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Editors' Forum | LGBTs want seat at national table

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2019 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis - Gleaner Writer

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are insisting that they be included in national campaigns that focus on the protection of the rights of the vulnerable in society.

Speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week, associate director of policy and advocacy at the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) Shani Bennett said they must be accounted for in the dialogue.

“When we talk about inclusion within the society, it oftentimes does not include the LGBT persons, or that’s not the narrative. Inclusion means everybody else but LGBT persons. They are never ever named in these inclusionary advertisements the Government may have,” said Bennett.

Bennett said that it is an oversight for LGBTs not to be referred to alongside children, the poor, and the disabled as marginalised communnities.

“We never necessarily outline and say we also include LGBT persons as well, and I think that type of thrust would be very, very helpful as that is dependent on the actor.

“When J-FLAG talks about it, it’s just J-FLAG talking about it because that’s one of the advocacy pillars that we have, but when it’s coming from a different actor like the Government, it makes a lot of difference,” said Bennett.

Cultural homophobia

Associate director of marketing communications and engagement at J-FLAG, Suelle Anglin, said inclusion needs to start with how Jamaicans are programmed to think.

“When you think about homophobia in Jamaica, it is something that is cultural. From you are a young person growing up, you are in the Church, you’re in school, so you grow up hearing that these people are terrible people, that these people are nasty, and so it becomes a part of how you socialise yourself culturally to think that these people should always be excluded in everything.

“So I think we need to look at homophobia as something, culturally, that we need to start thinking about how we reverse this kind of thinking. So it’s important that we start to name LGBT people,” said Anglin.

Renae Green, associate director of policy at Transwave Jamaica, added that LGBTs were not equating inclusion with preferential treatment.

“That’s not what we are asking for. We are not asking for one category here and then for us to be over on the other side. That’s not what we are asking for.

“What we do want, though, is to be included when you say that these rights are for every Jamaican, and we want you to also say ‘including LGBT people’,” said Green.