16 February 2009

A glimmer of light

In response to Ernest Smith's intemperate outburst in Parliament denying gays the right of association and to bear arms due to their "abusive and violent" nature, the Gleaner editorial has displayed a surprisingly mature tone. Time was when the Gleaner could not bring itself to publish the word gay without quotation marks. There has been a dawning enlightenment tinting their position, in sharp contrast to the Observer's which seems to be descending into the shades of the basest common denominator.

As a lawyer and legislator, Smith appears not to be "particularly engaged with expansive issues of human rights, the relationship and balance between the State and the individual and, in the broader sense, the expansion of people's rights and freedoms," the Gleaner observes. The editorial even raps the Police Officers Association for not decrying Smith's hate speech instead of merely protesting their honor, having been caught in the cross-spittle of the MP's fulminations. It goes on to throw out a dare to any MP who would move to censure him.

This is the same Ernest Smith who called for virginity tests for schoolgirls about a year ago. Hate to admit, I happened to have gone to school with him and even then he came off as a pompous buffoon, expressing his ambition to become Prime Minister. I hope the electorate wakes up to its responsibility and puts paid to that notion, or it will deserve the government by crackpot it gets.

While rien a faal ahn doti stil tof, we have to acknowledge that some progress has been made with regard to published attitudes, this editorial being an example, along with supportive letters to the editor which have been in the majority. Time was when the homophobic hysteria and condemnation would have been the norm with perhaps a lone dissenting voice. If nothing else, Smith's diatribe has brought out this more balanced, rational response we might not have known of otherwise.

11 January 2009

Quote of the day

" ... the deejays might well be doing a service to the gay community by making constant references to its members. After all these frequent references to what might be deemed deviant behaviour tend to increase societal acceptance of what is being proscribed."
- Clyde McKenzie
in "More Questions Than Answers," Jamaica Observer, 2009 January 11

18 November 2008

Thomas Glave's work inspires video

The videographer writes:
"Tribute to the gay Jamaican poet's book Words to Our Now; I showed this at a presentation I gave at a conference as a supplemental music video interlude; as an example of the beautiful and convicting form of epideictic rhetoric that Glave employs. I got wonderful feedback from Mr. Glave on the video. I am glad he felt honored. His essays inspired me, may do the same for you-- "


11 October 2008

15 August 2008

Conscious lyrics?

Conscious deejay Miguel Collins, more popularly known as Sizzla, has advocated murder in at least 35 songs, that's more than Ninja man, Mavado or Munga, yet he still considers himself righteous.
The Jamaica Observer has a revealing article on the so-called conscious lyrics of Sizzla, demonstrating that fundamentalism of whatever colour or flavour is toxic to humans. Unfortunately, it is the more visible and vocal Rastafarians like Sizzla who shape the world-view and attitudes of the idren, spreading bigotry and violence across the land. Is it any surprise then that the country finds itself in such a state of anarchy and barbarism when a supposedly conscious artiste espouses and promotes these sociopathic views? It is no small comfort that gays are not the only targets of his ethnic cleansing which would eliminate Pope John Paul II, politicians, policemen, informers, gunmen, and even an innocent taxi driver. Would this bloodlust end by turning the gun on himself as Jah's self-appointed chief gunman?

When impressionable minds of under-educated, hopeless males with low self-esteem, lack of autonomy and insecure in their sexuality are fed a constant diet of "conscious lyrics" like this, it is a form of conditioning that creates delusional power, a megalomania which manifests in the slaughter we are now suffering. Any innate feelings of love, compassion or altruism are swept away in a flood of adrenalin and testosterone triggered by fear, inadequacy and paranoia. The autotoxicity has to stop but it can only begin after we recognize that we are destroying ourselves and instead, feed our minds with enlightened, uplifting thoughts.

The gun may give marginalised males temporal power which lasts only until they are brought down by the gun. True, lasting power is derived from healthy self-image and self-esteem that gives rise to autonomy and self-actualisation. The individual grows, the society thrives.

02 August 2008

Gays, Africa, Two Spirits, and Astrologers



Many ancient and traditional cultures have had the wisdom to reserve special roles for persons who displayed other than heteronormative behavior. These gifted ones would be recognized in childhood and raised differently, often as transgendered as they were thought to have two spirits. They were regarded as "good medicine" by North American tribes and, naturally, as intermediaries between earth and heaven, this world and the next, due to their synthesis of both male and female polarities. They would become the tribes' or societies' priests, shamen or soothsayers; in some West African traditions they were known as gatekeepers who controlled the portals to the divine. Such a role is given to Elegba in the Orisha tradition where he oversees doorways, entrances and crossroads. In his Haitian manifestation as Papa Legba he is the loa of gays.

We have retained much of our African spiritual roots in the syncretic practices of Pocomania, Kumina, Myal and Revival. It would be logical to expect that an intermediary role of some description would have survived and be ascribed to two-spirits. There is a strong homosexual dynamic at play in the phenomenon of a male adherent being "ridden" by a male deity.

Unfortunately, the homophobia that prevails in Jamaica would preclude any academic study of this aspect of our heritage; scholars who happened to be homosexual would not risk being outed by association, and straight ones would not wish to become tainted, even for the sake of intellectual pursuit. By now we should have deconstructed much of our African past, our slavery experience and the effects both have had on our collective psyche. Alas, our centers of learning have not the academic and intellectual freedom to free our people from mental slavery. The majority of our people will continue to labour under the delusion that homosexuality is a latter-day phenomenon inflicted on black people by white colonials. The irony is that it is to the fundamentalist Christianity and anachronistic laws that were used by the white masters to control the natives that we now cling so defensively.

Emancipendence fartit ... er, platitudes

We must hasten to ensure that every Jamaican, while fully respecting the needs of others, will not be impeded in the enjoyment of those inalienable rights and freedoms. In order to do this, we must urgently conclude the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides a wider and more effective protection of those rights and freedoms to which every Jamaican is entitled.
- Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall
When individuals and communities are forced to live in fear, their condition is not much different from what was experienced under the slave masters ... When we sow seeds of disunity and set one against the other, we are employing the same tactics used in slavery. When we disrespect each other, we are behaving just like the slave master who disrespected us ... Being a free people means that we must respect each other's freedom and the right of every one of us to live peacefully and seek after our well-being.
- Prime Minister Bruce Golding
Issues of rights and freedoms need constant attention ... neeed constant reviewing, fine-tuning and updating ...
- Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller

Can LGBTQ Jamaicans feel that they are full citizens when their consensual behavior is criminalized, they are attacked and assaulted at will, hounded out of home and job, set upon in the streets, victimized by the police and deprived of constitutional protection? Until the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Person Law are removed and discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation outlawed, the majority of us will continue to live in fear, stress and despair.

We are accustomed to the prevailing hypocrisy so attach no significance to the high-sounding seasonal releases from our leaders. If you thought for a minute their rhetoric included us, your delusion is forgiveable as the desire for freedom is unquenchable in the face of all hostility. None of them have lifted a finger to help us. Social attitudes are difficult to change but real leaders lead; they have an obligation to show a higher way, a broader horizon, larger possibilities. But i forget, we're still on the plantation and it's as much as the overseers can do to keep it running.

10 June 2008

Thomas Glave blasts Golding

May 27, 2008

In response to the latest episode of a Jamaican (you know who…) embarassing himself and the rest of us by confusing nationalist sentiment with informed political discourse, Thomas Glave posted his statement at Calabash on the queer Caribbean listserv:

Dear C-FLAG Listserv community,

Yesterday (May 23, 2008), in Jamaica, at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, where I still am, I read selections from my new, just barely published edited anthology Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles; in fact, this reading opened the Calabash weekend. However, given Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s recent antigay remarks on the BBC-TV show “Hard Talk,” about which there has been much discussion in the local Jamaican press, I felt that I could not read from *this* book in particular, *in* Jamaica, without expressing my unhappiness over Mr Golding’s remarks. Because I’m not certain if the J’can press will carry any coverage of what I said, here are my remarks, addressed to the large Calabash audience, that preceded my reading. The response – at least from what I could tell – was overwhelmingly positive, even eliciting applause before I barely finished a few sentences:

“I want to say a special thanks to the Calabash organisers – Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, and Justine Henzell – for inviting me back to Calabash, this being my second reading at the festival, and for their unceasing generosity to, and support of, writers from around the world. And so, mindful of that generosity and kindness, my conscience will not permit me to begin reading from this book in particular before I say that as a gay man of Jamaican background I am appalled and outraged by the Prime Minister’s having said only three days ago on BBC-TV that homosexuals will not have any place in his Cabinet and, implicitly, by extension, in Jamaica. I guess this means that there will never be any room in Mr Golding’s Cabinet for me and for the many, many other men and women in Jamaica who are homosexual. And so I now feel moved to say directly to Mr Golding that it is exactly this kind of bigotry and narrow-mindedness that Jamaica does not need any more of, and that you, Mr Golding, should be ashamed of yourself for providing such an example of how not to lead Jamaica into the future. And so, Mr Golding, think about how much you are not helping Jamaica the next time you decide to stand up and say that only some Jamaicans – heterosexuals, in this case – have the right to live in their country as full citizens with full human rights, while others – homosexuals – do not. That is not democracy. That is not humane leadership. That is simply the stupidity and cruelty of bigotry.”

I then read excerpts from the work of 4 contributors in the book: Makeda Silvera ( Jamaica ), Reinaldo Arenas ( Cuba ), Helen Klonaris ( Bahamas ), and my own, and finished by saying, “Not just one love, Jamaica . Many loves.”

I felt terrified, to say the least, to make this statement before the reading; never have I felt so vulnerable, so exposed, and, before I walked up onto the stage, alone. But feeling embraced by the warm reception, I left the stage feeling more than ever that the title of Our Caribbean indeed speaks a truth: that this is, and will continue to be, through struggle, our Caribbean.

In solidarity, Thomas Glave