Last edited: December 19, 2004

Stay Out of Our Bedrooms!—Homosexuals Weigh in on Gay Debate

Jamaica Observer, December 19, 2004

By Petre Williams, Observer staff reporter

Members of Jamaica’s homosexual community have added their voice to recent calls for the island’s buggery laws to be repealed, saying Jamaicans are being hypocritical on the issue. “We really are a very sexual nation, just like anybody else, and we have everything here,” said a Jamaican lesbian who writes poetry and stories under the name Adreana Ingram. “Jamaicans are privately tolerant and publicly intolerant because they have to save face. I am just sick and tired of the hypocrisy.”

The state has no right to police what happens in the bedrooms of consenting adults, argued lesbian and gay rights activist Platinum Richards, who represented Jamaican gays at the Gay Pride parade in New York this year. “I think it’s total crap! People have anal sex every day—whether it’s woman and man, man and man. Even women and women have anal sex,” Richards said.

The law against buggery is already being ignored, and taking it off the books would have no major impact, Ingram argued. As an example, she cited ‘Freaky Friday’ at some go-go clubs, saying the law was being broken at least once a week here in Jamaica. “So let’s just get real again and stop being hypocritical,” she said. “And why is the state trying to legislate something that is private and in our bedrooms?”

A member of the management committee of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), who asked that his name not be used, also wanted to see the buggery law repealed. “The sodomy laws need to go. The government is interested in invading people’s private life, and what two consulting adults do behind closed doors in their time is exactly their business,” he said. “Also, I would like to see the church being very proactive in setting a standard tone that discrimination and advocating violence on any level cannot be tolerated.”

J-FLAG was founded in December of 1998 and is the first organisation of its kind to serve the interest of homosexuals and bisexuals in the island. Their activities include the provision of counselling and referral services for homosexual persons and their families, and collaborating with international groups to effect change in the discrimination against gays.

Jamaica is under increasing pressure to accept homosexuality and homosexuals, a move that is being strongly resisted by a largely homophobic society. ‘Homophobia’ is the term gays use to describe persons opposed to their sexual preferences.

But academics have warned that the pressure, from rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and British-based OutRage! may trigger a backlash against gays who live here. Richards said she was prepared to face anything that comes her way.

“Even when blacks were fighting for freedom you (had) a backlash... We (homosexuals in Jamaica) will receive some backlash because whatever views heterosexuals have are deeply embedded,” she said. But Ingram argued that the situation “cannot possibly get any worse than it already is”.

“There are always gay clusters at straight events because, by its very nature, you have gay people living in the society,” she told the Sunday Observer. “We may chat behind their backs or whatever, but I don’t think there is going to be any greater backlash because at the end of the day everybody has some relative, some friend or somebody that they have slept with (who is homosexual or bisexual). We are just too interconnected here.”

The JFLAG executive theorised that Human Rights Watch’s 81-page report, “Hated to Death—Homophobia, Violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic”, had forced Jamaicans to admit that there was a problem with how gays and people living with HIV/AIDS were being treated in Jamaica.

“It has opened up a can of worms, so to speak, so that everybody can now get a look at what is happening,” he said. “It isn’t just some people coming together to say something that isn’t happening; and the fact that Human Rights Watch could have put together an 81-page report, interviewing over 31 people, shows that there is some truth to what is happening.”

The HRW report was released on November 16, sparking heated debate on the issue on the treatment of homosexuality locally. The Jamaican government rejected the report, essentially telling HRW to keep out of Jamaica’s affairs. But the bottom line is that members of the gay community simply want heterosexuals to accept their lifestyle. If not, gays hope that heterosexuals will, at least, just leave them alone.

“I would like to see a spirit of live and let live, and just a recognition and an acceptance that there are variations in human sexuality just like there are variations in people’s personality, belief in religion, physicality, taste in food. There are just variations,” Ingram said.

For Richards, an intelligent debate is vital. “I would like the media to seek out people who are versed and intellectual enough to give them the correct outlook on whatever the topic is. At the end of it all, people will gain a better understanding of what it is like being gay,” she said. “People tend to think that we get up and say, ‘Oh I am gay today and tomorrow I am not going to be gay’. It is not like that; it is who you are.”


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