When I heard Jamaica was hosting its first Gay Pride, my first thoughts were "I'll catch them on the 10th Annual after we see how the first few pan out." The island was once voted the most homophobic place on Earth by Time Magazine. That just does not sound like a pleasant pride experience. Ah but how quickly we forget that the first prides weren't about sex parties and musical guests but about equal rights and fair treatment issues, gays and lesbians in Jamaica face on a daily basis.
Jamaica’s “anti-sodomy law,” a holdover from British colonial rule, criminalizes “the abominable crime of buggery” and acts of “indecency” between men. Few have been convicted under the law, but many use it as pretext for unfairness and violence. Broadcasting companies have cited it when refusing to air ads promoting tolerance and respect for LGBT people. Dancehall music artists have used it to justify violent homophobic lyrics.
Many LGBT youth are forced to live on the streets after being kicked out of their homes. People can lose their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many avoid healthcare centers, even for HIV treatment, for fear of mistreatment. Mobs have attacked and even killed LGBT people. Few are investigated for these crimes, and even fewer are convicted.
Those with intersecting identities, such as lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender people seem to get a double dose of gendered violence and prejudice.
Overturning the “anti-sodomy law” requires not just a legal case but a transformation of social attitudes. Last year, threats forced activist Javed Jaghai to withdraw his challenge to the law. A 2011 poll found that about 76% of Jamaicans oppose amending the law. Even larger majorities believe that homosexuality is immoral.
Still Jamaica is pressing on. In a press release from JFlag this years festivities were outlined:
Jamaican gays and lesbians will be staging its first Pride celebration in August, the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) has announced.
PRiDEJA 2015 will be held under the theme. "The Pride of a People: Breaking the Rules of Oppression".
JFLAG is using crowd funding site GoFundMe to raise funds for the project, noting on the website that "Every dollar raised will support our mission to bring our diverse community together for a moment of celebration."
The exact date of the celebration has not been disclosed as yet but JFLAG said "This independence festival will be attended by over 1,000 persons."
"Planned events include an opening ceremony, a symposium, a cultural show, a flash mob, sporting activities, a trade show for LGBT businesses, and a party," the lobby group said.
The event already has one high-profile supporter in the form of Jamaican recording artiste Diana King. King, who revealed she was a lesbian three years ago, took to social media on Sunday to share JFLAG's plea to the "World" to support Jamaica's first Pride celebrations.
Pride celebrations are held across the world to celebrate the LGBT community.
August is the same month as Jamaica's Independence celebrations.
We wish them a safe and happy first pride.