We had this change arrangement with these groups, we would send them Jamaica Gaily News and they would sent us their publications. Because of the breath of our international connections, when the whole AIDS epidemic broke out, we were able to have up-to-date information on AIDS, long before anybody in Jamaica knew about it. We were fairly well prepared, at least in terms of being armed with information. I think that is one of the things to witch I attribute the fairly low incidence of HIV among the homosexual population in Jamaica. /// We started a Pen Pal club because we would have letters from all over Jamaica and all over the world, requesting Pen Pals. That was one of the most popular features that we carried in The Gaily News. I remember in particular one letter from this guy who signed his name and his address was Cornpiece District, Hayes, Clarendon. I was very trilled to know that we were reaching isolated rural people who otherwise would have no kind of contact with anything or anyone gay. And the fact that we were reaching these people, to me it prove that we were doing something worthwhile.

Jamaica – Homophobia, Murder Music and Free Speech

Since the recording of this interview there have been some efforts that have borne fruit.
1). The Reggae Compassionate Act
2). The changing attitudes of the police (still needing improvements)
3). The slowly evolving public discourse on LGBT issues
We still have a long way to go.

A point of interest is that Brian Williamson was not the first openly gay individual to go public…Gay Freedom Movement (GFM), founded around 1974 by five Jamaicans and an American Jesuit then working in the island. It focused on consciousness-raising within the LGBT community and professional organizations, issued a newsletter, Jamaica Gaily News, and ran a Gay Youth Program, Prison Outreach Program and a free STD clinic.

General Secretary, Larry Chang, who was also publisher and editor of JGN, was the first Jamaican to come out publicly, being interviewed on radio and JBC-TV and through his letters to the press. Before he fled to the US in 2000 where he was granted political asylum in 2004, he had helped found JFLAG.

Thanks however to Peter and others for highlighting the issues though.


LGBT History Month – Stop Murder Music

Stop Murder Music is a campaign is jointly run by Outrage!, the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group and JFLAG in the early years.

The term ‘Murder Music’ was coined by British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell in the mid-1990s to describe the homophobic work of certain Jamaican musicians, primarily dancehall and ragga artists who called for and encouraged physical violence and murder of homosexuals
The Murder Music Campaign have accused Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Sizzla, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Capleton, T.O.K., Buju Banton and others of promoting anti-gay violence, harassment, and bigotry through their music.

Tatchell has called for laws against homophobic music and the Campaign participated in protests outside concerts. The Campaign has especially objected to lyrics which seem to support violence, including murder, towards gay men. Tatchell’s campaign began in the early 1990s when Buju Banton’s song “Boom Bye-Bye” was released and has continued to date. Dennis Carney, chair of the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group, argued that the MOBO Awards had a responsibility to exclude anti-gay artists because, “homophobic lyrics in music normalise hatred towards black gay men.”Tatchell picketed the MOBO Awards ceremony to protest at their inviting performers of murder music. Tatchell received death threats and was labelled a racist. Tatchell defended himself by pointing to a life’s work campaigning against racism, and stated that his statements on Jamaica were in support of terrorised black groups within Jamaica.

LGBT History Month – Forum on Gay Rights’ Relevance

In September 2000 JFLAG hosted a forum on whether gay rights were necessary in Jamaica. Present were Jamaicans for Justice representatives, human rights advocates, members of the legal fraternity, Amnesty International Rep and interested allies.

The forum helped to highlight that gays and lesbians suffered discrimination as a sexual minority and that gay rights are not divisible from human rights. The overwhelming challenge, therefore, remained apparent, to educate Jamaicans on the importance of upholding human rights as set out in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. First and foremost this regards to the right of life.

Coincidentally, the same day JGLAG had its forum, the then Prime Minister was quoted in the national paper as saying that hanging and sodomy laws will remain on the books as long as he is in power. This declaration was made less than an hour after he was returned unopposed as President of the People’s National Party (PNP), this solidified the necessity of human rights organizations to work together to uphold human rights in Jamaica.


LGBT History Month – The Work of The Women for Women Group

Women For Women (WFW)
A Non-Government Organization which focuses on issues as they relate to Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered women

Women For Women is the offspring of efforts by Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (J-FLAG), in collaboration with Jamaica Aids Support (JAS), to support the needs of lesbian and bisexual women and other related group(s) of women.

In September 1999, the JAS/J-FLAG initiative was born; a women’s group established for support and recreation named Lesbians In Action (LIA).

In October 2000, LIA participants went through a facilitated process to restructure the group. After two facilitated meetings, the name changed from LIA to


A new identity was born with more succinct mission and vision, a new format a with renewed interest and commitment toward the group.

As with any other organization, WFW went through a breakdown in 2002, but despite the hiccup, a new Steering Committee was formed in March 2003, and we can safely say that some positive strides have been made to improve our organization and community.

We have so far hosted and continue to host educational workshops on the following topics:-

Healthy Relationships II
Spirituality & Homosexuality
Lesbian Parenting

We have also been involved in Panel Presentation organized by J-FLAG such as:-

The Women’s Crisis Centre
National AIDS Committee
Combined Volunteer Social Services
School For International Training
The Peace Corp
The Editor’s Forum

WFW is a four-pronged organization which covers:
Recreational/Social Intervention
General Outreach

We welcome volunteers to work in any of the above mentioned areas.
You can contact them through lgbtevent@gmail.com