Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Jaevion Nelson| Beyond significant

Published:Thursday | August 11, 2016 | 8:00 AM

WE ARE yet to truly grasp the tremendous impact the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender (LGBT) Pride celebrations during the Emancipation and Independence celebrations is having and will continue to have on Jamaica, and the LGBT and ally community in particular.

To put things into perspective, I wish to use a Facebook post by my colleague Glenroy Murray, which was written after the Family Picnic at Pearly Beach to culminate the week of activities: "In 2006, Jamaica was called 'The Most Homophobic Place on Earth' and 10 years later, we are celebrating our second incident-free LGBT PRiDE [Celebrations]. This is beyond significant."

I note some persons have registered their disapproval of the celebrations. One would think more of us would have been excited about and thankful to see the LGBT and ally community coming together to celebrate their resilience, acknowledge the progress and build a sense of community and belonging about being Jamaican and being LGBT, given how offended we usually are by news stories and documentaries about homophobia and transphobia in Jamaica because, in our minds, 'Jamaica isn't homophobic'.

One hopes that we will allow ourselves to begin to appreciate the revolution that is taking place in Jamaica. Previously, it was almost unlikely to read about these issues in Jamaica without being inundated with references to Jamaica being the most homophobic places on earth or without being paralysed with fear because, to a large extent, the progress - the glimmer of hope - was ignored. Thankfully, that is changing, and we are seeing a more relatable narrative about our country. As Murray said, "The symbolism of PRiDE for all the marginalised LGBT youth should not be taken lightly. The narrative of fear and despair needs to be disturbed and PRiDE does that."

I imagine it might take two more pride celebrations for us to truly recognise and appreciate how phenomenal Jamaica Pride has been. I am also acutely aware that tolerance for many of us means that the LGBT community here should be silent and invisible.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF #PRIDEJA

If you think about it, #PRiDEJA is particularly important for those young LGBT people who are only now beginning to accept themselves, those young LGBT people who are trying to understand themselves, those young LGBT people who are told/believe that to be LGBT in Jamaica is a death sentence or that you might be lucky to stay alive if you remain silent and invisible.

#PRiDEJA is important for those older LGBT people who have become so disillusioned about being LGBT in Jamaica despite the protection their privileges might afford them because they are still frightened and hurt by the abuse and violence they endured at a time when there was little to no support for them. It's also important for those LGBT Jamaicans in the d iaspora who had to seek refuge in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and other countries to be free, to be themselves, to live. It's giving them an opportunity to rekindle with their home from wherever they are and letting them know that one day they can visit/return and will be alright.

#PRiDEJA is important for parents, siblings and family members of LGBT people who become so worried when they learn about the non-heterosexual orientation of their loved ones because all they see is violence and abuse being meted out to them. It's also for those parents who are unable to respond to their children with love because all they can see is death.

#PRiDEJA is a whole lot about breaking the rules of oppression which demand that you be silent and invisible. It's about giving people hope, creating safe spaces, and validating and letting people feel belonged. #PRiDEJA is about making Jamaica more hospitable for all of us so we can live, work, raise families and do business.

Let's salute those brave visionary men and women who from as early as 1974 thought it possible to make Jamaica more inclusive. Let's thank those who in more recent times, despite the odds, enlist themselves in the fight because they believe we can do it. Let's applaud the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who provided support in the execution of the pride celebrations; reminding LGBT Jamaicans that they, too, are deserving of and will receive police protection. Finally, let's thank all Jamaicans and businesses that either actively or silently supported the pride celebrations by participating, contributing or simply respecting the right of LGBT persons to celebrate themselves.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.