Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Jaevion Nelson | Jamaica ready for Gay Agenda

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Seven out of every 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jamaican has considered leaving the country. The statistic, taken from the study The Developmental Cost of Homophobia: The Case of Jamaica, is not at all surprising given the challenges many face.

Since 2010, I have met countless LGBT Jamaicans - young and old, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, and from country or town whose dream is simply to leave the country to find better and eke out a living and live without the fear of being harassed and harmed physically. I've also met quite a number of LGBT Jamaicans who sought refuge in Canada, The Netherlands, England and the United States. Their disillusionment is most palpable but, sadly, no one seems eager to do anything about it.

Like many others, they have grown weary, hopeless and discontented about the lack of opportunities afforded to them to live their fullest potential. The lack of political will and alacrity, when there is will, to address some of the plethora of challenges they face and complain about every day exacerbate their frustrations.

Nearly five years ago, I argued in this paper in commentary titled 'Do homosexuals have a place in Jamaica?' that "LGBT people's contribution to our national vision to make Jamaica a developed country by 2030 will never truly materialise with the distinctions that currently exist in our society about the respect for one set of people over another".

Can you imagine the chaos, the catastrophe that would occur if many of the LGBT Jamaicans working in the media, law firms, the public sector, banks, hotels, restaurants and the entertainment and creative industries should actually leave?

It is my sincere "hope that all Jamaicans will recognise and appreciate that a country is enriched when it reaches out to all its citizens, enshrines the dignity of all, and celebrates diversity. A contrary approach, which criminalises those who do no harm to others, makes outcasts of some and narrows the definition of who is truly Jamaican" is deleterious to national goals as articulated in Vision 2030 - The National Development Plan.

 

The Gay Agenda

 

Two Fridays ago, on February 23, I was forced to revisit this question of LGBT Jamaicans having a place in Jamaica when J-FLAG launched 'The Gay Agenda', which is a manifesto for the Jamaican LGBT community based in human rights, social justice, peace and security, and inclusive and sustainable development.

The Gay Agenda is a very necessary and useful document that can help, significantly, to bolster efforts to enable every individual on this little piece of rock to claim and enjoy their rights and galvanise greater support across the society in this regard.

According to Glenroy Murray, the associate director of programmes and advocacy at J-FLAG, the The Gay Agenda "presents boldly and unapologetically our vision of an LGBT-inclusive Jamaica and looks specifically at security and justice, health, education & training, housing & social security, employment, family life, culture, entertainment and sports, persons of trans experience and youth".

The recommendations in The Gay Agenda are things we all care about as citizens and can all and should most definitely support. Simply put, it endeavours to ensure that Jamaica includes respect and celebrates LGBT Jamaicans as part of the vision to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.

It seeks to build a Jamaica where the police protect, serve, and reassure all its citizens regardless of identity, where the minimum wage is livable, where education is more accessible, and where family life, culture and the entertainment and sports sectors make significant changes in supporting the participation of all Jamaicans. These are things you want and care about, right?

I want us to reimagine a future where safety and security, peace and justice, and equality and equity are guaranteed; where they are the principles on which we seek to build our society.

Think about and work towards the future that we want as a people. Let's ensure that the vulnerable and marginalised are part of it. Let us ensure that we secure a future, one that is filled with endless possibilities for LGBT Jamaicans to be included, welcomed, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential while contributing to and benefiting fully from development.

- Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, social and economic justice advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com or tweet @jaevionn.