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Roundtable 1 - Rebellious Praxis: LGBTI+ Organising and Navigating Citizenship in the Anglophone Caribbean

Participants: Angelique V. Nixon, Nikoli Attai, Xaiden Davis, Colin Robinson, Carla Moore

Scholars like Jacqui Alexander, Tracy Robinson and Amar Wahab have given importance to the “sexual inscriptions” of the postcolonial Caribbean state on queer bodies “unworthy of citizenship” (Alexander 1994). Much attention has similarly been given to law as a focus for change. In constitutional and treaty challenges initiated, some as long as a decade ago, Caribbean courts have recently modified or removed the force of six laws in three states criminalizing dress, movement and sexuality, sparking vibrant, often polarising conversation about gender, sexuality, and the state. In 2018, LGBTI+ communities in Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago held the first public Pride parades in the streets of their capital cities, a shift from longer legacies of celebrating pride internally. Queer Caribbean subjects have long recognized that solutions to discrimination and intolerance lie as much—or more—in transforming consciousness and cultural norms, and claiming space as citizens and kinfolk in imaginative and disruptive ways, as they do in formal engagement with the state or the law. In this roundtable, five scholars, activists and artists, whose work (as ethnographers in dancehalls and social networks, as organizers with CAISO and Transwave) focuses on cosmology, expression and social practice, will explore the rebellious and playful praxis of LGBTI+ people in Anglophone Caribbean states. This praxis has taken on intimate and symbolic forms of resisting, disrupting and transforming restrictive ideas about sex and gender expression. Some of the questions we will explore include: 1) how do we disrupt and refashion ideas of nation and belonging? 2) how do LGBTI+ folks negotiate intimate relationships and relationships to the state and its institutions beyond deploying the law? 3) what do recent court judgments in Belize, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago mean for life on the ground and LGBTI+ movements? 4) how do we keep rebellious, playful and everyday praxis at the centre for our work?

Session 1 - Valuing Inclusion and Exclusion

Chair: Marjan de Bruin

Carol Hordatt Gentles and Veleitha Davis-Morrison

"What is it Like to be a Teacher Trainee who Identifies as LGBTQ in Jamaica?"

Jamaican public education policies speak to ideals of promoting both caring and supportive learning environments for all students regardless of race, class, gender, disability or intellectual capacity. In light of global pressure to sanction public discrimination, the Ministry of Education promotes the view that LGBTQ students should be tolerated in educational spaces -but they should not be encouraged to express their gender orientation or gender identity. Thus, they continue to occupy spaces of exclusion and marginalisation in educational institutions. Their survival depends on their personal capacity to navigate such negative spaces and their luck in finding teachers who may be willing to support them. While research and media reports provide a picture of secondary school experiences of LGBTQ students, little is known about what happens to LGBTQ students who are teacher trainees in teacher education institutions. Reports from faculty suggest that although LGBTQ teacher trainees have suffered intolerance and discrimination in the past, things are changing for them. This information is, however, anecdotal. We do not know if this is indeed so because the stories of LGBTQ teacher trainees have not yet been told. To make space for these stories, this paper uses a qualitative inquiry with five teacher trainees who identify as LGBTQ and five teacher educators at a teachers’ college to explore the following questions. What are the experiences of Jamaican LGBTQ teacher trainees in teacher education facilities? How are experiences of exclusion and/or inclusion, marginalisation, discrimination, tolerance and/or intolerance described and understood by LGBTQ teacher trainees and faculty?


Orlando Harris, Leith Dunn, and Sharlene Beckford-Jarrett

"A Qualitative Study of Young Jamaican Gay and Bisexual Youth Experiences with School and Sexuality-Based Violence and Discrimination"

Gay and bisexual Jamaican adolescent males have experienced wide ranging acts of stigma and discrimination that are rooted in the cultural rejection of homosexuality. In this paper, we examined young Jamaican gay and bisexual adolescent males’ experiences with school and sexuality-based violence. We explored the circumstances that affected their continued engagement within secondary institutions and the various forms of discrimination they experienced. We conducted 20 in-depth interviews and one focus group with 10 participants in Kingston. Our findings described different variations of stigma, discrimination, and the patterns of violence that participants experienced as they transitioned from primary to secondary schools. Our findings further described the failure of administrators to respond to sexuality-based violence and participants’ perceived mistrust of school officials. We concluded by describing participants disengagement from some of the island’s secondary educational institutions. These findings serve as a catalyst for understanding how stigma and discrimination negatively impact the lives and educational attainment of Jamaican gay and bisexual adolescent males’, which may have an impact on their employment prospects later in adulthood.

Simone Harris

"JAMAICA: ‘Open’ for business: The Jamaica Association of Diverse Businesses (JADB)"

In 2017, a small grouping of LGBTQ entrepreneurs gathered in Kingston to meet with representatives from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). The desire to do business with LGBTQ-owned or -operated companies as well as those operated by allies of the community, sparked the birth of the Jamaica Association of Diverse Businesses (JADB) – a non-profit membership-based organization comprised of businesses and professionals committed to the economic growth and development of the Jamaican LGBTQ business community. The Association’s core belief is that diversity and inclusion makes us stronger and can enrich organisations anywhere. The JADB’s strategy towards achieving economic growth through inclusion requires painstakingly “Navigating the State” in the face of prevalent stigma against LGBTQ people throughout Jamaican society. The ultimate goal is to create change from within by advocating for equitable employment and procurement practices, opportunities for LGBTQ businesses to forge deeper connections throughout the private sector and even further to a global business community. As one of the newest members of the NGLCC’s Global Network of Chambers, the JADB is one of its kind in the Caribbean and is connected to a virtual silk road that runs through North America and Latin America, Europe, Africa and India planting seeds today that will undoubtedly blossom into a Jamaica ‘Open’ for Business.

Session 2 - LGBTQ and the Law

Chair: Ramona Biholar

Chen Foley

"Who am I? - Redefining the Public Identity of LGBT People in Bermuda"
In Bermuda, as with all extant and former British colonies and territories, the relationship between LGB people and the state has and remains defined by their legal status. Substantive progress towards LGB equality was not possible until the colonial era law criminalizing sex between men was first abolished in 1994. The extension of international human rights obligations, albeit in a context where direct enforcement is problematic, and adoption of human rights legislation from more progressive jurisdictions, have provided LGB people, advocates and allies with a legal basis for challenging socio-political norms, practices and legislation that are inconsistent with equal treatment of LGB. While the relationship between LGB people and the state has improved, such that there is greater visibility and tolerance of LGB people in Bermuda, broad social and political acceptance of LGB people has yet to be achieved. The pockets of acceptance that have emerged, for example within individual churches and in some of the Island’s (re)insurance companies, have served as new platforms for challenging socio-political barriers to LGB equality in a way that does not require direct engagement with the state. Despite progress made since 1994 in redefining the relationship between LGB people and the state, the position as it relates to trans people remains dire. Neither the constitution nor any local laws afford protection on the basis of gender or gender identity. The advancement of trans rights remains a real challenge to LGBT community in Bermuda.

David Northcott

"Just two words in the Bermuda Human Rights Act"

Two Words and a Comma (“Two Words”) was a volunteer activist co-operative group active for seven years from to 2006 2013 in Bermuda. The group formed in mid-2006 in the immediate aftermath of a controversial failed bid by a lone Parliamentarian in Bermuda to have the Human Rights Act (“HRA”) amended to include ‘sexual orientation’ as protected ground of discrimination. The mission of Two Words was explicitly to seek the inclusion of sexual orientation into the Human Right Act, and this was to be achieved through a combination of education, political campaigning, and other methods. The group saw its objective achieved in 2013 after sustained and targeted efforts by the group and others when the HRA was finally amended to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The presentation will discuss and explore:
-A brief history of the Bermuda Human Rights Act 1980 and other relevant legal instruments in Bermuda;
-A cultural, social, and political overview of Bermuda (and in particular with regards to LGBTQI persons);
-The tools, methods and strategies used by Two Words;
-An evaluation of the relative effectiveness of the different strategies;
-How the responses of the state changed over the seven years;
-The relevance of the approach taken by Two Words to the subsequent developments in Bermuda; and
-The role of other organisations and groups in and outside Bermuda in negotiations with the state.


MX Williams, Raihn McNish and Shadeana Mascull

"Domestic Violence and the LGBT Community"

Within the LGBT community domestic violence is consistently under-reported and concealed. It is important to know what role the state plays in this dilemma. Our paper will examine how the state, particularly the judiciary and legislative arms, deals with matters related to domestic violence within the LGBT community, which will take into account the analysis of statistics surrounding domestic violence; the cultural, social, environmental factors influencing the cultural attitudes of the state towards the LGBT community and examine how the National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate GBV (NSAP-GBV) and its conceptual definitions and assumptions limit the existence of the LGBT community. Additionally, we will suggest ways in which the state can establish policy frameworks for inclusion of the LGBT community in national statistics.

Panel 1 - Black Queeridades: Comparative Perspectives from Cuba, Brazil and Jamaica

Chair and Discussant:  Malayka SN

Tanya L. Saunders

"Monstrous Dreams and Monstrous Scenes: Bahian Queer Artivist Praxis and the Politics of Black Futurosity in Brazil" 

In this presentation, I center Black queer Bahian artivists’ (arts-based activists) aesthetic interventions into theories of liberation via the discourse of monstrosity, performativity and Afrofuturism. These Black Brazilian queer artivist are a part of a generation of artists who critically engage the concept of “the human,” in which they combine Afro-Futurism and Monstrosity Performance, both utopian frameworks, to challenge western ontological frameworks surrounding the concept of “human.” They do this as a way to challenge the coloniality of power and to redefine Black liberation. It is the sapatos pretas (Black Dykes) and the bichas pretas (feminine identified gay men) who are naming and offering the general public an alternative framework in which to name and to understand the interconnected forms of social oppression. They work to render visible various inclusive utopias, or rather they help the general public re-imagine ways in which everyone can get free. The success of artists working within this area is manifested in the incorporation of these Black queer aesthetics and discourses into emergent visions of Black liberation and Black identity praxis that are represented by mainstream Black hip hop artists such as Emicida, and in the emergence of the popular urban fashion movement associated with geração tombamento. Data for this presentation is drawn from field work in Brazil (2008-present).

Mariana Meriqui Rodrigues

"Resistência Sapatão: Black Lesbians, Necropolitics and Human Rights"

Political questions concerning human rights and the violation of sexual and reproductive rights in Latin America is an area in which injustices and violence have been naturalized. Implicit in this naturalization is the characterizing of part of society as non-citizens or non human. According to data released in 2016 by Transgender Europe, Brazil is the country that most kills LGBT people in the world, accounting for 46% of lethal violence alone. In the region of Latin America it accounts for 78% of the data, especially affecting the women of color in this group.In this paper I propose to reflect on these human rights violations, backed by the concepts of predatory states and necropolitics, to argue that states develop techniques and apparatus meticulously planned for the execution of a policy of cleanliness, disappearance and death, since the time of the dictators in the countries of Latin America. Since the 1960s states have been articulated in a systemic logic with the intention of controlling certain bodies of certain social groups. To develop this idea, I will use two recent cases, Luana Barbosa dos Reis who was a Black lesbian, and a poor woman brutally assaulted and killed by the military police of the state of Sao Paulo in 2016, and Marielle Franco, a Black lesbian, favelada (fro the slums), who became a councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro. She was executed with nine shots in March 2018. Both cases were denounced to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Alan Costa Bispo

"Bixas Pretas: Do Corpo Abjeto à Caricatura do Comportamento"

As bixas pretas no Brasil são exemplos de corpos dissidentes que intersscionam questões de raça, sexualidade, gênero e classe. Na perspectiva racial, seus corpos confrontam os estereótipos racistas que remontam uma hipermasculinidade ao homem negro. Na perspectiva de sexualidade e gênero, seus corpos tornam-se objetos de um desejo hipersexualizador e falocêntrico, que logo se transforma em abjeto, quando se relaciona à um comportamento não heteronormativo (feminilidade). Nas relações sociais, as representações de Bixas pretas beiram a caricatura de corpos que não servem para o amor, apenas para o entretenimento, piada, humor. Dessa forma, se instrumentaliza um processo de desumanização desses corpos dissidentes, através do desprezo às suas subjetividades.


"Bixas Pretas: From Abject Body to Contemporary Caricature" 

The bixas pretas in Brazil are examples of dissident bodies where questions of race, sexuality, gender and class intersect. From the racial perspective, their bodies confront the racialised stereotypes that inscribe hypermasculinity on Black men. From the perspective of sexuality and gender, their bodies become phallocentric objects of hyper sexualized desire that becomes transformed into something abject when it takes on a non-normative comportment (in this case, femininity). In social relations, the representations of bixas pretas border on a caricature of bodies that do not serve for love, but for entertainment, jokes, humour. In this way, it is instrumental in a process of the dehumanization of these dissident bodies through the contempt of their subjectivities. 


"Afrocentrando lo Queer en la Habana. Cartografía del Proyecto Motivito LGTBQI en la Habana"

Esta ponencia aborda el proyecto artivista queer, Motivito LGBTQI, que desarrollamos un grupo de académicos, intelectuales y artistas afrodescendientes LGBTQI en La Habana entre el 2013 y el 2015. Este proyecto emergió como una respuesta ante el florecimiento de las ideologías y políticas homonacionalistas y pinkwashing que se están produciendo en nuestro país. Las mismas promueven la criminalización y la patologización de los sujetos afrodescendientes y de bajos recursos de la comunidad LGBTQI, en especial las lesbianas negras y mujeres trans en Cuba. El proyecto Motivito proporcionó una plataforma de espacios de socialización y debate mediante la creación cultural crítica desde posicionamientos no heteronormativos y feministas ante el incremento de estas políticas de conservadurismo gay blanco-mestizo. El artivismo se convirtió en una herramienta de resistencia cultural ante el constante blanqueamiento y aburguesamiento de los espacios LGBTQI en la Habana. Fue un proyecto enfocado en visibilizar y celebrar las vidas de las mujeres lesbianas, trans y corporalidades transmasculinas y no binarias negras y afrodescendientes principalmente. Entabló diálogos con las comunidades locales y con otros activismos críticos en la ciudad. Como consecuencia, el proyecto promovió un debate de forma indirecta hacia las políticas de censura y control de las instituciones gubernamentales, que intentan desmovilizar la organización política LGTBQI fuera de las redes del aparato estatal. Mostró el potencial del arte y del artivismo como herramientas de movilización y constestación social no heteronormativas y afrocentradas, en un panorama político donde la protesta política tradicional no es posible.

Afrocentring the Queer in Havana: A Cartography of the Motovito LGBTQI Project in Havana
This presentation discusses the queer artivist project, Motovito LGBTQI, developed by a group of Afro-descended LGBTQI academics, intellectuals and artists in Havana between 2013 and 2015. The project was a response to the rise of homonationalist ideologies and policies and pinkwashing in our country, which promote the criminalisation and pathologisation of Afro-descendant and low-income LGBTQI people, especially black lesbians and trans women in Cuba. Faced with the rise of conservative gay white-mestizo policies, Motovito LGBTQI provided a space for socialisation and debate by creating cultural critiques based on non-heteronormative and feminist perspectives. Artivism has become a means of cultural resistance in the face of the constant whitening and bourgeoisification of LGBTQI spaces in Havana. The
project sought to visibilise and celebrate the lives of, in particular, black and Afro- descendant lesbians, trans women, nonbinary individuals and trans men. Motovito LGBTQI initiated dialogues with local communities and other critical activism in the city. As a result, the project indirectly facilitated a debate about censorship and control by government institutions, which are trying to demobilise political LGBTQI organising outside the state apparatus’ networks. The project showed the potential of art and artivism as tools for nonheteronormative and Afro-centred mobilisation and social contestation in a political environment in which traditional political protest is not possible.


Kedon Willis

"Transgressing Borders in the Dark: Disorienting the Optics of the 1918 Anti-Chinese Riots in Jamaica"

The 1918 anti-Chinese riots, which saw scores or Chinese-owned stores destroyed by largely Afro-descended peasant community members, are popularly remembered as one of the worst acts of interracial violence in Jamaica’s post-emancipation history. However, by examining the Gleaner coverage of the riots, and borrowing from Sarah Ahmed’s theory of queer phenomenology, I embark on a mapping project to help show the network of queer and anti-colonial collaborations within these communities that existed in tandem with interracial tensions. My aim is to show how a recapturing of these productive collaborations from the past can animate intersectional forms of activism in the present. I then explore how Patricia Powell, as a queer Caribbean writer, uses her novel Pagoda to perform the same work as the map in creating a counterhistory that gives voice to the anti-colonial, nation-building strategies of subaltern groups lost in the gaps of official colonial archives. The Pagoda explores these strategies through the transgendered figure of Lowe, an Asian immigrant who is both exploited by and benefiting from the patronage of a white landowner. Significantly, Lowe’s deepening affectionate ties to the black “yard boy” Omar expose the colonial imperative that relied on the material divisions in Jamaican society along lines of gender, race, and class. But their intimacy becomes a model for a national dialogue of memory that privileges cultural pluralism and functions as an example of queer relations that have quietly helped animate community formations in the country.

Session 3 - Making Spaces: Approaches and Advocacy

Chair: Karen Lloyd

Renae Green
"Presentation and Privilege: The Experiences of Trans Jamaicans"

Our paper will explore trans people’s ability to navigate spaces in Jamaica. This will be done by exploring two (2) specific areas - Presentation and Privilege. “Presentation” explores the diversity of trans identities as well as visibility and invisibility of the trans community and how it impacts experiences. “Privilege” explores the social economic status of members of the community, including educational background and employment.

Raihn McNish and Renae Green

"The Value of Feminism to LGBT Advocacy"
Our paper will explore the value of feminism and its contribution to LGBT Advocacy. This will be done by examining the impact of feminism, the intersectionalities and parallels that exist and how these impact LGBT advocacy. We will explore how feminist theories, approaches and actors within the LGBT movement have influenced broader acceptance and non-discrimination of the LGBT community.

Maya St Juste

"With love, Gully Queens: Inclusive Architecture for Trans* People in Jamaica"
With the unfortunate circumstance of being poor, black and from the inner city, transgender youth are more likely to be ridiculed and scorned in public spaces. They are not afforded the same privileges enjoyed by other members of society, including their 'uptown' counterpart. This phobia is rooted in a misunderstanding of sexuality and exacerbated by deep-seated post-colonial Christian beliefs which seeks to punish such individuals. This paper will explore queer spaces, specifically, how architecture can create safe spaces for the reintegration of Transsexual youth who have been cast out of their homes and into Jamaica's gullies. Although queer space is explored conceptually in architecture, this research will utilise the making of physical space, along with other experimental participatory design techniques, to investigate this concept. The appropriateness of the potential architectural solution will be tested through 1:1 prototypical space on selected sites for comparative study in both Kingston, Jamaica and Wellington, New Zealand. It is expected that architecture can be used as tool for social development and integration in the context of queer space.

Session 4 - Representing LGBTIQ+

Chair: Gillian Mason

Derniel O'Connor and Gillian Mason

"Media’s Influence on the Sexual Self-esteem of Gay Male Youth"

Sexual self-esteem affects one’s sexual and romantic self, also one’s social adjustment, general self-perception and quality of life. It is therefore important to one’s overall functioning within society. The development of one’s sexual self-esteem can be attributed to several factors, one such factor being the media. The media’s influence may be particularly salient for minority groups within a society who experience discrimination. This may likely be the case for Caribbean non-heterosexuals to whom the societies and the media generally demonstrate negative attitudes. With this in mind, this paper investigated how gay male Jamaican youth perceive the role of the media in the development of their sexual self-esteem. The study used the phenomenological approach to interview 12 gay male Jamaican youths between the ages of 18 and 24 from the Kingston Metropolitan Area. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data collected and generated the findings of the research. The findings of this study give insight into how the media influences a vulnerable group within the society and may be useful to local and regional media houses so they can recognize and address discriminatory narratives. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups may also find value in the results for strategizing in areas of advocacy, policy, and how to improve the psychosocial adjustment of gay male youth living in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. Additionally, gay males and by extension other non-heterosexuals may identify useful strategies to minimize negative media impact and foster high sexual self-esteem.

George McCaulsky

"Gendered Performances and Interactions in the Carnival Cultural State: Findings from a Content Analysis of Selected Jamaica Gleaner News Articles Written Between 2002 and 2013"

While Jamaica is often described as a country with rigid gender roles and well established anti-gay sentiments; carnival celebrations present unique situations in which varying levels of unabashed freedom and revelry from persons within the LGBT community are put on display. This paper presents on data collection, analysis and discussion in progress on this issue in an attempt to establish how the local LGBT community mitigates sexual identity, Caribbean belonging and representation in cultural spaces. This research explores the various positionalities evident in 6 selected news articles/editorials from popular Jamaican newspaper, The Jamaica Gleaner, published during the period 2002-2013. The articles examined dealt specifically with interactions between LGBT carnival patrons and the larger groups present during the various carnival marches. A content analysis of each article is ongoing, but has so far revealed that factors such as social class, gender, degree of openness/visibility and aspects related to the spiritual/mystical nature of carnival celebrations greatly affected the level of opposition, discrimination and violence that queer patrons have experienced. The results of this analysis provide insight into the broader issues of stigma and discrimination of the LGBTQ community in Jamaica and have highlighted the nuanced and situational nature of discriminatory interactions within the largely heteronormative performance geographies of carnival road marches and events.

Andrew B. Campbell

"Reporting LGBTQ Issues in Jamaican Newspapers: The Need for Resistance Narratives

The nature and style of reporting on LGBTQ issues within the Jamaican media have always been controversial and problematic. The deliberate use of language, deficit framing of arguments, negative assumptions, labels, and stereotyping are just a few among the many concerns held by LGBTQ advocates, activists, and allies. Through the use of document analysis, over 120 articles, including news, editorials, commentaries, letters to the editor and cartoons, from the two leading newspapers the Jamaica Gleaner and Jamaica Observer, published between 2000 and 2018, will be examined. The examination will provide an analysis of the image that has been presented to the public driven by the various styles of reporting and the impact of these frequently problematic and biased styles of reporting on the LGBTQ community. Elements such as physical placement of a piece within the paper, time of reporting, language, the method of the writing, and political or social agenda of the contributors, were factors that were revealed to have a significant influence on the heavy bias and deficit narrative. The paper will examine the increasing number of LGBTQ writers and allies who are working to challenge the popular narrative and using their writing as a means of resistance. The publication of pieces that are classified as counter-narratives will be examined for their work and worth as resistance pieces – writing with an aim to educate, claim space, advocate, and resist the deficit narrative.

Session 5 - LGBTIQ+ Citizens?
Chair: Rodje Malcolm

R. Anthony Lewis

"(Post-)creole Nationalism and Homophobia: The Shifting Tenor of a Political Discourse"
In the last two decades, two sets of public political discourses have emerged in Jamaica regarding LGBT issues. On the one hand, archetypical purveyors of the country’s national image, viz political and religious leaders, have made public pronouncements disparaging LGBT citizens and depicting homosexuality and the discussions on gender as threats to social stability. Joining politicians and religious leaders are the country’s popular musicians, many of whom promote a vision of the nation that is masculinist, heteronormative, and antigay. This discourse seeks and finds resonance with all social strata, providing a rallying cry to the ‘nation’ and bolstering its ‘Christian’ values. On the other hand, there is an increasingly strong LGBT rights advocacy, supported by global networks, that espouses a nationalism that is tolerant and inclusive. Initially strident and confrontational, this movement challenged from the trenches the dominant discourse on Jamaican nationalism. Yet, because of its status as a (post-)creole society, Jamaica’s social order remains imbricated in a global network that places its supposed values in a constant state of flux and contestation as it comes under influence from whichever geo-political centre it orbits. Drawing on theories of cultural creolisation and nationalism, this paper analyses the shifting tenor of the political discourse on LGBT issues in Jamaica from both the dominant culture and LGBT activists and advocates. It argues that the current discourse represents a new form of strategic nationalism that has deeps roots in the country’s creole culture of pragmatic accommodation.

Anna Kasafi Perkins 

“No problem with gays in my cabinet”?: Jamaican Politicians and Public Discourse on Homosexuals, 2008-2017
In 2011, Cowell and Saunders conducted a study of the public posture of key Jamaican policymakers, especially legislators, concerning homosexuals and homosexuality. Their study, which covered roughly 1997-2008, found that the discourse evinced “a settled heteronormative value system reflecting a consensus on either side of the political divide and applauded by popular culture and popular opinion”. One of their key conclusions was that, regardless of their personal feelings, no legislator showed any willingness to support a repeal of discriminatory public policy towards homosexuals, especially gay men. The researchers did not take account of such key factors as age, religious affiliation or gender in their examination. Much has happened since then, especially with changes in political leadership, with, for example, the election of Jamaica’s first female prime minister and its youngest prime minister. This presentation carries forward and updates the Cowell and Saunders research, using a similar content analysis of public utterances of key legislators. It questions whether the discourse on homosexuals and homosexuality has been impacted by the presence of a female prime minister or the youthfulness of the current incumbent. On the surface it does not appear that the discourse has moved along any further despite utterances such as, “I have no problem with gays in my cabinet” from both sides.


Matthew Chin

"Of (Homo)sex Crimes & Anthropology: Revisiting Sexual Citizenship in Mid-twentieth Century Jamaica" 

In this presentation, I revisit-mid twentieth century debates about the role of “deviant” forms of sexuality in the formation of Jamaican cultural nationalism. Participating in international exchanges about the “Negro problem” across the Americas, Jamaican anthropologists sought to validate what were seen to be aberrant forms of kinship such as “visiting unions” in their attempt to decentre Euro-American models of the nuclear family. Occurring alongside Jamaica’s formal independence from Britain and fervent contests over Jamaican national identity, these interventions were central to how Jamaicans came to understand sexual citizenship. Through an analysis of Jamaican court cases of “unnatural offences” in the 1950s, I examine how anthropologists’ contributions to the reconfiguration of Jamaican sexual norms occurred alongside the continued criminalization of male same-sex intimacies. The judgements issued in cases of “buggery” and “gross indecency” suggest that Jamaican lawmakers interpreted sex between men as a response to Euro-American cultural influences in ways that contravene contemporary understandings of male same-sex intimacies in terms of innate selfhood. By analyzing legal interpretations of sex among men alongside anthropological approaches to non-normative sexual arrangements among men and women, I highlight how the legitimization of some “deviant” forms of sexuality occur alongside the continued debasement of others. The expansion of sexual respectability in mid-twentieth century Jamaica nevertheless left intact the heterosexist foundation of sexual citizenship.

Roundtable 2 - The UWI Mona Security Act: Policing Space and Belonging
Chair: Deborah Thomas

Participants: Michael Williams, Tracy Robinson, Shani Bennett, Jovanté Anderson, and Courtney Daub

To explore the question of how LGBTQ+ Jamaicans navigate institutionalized spaces, one need not look further than the University of the West Indies itself. The University of the West Indies Mona Security Act, enacted by the University in 2002, is a microcosm of several larger structural issues that the LGBTQ+ community in Jamaica face. Effectively acting as vagrancy law, it gives law enforcement license to criminalize the very presence of LGBTQ+ people on the campus. The ramifications of this act may intensify even after the initial confrontation as individuals move through the legal system.

In a three-week ethnographic research study, we examined these issues, in addition to the landscape of advocacy, specifically how individuals and organizations are able to find safety and resist the social and legal discrimination they face. Through a combination of archival research and participant observation research with Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) and the University of the West Indies Faculty of Law Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP), we witnessed how professionals sought to challenge the legality of the act itself and assist LGTBQ+ people in negotiating their desires for both justice and safety through the legal system. We hope to organize a discussion alongside our paper detailing these efforts that includes representatives from these three organizations and individuals affected by the act.

Panel 2 - Parading our Defiance: Exploring the 2018 Pride Parade Celebrations in the English-speaking Caribbean and their Role in Advocacy
The recognition of queer communities remains an issue in the Caribbean, where most of the English-speaking Caribbean retain laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy. In 2018 three countries – Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago – hosted their very first pride parades in spite of the continued existence of these laws in two of those countries and a prevailing atmosphere of homophobia and intolerance. This panel will explore the factors that led up to the parades in each country, the challenges in launching them, and the legacy of these actions in moving LGBTIQ+ advocacy forward in each country, and in the region. The presentations by four panellists will cover an overview of global pride politics, purpose and research, along with individual presentations on each country’s parade, and a final question and answer segment with the audience.

Nastassia Rambarran

"Visibility, Community and Defiance: Pride Parades Around the World"
Claiming space in public is an important way in which marginalised communities increase visibility, address oppression and build community (McGarry, 2016). This presentation will examine the history of Pride and its attendant parades, the evolution of this representation in the global North, and the role it has played in advancing the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons. The research examining the culture of pride, how intersectionality is addressed, or not, and how political change can be affected as a result of these demonstrations, will be examined. Finally, an exploration of the factors that culminated in pride parades being hosted in the English-speaking Caribbean and what the implications are for the region, will also be addressed.

Joel Simpson

"Guyana and the Anglophone Caribbean’s Inaugural Pride Parade"
Guyana officially started celebrating Pride when the Guyana LGBT Coalition hosted the week-long Guyana Pride festival in May 2017. There was tremendous interest in hosting a Pride Parade at that point but the organisers agreed to an incremental approach. This presentation will focus on the activities that led up Guyana becoming the first country in the anglophone Caribbean to host a full-fledged LGBTIQ+ Pride Parade, the challenges encountered in mounting this activity and an examination of how this parade is now situated in the Guyanese LGBTIQ+ movement going forward.

Ro-Ann Mohammed

"Pride Barbados 2018"
Expression of LGBTIQ+ Pride has existed via multiple facets throughout the past few decades. With the emergence of LGBTIQ+ movement building and visibility through civil society, Barbados held its first official collaborative and community-led Pride Month Celebrations in June - July of 2018, which concluded with the community’s first Pride Parade. This presentation offers an overview of these events, highlighting the difficulty, triumphs, the necessity of strategic LGBTIQ+ partnership, ally support, women’s visibility within Caribbean LGBTIQ+ leadership and the importance of autonomously cultivating queer and trans Barbadian narratives to counteract the dominant narrative of queerness being a Global North import. This presentation will additionally offer a retrospective look at LGBTIQ+ visibility and action with a glimpse at strategic planning for the movement in the future for Barbados and the wider Anglophone Caribbean.

Rudolph Hanamji

"United4Love: T&T Pride 2018"
Although Trinidad and Tobago has celebrated Pride in various ways for over 30 years, the unsolved murder of a trans woman in 2017, the Jones v. T&T case and the unification of the regional LGBTIQ+ community provided the impetus for a five-week national pride festival showcasing 50 LGBTIQ+ events and culminating in the region’s largest public Pride parade, to date. This presentation will explore these deciding factors, the planning of the parade and the challenges of religious and conservative pushback, which exacerbated tensions and fear in the LGBTIQ+ community. It will conclude with an examination of what has emerged from the event, in terms of leadership, activism, ally-ship and resources and will outline the future place of Pride parades within the twin island republic. ​

Interactive Performance

MX Williams

"Identity, Othering & Belonging: My Trans ID"

As people, we freely move about across time, across space, across boundaries clear and unclear, however these actions are often undocumented. Performance art is based upon the body of the artist with limits in time, space, presence within a medium and a relationship with the audience. Identity, Othering & Belonging: My Trans ID is a long durational performance art piece that will be staged in open air. The artist will position themselves within the middle of the square, standing with a basket of blue balloons for one hour. Persons attending the conference will be given balloons to blow up and drop to the ground in the middle of the square. Inside the balloons will be messages or small notes with messages from persons within the trans community that have been collected over time to record their sentiments in relation to the lack of recognition of the community by the state. At different intervals throughout the performance, the balloons will be popped. The artist will be in a blue mask, painted blue and shorts and a tie-dyed fringed crop top in the trans Pride flag colours. I would prefer for the performance to start 15-30 minutes before the start time of the conference. The performance challenges the state to recognize that persons of trans experience exist and should be afforded the rights to adequate standards of living.

Roundtable 1
Session 1
Session 2
Panel 1
Session 3
Session 4
Session 5
Roundtable 2
Panel 2
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