A group called J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays) has launched a new video campaign of personal stories from LGBT Jamaicans and allies, including prominent Jamaicans such as Susan and Alexis Goffe and Javed Jaghai. In a press release, Executive Director Dane Lewis, who is featured in one of the videos, said:
“The [We Are Jamaicans] campaign was developed following recommendations from consultations with LGBT persons, activists and allies to show the experiences of Jamaica’s LGBT community in a more diverse way…Regrettably, the diversity and the complexity of Jamaica’s LGBT community is masked by media and advocacy narratives that too often focus on sex, victimhood, crime and HIV. These themes are not identity-affirming and they sometimes further entrench the marginal position of LGBT people in the society.”
You can watch all the video’s on the group’s YouTube feed, but I wanted to share a couple of my favourites here. The videos are powerful and heartfelt.
When it comes to coming out, I’ve been there, done that, probably hundreds of times. To me, there’s nothing to it. I’m one of the least closeted people you will ever meet. My erotic identity is as much a part of my representative identity as is my name, age, hometown, or date of birth. If you meet me, you’ll meet it. Except I won’t call it “It” – I’ll give it a name.
Hi. I’m Jess. I’m twenty-eight, I live in the Midwestern United States, I am a graduate student, I am one of two mothers of two precious daughters, I’m a poet, and if I could I would carry a basil plant in my purse. Yep, I said two mothers. I’m a lesbian.
That’s right: sometimes I have to repeat myself or clarify the two-mothers detail. Does it always feel good and liberating to out myself on someone who isn’t expecting it? No, not always. Sometimes I get that twisted, bewildered expression in response. Or, worse, a total lack of comprehension. Most of the time, however, this beautiful part of myself slides out as naturally as would any other. Who doesn’t like sharing a joyful and important part of their lives with people they meet? I hear about other people’s spouses and kids all the time. I have the same inclination to spread the love.
And the thing is, most people have this inclination: to be oneself and share oneself freely. We’re born ready to be led by our inclinations as we form or take apart our identities. So what happens? Why do so many of us, whether we identify as asexual, bisexual, polyamorous, homoromantic or queer, experience discomfort and fear when it comes to sharing? Because so many of us are taught at a young age that we must fit in some small identity box or another in order to be accepted and loved. And who doesn’t want to be loved? But even more than that, who doesn’t want to be herself, to roam happily and freely and not have to fear ridicule, rejection or harm?
Everything I have shared here is what you already know – it calls upon the common sense within you. We just want to be ourselves, move at our own paces and be accepted. Simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, as humans, we’re far more complicated and far too contradictory for that. It seems, instead, that we’re more often than not conflicted, anxious or divided when it comes to, well, most anything. And in particular when it comes to human sexuality – orientation, identity, and choice. Heck, we’re so spread all over the place that we’re even opinionated and divided about the timing and manner in which someone, one single person, comes out of the closet. Since when did we ever judge a white, male heterosexual for the way in which he shared his heterosexuality? I don’t seem to recall any news coverage on that issue.
I do, however, know about social media news coverage on the issue of Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe moment of ??? Of what? Of Glory? Of Relief? Of WellIt’sTheHellAboutTime? I’m sure we can come up with several thousand labels for it.
Earlier this week xoJane ran a story about straight people in gay clubs and how disliked their presence is. And truthfully the examples the author used as a gay woman reflecting on how straight women act and treat gay space are pretty appalling.
As someone who has spent many many nights in gay clubs I can attest to seeing all these things: bachelorette parties gone wild, straight men and women confident all the gay people at the bar want to jump their bones, straight women grabbing and touching the gay guys because they think it’s “okay because they are gay!” Truthfully, more than once I’ve felt like throwing my drink on the straight couple making out in the gay bar.
However, as a straight woman who has gone through life with white and straight privilege I am forever grateful to the way the gay community allowed me into their world and helped to has shape me as a decent human.
I spent the first 18 years of my life skirting around the norm of society and I was desperate to find somewhere to fit in. As the only fat kid in my small elementary school in my small town I grew up with the constant feeling that I just wasn’t the same as all the other kids. This was long before the days of Michelle Obama fighting for fat kids and long before there were trendy husky kid clothes in the Justin Bieber line at Walmart. I looked different, had to dress differently than the other kids (and my average-sized sister), and had a weird and awkward body to drag around. I was conditioned from a very young age to feel there was something wrong with me.
Needless to say this all sets you up for angst-filled teenage years littered with body hatred and self-harm. By the time I was nearing the end of high school I no longer thought I was a weird kid – I knew it. My first ‘love’ was a girl but I also liked boys, which was confusing and scary. I got into fights with the Christian kids about abortion. I had no desire to graduate and get married to my high school boyfriend and have babies. Fuck that. I was getting out of dodge and was going to do something substantial with my life. Read more
The Associated Press Stylebook sets a newspaper industry standard for grammar, language, and reporting principles. So when the AP makes changes, they can have a significant impact on the media we consume. That’s why a lot of LGBT writers and activists are upset at the recent move by the AP to ban the use of the word “homophobia”. The AP has chosen to read a very literal definition into the word “homophobia”, arguing any word ending in “-phobia” represents “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness” and that such words should not be used “in political or social contexts” (this also nixes “Islamophobia” and presumably “Transphobia”).
“Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”
Even though when you take “homophobia” that literally it doesn’t seem like the most precise term, there are a couple of big problems with the AP’s move.
The first is that their definition doesn’t reflect common usage. Occasionally I’ll use the term “heterosexism” because I think it’s a better word to show that the privileging of heterosexual people and the subordination of LGBT people is systemic (e.g. it makes more sense to say a policy or institution is “heterosexist” than “homophobic”). But I still use “homophobic” more frequently and one reason for that is that people generally get it. People understand when you say someone’s homophobic that you’re not literally saying they need mental health care. They understand you’re not implying they aren’t responsible for their actions or attitudes. Read more
Despite more and more high-profile bullying cases being reported in the media recently, in the last few days we’ve seen two anti-bullying policies defeated in Canada. The first was a motion brought forward by the Edmonton Public School District to the Alberta School Boards Association to protect LGBT students and staff from bullying through requiring schools to develop a zero-tolerance policy.
“Our concern was that if you are appearing to promote one group preferentially over the other, that it’s not appropriate,” Calgary Catholic chairwoman Mary Martin said in the Calgary Herald.
ABSA President Jacquie Hansen echoed Martin’s remarks, telling the Edmonton Journal that the ABSA didn’t want a policy that only protected LGBT kids. At least that was a nicer way of framing it than Pembina Hills trustee Dale Schaffrick, who was forced to apologize after telling the CBC that kids should act less gay to avoid bullying:
“If children with a gay tendency appear a certain way, we know that we have to be vigilant to make sure they are not discriminated against,” Schaffrick told CBC News.
When asked if those students should try to be less identifiable, he said, “I think for their own benefit… it would be helpful.”
The idea that LGBT kids somehow ask to be bullied by acting or appearing a certain way, and that their sexual orientation is nothing more than a “tendency”, is obviously ridiculous and offensive. But let’s take a step back again to look at what the more mainstream folks said about why they opposed this motion: because it singled out LGBT students and staff for protection from bullying. Read more