Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | New sense of national Pride

Published:Saturday | August 5, 2017 | 8:00 AM

It's uncanny how many Jamaicans are supposedly offended or concerned about the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community's decision to celebrate Pride during the Emancipation and Independence period, which is being observed from August 1-7 this year.

The basis of their discomfort is unclear and misplaced. Is there a better time for a community of people that is vulnerable and marginalised and has been subjected to discrimination and abuse because of its sexual orientation and/or gender identity to celebrate?

Why is it that they are bothered by a community of people organising and celebrating their fight towards full freedom and equality in our country? Could this be the same Jamaica where the majority of people are excluded from the Emancipendence celebrations because they are concentrated in Kingston and St Andrew (every year) and held in spaces that cannot accommodate many people?

The Independence Gala, which is now held annually (after making a grand comeback in 2012), is one such event for a couple thousand people, with the best seats being reserved largely for all the privileged people from uptown. Evidently, people will have to create their own events and incorporate aspects of the national observation for Emancipation and Independence, if they so desire.

In addition, this country has had so many calendar events during the period. In every community, there is a dance (party) that residents look forward to every summer. Thousands of people travel to Negril for Dream Weekend. These events barely have anything to do with the national observation of and celebration for our Emancipation and Independence. What then are people concerned about really if the precedent has already been set and the LGBT community has found a way to make the period meaningful to them?

 

REWRITING A NARRATIVE

 

Today is the fifth day of the third annual Pride celebrations in Jamaica. We should all be immensely happy that this is happening and that it has gone incident-free, especially those of us who are perturbed by references to Jamaica being 'the most homophobic place on Earth.' Pride Jamaica is rewriting that narrative. It reminds us that beyond the homophobia and transphobia that are perpetrated, there are possibilities for respect, tolerance, and acceptance. It reminds us that the community is more than the type of sexual activities it engages in.

J-FLAG has organised Pride in Jamaica because it is committed to reducing the despair that LGBT people who live, work, learn, worship, and have fun in places where they are not welcome and told that they are pariahs face. They do it because they want to give the LGBTQ community hope - even a glimmer of it.

They do it to empower LGBTQ people to be themselves, to live their truth. The community is given an opportunity so they can be inspired to fight for their rights and freedoms. We take pride in Jamaica because we want Jamaica to be a better place for LGBTQ people to live, work, raise families, and do business.

Pride in Jamaica is about possibilities. Pride gives hope, visibility, courage, and community. It's about creating and maintaining safe spaces for LGBTQ people and allies to come together as a community. It's about a movement that is courageously working to ensure that LGBTQ Jamaicans are included fully and celebrated in the Emancipation and Independence Project that is Jamaica. Pride helps to ensure that we can all thrive as Jamaicans belonging to vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Happy Pride, Jamaica! This is a fight for freedom, respect, and justice. This is a continuation of the dream of our foreparents. This is a fight for Jamaica and all her inhabitants.

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