Jamaica is changing – and our Gay Agenda shows the way forward

Stonewall 50: Suelle Anglin of J-FLAG on the importance of celebrating the beauty at the intersection of Jamaican and queerness

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots and we have so much to celebrate as queer advocates and activists.

When rioter Marsha P Johnson threw that stone, she threw hope and resilience: it inspired people then and continues to do so.

As countries around the world began to celebrate their LGBTI communities, Pride marches arose to showcase visibility and progress. While the relevance of Pride marches for visibility and symbolism continues, it is critical we remain vigilant and steadfast about the spaces we curate for queer people to exist.

We must celebrate and hold space for those who are still on their journey to self-acceptance and love.

Jamaica and J-FLAG
In Jamaica, we have come a far way since J-FLAG was established in 1998. We celebrate 20+ years of bold, stellar and dynamic advocacy and activism in a country where many think ‘impossible’ is the only way to describe queer life and existence.

Celebrating our fifth year of incident-free Pride, Jamaica continues to showcase the beauty of intersectional advocacy and activism.

For us, it is paramount that we continue to diversify human rights and social justice conversations to ensure queer Jamaicans remain at the centre of nation-building dialogue; showcasing their entire beings and not just their sexuality.

Pride in Jamaica
Pride in Jamaica represents the creation of safe spaces and community engagement and development.

Through a week of events Pride celebrations are audaciously held in the colloquially described ‘Emancipendence’ week of 1-6 August, running concurrently with annual commemorations of the emancipation of enslaved Africans in Jamaica and the birth of this nation.

Since then, the Jamaican LGBT movement has become increasingly centered around the citizenship and nationhood of LGBT Jamaicans and this trajectory led to the development of our Gay Agenda, a manifesto for the Jamaican LGBT community to stake their claim on their birthright.

Pride in Jamaica has been central to driving these conversations forward.

Some of the events include a family fun day, health and wellness fair, conference, tradeshow, sports day, religious event, beach party, a feminist literary event, among others. Outside of a Pride event in Jamaica, you will not see trans women participating in cheerleading competitions, or openly queer people participating in sporting events.

Pride allows the average queer Jamaican to experience different aspects of themselves without having to separate from their queerness.

‘Writing our own stories, controlling our narratives’
Critically, we have acknowledged that developing programs that are research-based and culturally appropriate are more appreciated by the Jamaican queer community and are more impactful.

Writing our own stories, controlling our narratives and living our experiences, ensures that the decisions and strategies are locally driven by the needs of the community.

One way we have begun controlling our narrative is by rewriting and interrogating harmful stories that have existed about Jamaica.

In November 2018, an article was published in the Guardian entitled, ‘Welcome to Jamaica – No longer the most homophobic place on earth’ which sought to dissect an earlier article in TIME magazine: ‘Jamaica is the most homophobic place on earth.’

While we acknowledge there are still reports of human rights violations, and negative and harmful attitudes toward queer people in Jamaica, we also acknowledge we have made tremendous progress.

Progress is taking place
There is no single lived experience of queer Jamaicans, in terms of class, social status and socioeconomic background, which will impact how one navigates their space. It is therefore critical for our advocacy to accurately reflect and include the narratives of progress and acceptance.

Going forward, J-FLAG’s advocacy will continue to create opportunities for queer people in Jamaica to participate in national discourse and celebrate their identities in a way that makes us uniquely Jamaicans.

We promote our Gay Agenda manifesto, which clearly outlines 68 brilliant and comprehensive recommendations across ten different areas such as education, employment, security, healthcare and others to guide discourse with policymakers, key stakeholders, allies and third sector.

Jamaica can be the place queer Jamaicans live fulfilling lives, raise beautiful families, enjoy culture and actively participate in nation building. Let us hope another 20 years of advocacy and activism will take us there.

Suelle Anglin is the Associate Director Marketing Communications and Engagement with J-FLAG. Follow her on Twitter (Twitter: @Bellabranglin) and Instagram (@sueshanjell)

Stonewall 50 Voices
Gay Star News is commemorating 2019 as the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots. Our Stonewall 50 Voices series will bring you 50 guest writers from all around the world, with a focus on the diversity of our global LGBTI community.

They will be discussing the past, present and future of our struggle for love and liberation.

by Suelle Anglin
Source – Gay Star News