A night with male prostitutes
The location: Upper St Andrew
Their merriment disturbs at least one neighbour but for the young men that hang out in this spot, the important thing is to have somewhere 'safe' to sell their wares - their bodies. They are all professional prostitutes and shared openly with all woman their reasons for choosing the profession.
"I prefer woman, but I try the gay thing for the money. But I'm still interested in men. When I was younger, I used to experiment with my brother," says Dwayne. "The gay thing is stronger money than straight prostitute."
Dwayne and his 21 year-old male co-worker, who prefers to be called Tamara Goodas jive each other as they list their prices.
For Tamara, the going price for felatio is $7,000, $15,000 for intercourse, if she's the recipient and $10,000 if she's the 'giver'.
"But sometimes they bargain down to $5,000 and $4,000," says Tamara.
But with this big buck earning potential, comes danger - a danger which some have felt and to which some have succumbed. This is also a constant for female heterosexual roadside prostitution. But according to Tamara they try to be prepared. "We all have our knives or machete stashed away," she said (they prefer to be referred to as females.)
He relays one incident. "One said that he would pay me $10,000, but at the end he only gave me $1,000. So I stabbed him and stole his watch. You steal whatever looks valuable when this happens".
"Some men even want to rape you," she continues while explaining that she had a friend who was killed by one of the clients. " A bad man stabbed him to death after the act. Sometimes these 'thug' men don't want anybody to know their business and so they kill the male prostitute they use."
The prostitutes didn't give any names, but insisted that politicians in Pajeros, entertainers, police, pastor and soldiers solicit their services.
At the time of our visit - about 10 pm - not all were working. At least one said he was visiting his friends and hanging out. He gives the name 'Frantic' and says that though he prefers women, he likes having sex with men.
Frantic is a 22 year-old taxi driver who lives in Portmore. He says that he's not a male prostitute, but that he goes there to hang out with his friends.
Outside of Dwayne, Frantic is the only macho acting man there. He stands by a tree and disappears into the shadow cast by the leaves and observes quietly. Both his ears are pierced, framing a dark, roughly handsome face.
He doesn't talk much and when he does, it's after what seems careful thought.
"The first man I had sex with was 10 years older than me. He liked me, but I was always turning him down. But one day, I gave in", says Frantic.
At the time, he was 14. He insists that he doesn't play the female part in intercourse.
Frantic, who doesn't have any children yet, has had a steady girlfriend for over a year now. Like most other people, his girlfriend has no idea of his other interests and he wants this to remain so.
And this is why he plans to halt his visits to the spot. "Too many police on the road now and I have to keep a low profile. Nobody is supposed to know anything about me,' he explains.
This double life or closet living to which Frantic refers is very much part of most of the gay prostitutes lives.
They don't give their real names and spend time to make up glamorous ones for the interview, because of the threat of discovery.
They peer into the Observer vehicle as they seek to verify whether or not a photographer or a camera is there. "Any hidden cameras," says one who calls himself Evita Peron as he pushes his head into the vehicle.
As some explained, the double life, which involves a macho facade to protect the other life, is a routine.
Tamara Goodas explains. "I can act like a girl and act like a boy to hide it. The girls who like me have no idea that I'm gay. But I use them to mind (support) me. The main one I have now, is about to send me abroad," says Tamara.
As she explains it, some clothes make you look masculine and when she needs to, she dresses in them.
And she changes her gait when necessary. (Three nights after the all woman interview, we saw Tamara Goodas, dressed as a 'thug' complete with his' bad boy' stride, cutting through a gritty downtown area.)
She also explains though that she prefers drag.
"I like dressing in drag, but you can't do it so freely in Jamaica. But I still work as a drag Queen here sometimes. I've done it in St. Martin, Trinidad and Tobago, but those places are nicer than here, she says. I want to go to England where they say you can wear your underwear on the streets as a man and nobody cares or notices."
Of those gathered, 36 year-old Romae was the eldest, most were barely past 22.
When Evita Peron says that being gay is seen as wrong, but she chooses that, Romae objects. "Don't say it's wrong, because then you people will feel that its right to kill us. They would just say that we admit it's wrong and are still doing it. But really, it's just another sin."
Romae has lived an openly homosexual life overseas and so is very much aware of the danger of exposure here. He also explains that here, homosexual prostitutes and their friends have to live as nomads when it comes to their work/'hang- out' spots. "Jamaica is a homophobic society. Everywhere we go, people find out who we are and we have to move.
Most of us can't live the life we want to in Jamaica. If we are discovered at a spot, we have to move soon after."
Initiation into homosexuality
Romae, Tamara Goodas, Evita Peron, Joyce, Fiesta and Michelle are all biological men. They however see themselves as women and outside of work, which is male homosexual prostitution, they seem a tight bunch that party together, sometimes dressing in drag.
Joyce, however, is not a prostitute. She hangs out with her friends at the spot.
They explain to all woman that they like having female friends, but prefer males as lovers.
Of the six, Joyce had her homosexual initiation the latest. She was 21 at the time. Tamara was 13, Romae 14, Michelle 16 and Evita 17.
Venetia is a sex worker and in five minutes gives us a summary of her life. He tells of how he was introduced to same sex intercourse at 14, by an adult at the downtown boys school he was attending.
"There was this older man who kept bothering me. I finally gave him the go ahead and I liked it. And I've been hooked since then. I'm now 24 and it happened at 14, so I've been gay for a while," he said.
They all insist that 'most Jamaican men have been with men' and that many married men visit them.
Some admit to having heterosexual relationships, often in which the woman prefers unprotected sex. Tamara Goodas for example, says that she has female girlfriends as a guise and that they have unprotected sex.
He also says that he has unprotected sex with his male lovers, but not so with customers.
Aside from their hangout in Upper St Andrew, they meet men at house parties and select hangout spots in the New Kingston and Waterloo areas of Kingston.
Who is their biggest clientele - homosexuals or bisexuals?
"Most of the men are married with children who say that it (sex) is better with us than with their wives," says Joyce.
The man that I'm with says that I am tighter than his wife, who has three children for him," chimes in Tamara Goodas.