PRiDE in JamaicaFriday, August 18, 2017
From August 1-7, thousands of members of the local and diasporic Jamaican LGBT community and allies celebrated PRiDE in Jamaica. Throughout the entire week I reflected on my own sense of pride and what it meant to be young, black, and gay in Jamaica, and how much of a privilege it was to be able to celebrate PRiDE and the opportunities afforded to me to even volunteer at different events for the week.
Although I didn't get to attend some of the events, I could feel the spirit of fervour imbued in the community as they educated others, conversed, and had fun. I also reflected on those who can't PRiDE — the many young people who are afraid of being outed, ostracised by their families, friends and co-workers for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or a person of trans experience. I reflected on my friends who are still afraid of safe spaces that PRiDE in Jamaica have created to celebrate who they are for once, rather than hide.
Three years and counting, PRiDE in Jamaica has had no major incidents and this is something Equality For All Foundation Jamaica should be proud of, especially in the midst of whispers that our country is one of the most homophobic in the world. I hope there will be even a drop of attention from the international media on this and that there will be a reshaping of the narrative.
I was very happy to see members of the Diaspora coming home and being welcomed with open arms to celebrate PRiDE, including the panellists at the PRiDE conference. The conference, for me, was significant in learning how to chart my plans for advocacy on LGBT issues here in Jamaica. Artivism and homophobia was one of the key discussions for me. Ulelli Verbeke, Guyanese photographer, spoke about her work in artivism and her unfolding project about gender expression.
Now questions about gender expression and gender identity swirl around in our heads. The story behind #OutLoudJA was also well received and presented key eye-openers about how people are responding to our difference.
PRiDE reinforces to me that we are not ashamed of our queerness and, in Jamaica ,allows members of the community to come together in numbers and celebrate our difference, our humanity. For me, PRiDE is healing the wounds that have been inflicted, both physical and emotional, by a heteronormative, heterosexist society.
PRiDE, for me, was celebrating for those friends who couldn't, and allowing their spirit to flow through me and express that in any way I can. Celebrating PRiDE is a privilege and never should we forget that. Pick up your flags and celebrate; reclaim your PRiDE.
LGBT youth advocate