LGBTQI+ Life Experiences: Home and Abroad
Chair: Dave Gosse
National Survey for Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons in Jamaica
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Jamaica, as in many other countries globally, face challenges often due to a lack of support; stigma and discrimination; as well as violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. These inequities result in a difference in the enjoyment of basic human rights when compared to the general population. The national LGBT survey aimed to assess and produce insights on the impact of exclusion, stigma, and discrimination on the lived experiences of LGBT persons in Jamaica. In addition, the survey endeavoured to provide actionable recommendations that may inform the development and implementation of inclusive public policies to aid in establishing an equitable and just society. The research considers eight thematic areas where exclusion, stigma, and discrimination may be experienced:
1. Violence due to prejudice and discrimination
2. Human Rights
4. Employment and Employability
5. Sense of Belonging
7. Standard of Living
8. Political and Social Participation
Keith A. McNeal
Europe as Trap Door: Trans Migration as a Microcosm of Globalization
This paper compares and contrasts the experiences of two transwomen from Trinidad and Tobago who migrated to Europe—one by seeking asylum, the other by marrying a European citizen—as a microcosm of the changing political economy of globalization and transnational topography of sexual citizenship. Ashily (now 49 years old) led a dramatic life coming of age in Trinidad, transitioning almost overnight at the age of seventeen years old, working firstly as a street-based sex-worker for more than a decade and later as a regional United Nations gender and social justice advocate, then was the third Trinbagonian to seek asylum in the Netherlands based on SOGI claims in 2011. She is now living and thriving as an activist and social-worker in Amsterdam. Gabrielle (now 37 years old) was born of Trinidadian and Vincentian parentage on St. Vincent, then migrated as a child along with her mother and sister to Trinidad, where she attended secondary school as a boy before gradually beginning to transition to a more genderqueer feminine identity throughout her 20s in TT, during which time she was actively uninterested in any forms of bodily intervention. She considered the pros and cons of seeking asylum in Europe and North America, but in the process met an older German man online to whom she is now married and living in southern Germany. At the time, she was relieved to not have to navigate the technocratic asylum machinery, yet she is having a major existential crisis about her identity—ironically, much worse than when living in TT—now that she is settled in Europe. This crisis has precipitated due to a convergent set of circumstances related to being a non-white transwoman in a predominantly Euro-white context, as well as facing a host of ironically unaccommodating bureaucratic and logistical blockages in relation to her transness in what was supposed to be the more “enlightened” context of Europe. She now wants a sex change, as she feels that biomedical surgical transformation will help solve her problems of living in Germany. I examine their respective experiences and trajectories a half-generation apart in order to better understand the changing sex-gendered realities of the contemporary Caribbean, international LGBT Rights formations, North Atlantic homonationalisms, asylum law, and the late neoliberal political economy of queer and trans asylum-seeking vis-à-vis Gossett, Stanley & Burton’s (2017) concept of the trap door: neither entrance nor exit, but a secret passageway leading elsewhere. Building upon my previous work on the politics of queer and trans Trinbagonian asylum-seeking in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (McNeal 2019; McNeal & Brennan 2021), this paper shows how patterns of trans migration are central—rather than marginal—to understanding the politics and possibilities of place in the global present. In so doing, it also reflects upon the perversely paradoxical modern antinomies of “freedom.”
Dwelling Among the Straights: Tertiary-level LGB Students Navigating Life on Dorm in Jamaica
The lived experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students is a contemporary issue for Caribbean educational administrators in higher educational institutions (HEIs). This study examined the life-world of 27 LGB students and alumni of Jamaican HEIs who identify as LGB, using a descriptive phenomenological approach. The findings suggest that among the varied types of homo-traumatic experiences LGB students encounter on higher education (HE) campuses, those who live on dorm encounter particular types of stigma and discrimination as a direct result of their known or assumed LGB orientation - compared to commuting LGB students who also face homonegativity, but do not have to live on campus.
Dorms are long-term living communities that mimic the larger society and are populated by actors such as Resident Managers (RMs), Student Resident Assistants (RAs) and other students who police the sexuality of student residents, thereby enforcing heteronormativity as a compulsory archetype of acceptable dorm and university culture and sexual expression. This study uncovered that LGB dorm students lack support, community and security, and are forced to employ tactics intended to camouflage their sexuality, thereby avoiding harsh homonegative penalties.
This study adds to the general body of knowledge, and specifically, to what can be known about the Jamaican LGB context. It underscores the need for trauma-informed HEIs, provides insights into how dorm microenvironments impact the overall lived experiences of LGB university students, and how they perceive the climate would be to them being open about their LGB sexuality.
Queer Bermuda: Exploring the Colonial Space in a Post-colonial World
Participants: David Northcott, Liz Christopher, Chen Foley
The "place" that is Bermuda is unique when compared to other countries in the region, because it remains an overseas territory of Britain. This creates a nuanced constitutional settlement that has potential to both help and harm progress towards equity for queer people.
The nuance of the Bermuda experience is that you can be from this remote place in the middle of the Atlantic, but your experience can very much be dictated at times by things that go on elsewhere.
In terms of LGB progress, there has been home grown legislative and social progress.
However, recent legal efforts to advance LGB issues have sought to invoke legislative and common law frameworks and concomitant institutions which are not-Bermudian, both to advance and to block continuing progress.
This session provides an update on recent progress in LGB rights, and explores the legitimacy of seeking support from external influences to shape the lives of Bermuda's queer community.
Caribbean LGBTQ+ Activism in Focus: Exploring the Role of Place, Connections and Cross-boundary Exchanges
Roundtable Participants: Nastassia Rambarran, Ro-Ann Mohammed, Karen Naidoo, Joel Simpson
This roundtable centers LGBTQ+ activism in the Caribbean region, exploring its relation to space, place and the diaspora. It engages with several pertinent conference questions, including how does location matter? How are LGBTQ+ people taking up space? How does international development and its institutions engage with the Caribbean as a particular place? And how are LGBTQ+ engagements across boundaries navigated?
It will open with a discussion of the limitations and opportunities inherent to queer Caribbean activism as a result of geography and place. These will be placed in conversation with history and colonialism in order to unpack the multifactorial influences and continuing reverberations. This will be followed by a contemporary assessment of Caribbean representation in the international development sphere. It will ask questions such as does our representation have a tangible impact on the ways in which resources are allocated and distributed to grassroots communities or is this representation tokenism? How can this process be ethically and sustainably continued within the nonprofit sector without reproducing neocolonial cycles of harm?
Within these contexts the roundtable moves on to foster deeper discussions that highlight the advantages of knowledge sharing and mobilizing initiatives between the Global North and Caribbean communities. The focus will be the Bring Dem Up program, which started during the early days of the Covid pandemic, when refiguring the meanings of advocacy was necessary. The program has been an opportunity to work with post-secondary students in Canada, while granting them the opportunity to understand the specific needs of Guyanese LGBTQ+ peoples and their communities. The final three discussants will therefore provide an overview of the program, its genesis, benefits and practical realities, to introduce another paradigm for what cross-boundary exchanges can look like in the current activist landscape.
Queer activism in a “small place”
Description: This presentation is based on the researcher’s multi-methods PhD thesis investigating queer activism in Barbados and Guyana. It will expound on how geographical size has intertwined with coloniality to influence the way in which LGBTQ+ activism has evolved in these Caribbean contexts, offering insights for the rest of the region
From Grassroots to Global Development: The Impact of Global South Activists Occupying Space in the Nonprofit Industrial Complex
Description: This presentation will explore how Global South activist communities (particularly LGBTQ+ people and people of marginalized genders) are represented in staff and decision-making roles within the international nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. It will also explore how this extractive system poaches activist workers from their communities into a cycle of burnout and disposal, and the ethical and sustainable solutions to these issues.
Bring dem Up & SASOD Guyana: Stitching Patches of International Service Learning into the Principles of Advocacy
Description:. The presentation discusses the significance of service-learning programs like Bring dem Up, which is an international knowledge exchange "researchship" for students in North America and the region. It will illustrate the inception process and practical benefits of bridging geographies to focus on the needs of the LGBTQ+ communities in the Caribbean and those who live abroad.
Not Everything is About Money: How can Avenues of Advocacy Create Windows for Other Opportunities
Description: This discussion will share concrete examples of how the Bring dem Up program has benefited organizations such as SASOD Guyana. It will highlight some of the programmatic strategies that enabled the development of tangible infrastructure to support grant searches, and how this model can be used to transfer non-financial resources between the Global North and the Global South.
Sexual Dissidence in Haiti: A Reading & Conversation with Myriam J. A. Chancy
Myriam J. A. Chancy & Natália Affonso
This session offers readings from Chancy's re-issued novel, Spirit of Haiti (SUNY 2023), followed by conversation with Brazilian scholar/translator, Natalia Affonso, who has written on sexual dissidence in the works of Michelle Cliff and Nicole Dennis-Benn. The novel recounts the lives of four witnesses to military-ruled Haiti in the early 1990s as the country struggles to maintain its sovereigny. At the centre of the story is Philippe, a young sex worker and unwitting drug runner, and Leah, a metres fey or rootworker, as they reconcile their spiritual knowledge against the negation of their identities as "M," or same-sex loving individuals, and lend this knowledge to others as the society about them becomes increasingly repressive.
In our session, we wish to answer some of the questions raised by the call for papers, regarding "who has imagined or is imagining the queer Caribbean, and how," who has the power to define queerness in Caribbean space, and queer boundary crossings and movement from the Caribbean to Brazil. Our aim is to think together (mete tet ansanm) about how and why Haitian queer identity articulates itself in resistance to LGBTQ+ North American nomenclature, particularly when articulated from below (the poor and working class), in a conversation about the complexities of "M" and queer existence/resistance in the Haitian (historical) context and larger Caribbean/Latin American present-day realities. We are particularly interested in how such identity reveals itself when entwined with and through revolutionary konbit (collective) practices to compel the persistence of Haiti's freedom.
Making Spaces and Place-Making Across the Region
Chair: Jaevion Nelson
Between the Walls: Ruination and New Sexual Worlds in Barbados
LGBTQI+ people are claiming and co-opting space in creative and radical ways in the Caribbean, and this allows us an opportunity to understand the queer experience beyond limiting notions of disease, violence, and mortality. In this paper I examine how abandoned hotel projects in Barbados are haunted by traces of queer life and present opportunities to understand the actualization of queer desire within a context of disease and state-sanctioned discrimination. Colonialism has long been at work ruining the Caribbean, evident in economic drain, political rivalries and the racialized gender systems established by colonial powers, that are exacerbated by neo-colonial discursive, economic, and political practices. The abandoned hotel tells the history of colonial empire in the Caribbean: its having been treated as the brothel of Europe; its continued framing as a sexual destination and thus reliance on the tourist industry. Simultaneously, the empty building provides an opening for the contemporary queer co-opting of the space, intended for leisurely use by wealthy foreigners, now a playground for locals. Still, queer praxis occurs in the shadows, not visible, relegated to the margins and having to confront religious homophobia, and discourses of disease and decay. I resist a limiting depiction of queer life and shift the narrative to demonstrate how queer people make life happen, make life happy, healthily, pleasurable, and whole (enough). I explore graffiti, some warding off the gays, promising them punishment, and others inviting them to fulfil their desires. I also think about debris, like empty rum bottles and discarded condom boxes left in the wake of sexual encounters, to understand the erotic place-making practices that occur in such spaces of excess.
Clear Deh Road: The Path to Liberation for LGBTQIA Peoples in St. Croix
In 2018, the island of St. Croix made history with the first-ever pride parade to be held within the Virgin Islands. St. Croix Pride, Inc. stood at the frontlines and decided to break out of the closet by coordinating the parade despite pushback and concerns, a charge led by a high school student who had brought the idea forward to begin with. Though the 2018 pride parade was the inaugural parade and the largest LGBTQIA event in the Virgin Islands at the time, the weeks leading up to it were just as notable. The LGBTQIA community of St. Croix endured weeks of an anti-LGBTQIA media storm coming from local news, radio stations, and social media ahead of the parade. Threats of violence, including mass murder, frightened and shook the community making entire families feel unsafe. The LGBTQIA community of the Virgin Islands watched as the same cisgender heterosexual family, friends, and peers who seemed to accept or at least tolerate us on a regular basis expressed their deep, long held hate and vitriol as the news of the parade seemed to take over every conversation, news outlet, and social media timeline. On the day of the parade hundreds of Crucian LGBTQIA peoples and allies proudly took a stance and made history despite vandalism, counter-protestors, and threats against our lives. Clear Deh Road details the story of this historical event and the way it revolutionized visibility and inclusivity for LGBTQIA people throughout the greater Virgin Islands.
Suzanne C. Persard
Conceptualizing LGBT Danger Zones: Paradoxes of Place
This paper draws on my experience working as a human rights expert in my capacity as a former LGBT Thematic Specialist for Amnesty International (2015-2019) specializing in asylum cases from Jamaica. Since the infamous TIME Magazine article deeming Jamaica the so-called “most homophobic place on earth” in 2006, the rhetoric of proving the very “homophobic” geography of the island has been crucial to the premise of asylum cases. In fact, successful asylum cases largely depend upon the premise in which asylum-seekers can argue that a place is, in fact, inherently “homophobic.” In this paper, I examine the extreme and simultaneously paradoxical dependence upon the concept of “danger zones” within human rights rhetoric. As such, I emphasize the ways in which the racialized and stigmatized designation of “dangerous” geographies of homophobia are often counter-intuitive to discourses of local LGBT rights organizing, as well as at odds with national discourse advancing the rights and recognition of these communities.
LGBTQI+ Representation, Media, and Queer Archiving
Chair: Shani Roper
Stargyal, Starbai, and Starqueer: LGBTQ+ Guyanese on Screen, from Short Film to TikToks and Reels
Whether in Guyana or in North American diaspora, LGBTQ+ Guyanese employ video formats in depicting gender euphoria to erotic self-making in telling their own narratives. Short films and social media short videos function as a communication infrastructure and storytelling fabric situated more deeply in a network of interaction, placemaking and safe-place creation, affective exchange, and cultural stewardship. Whether they be actors part of a film crew or DIY content creators with a smartphone, LGBTQ+ Guyanese resist transqueerphobia rooting from colonial persecution and take control of their own stories in sharing a range of diverse and nuanced experiences on screen. This essay examines the medium of short videos and accompanying platforms to understand the intersections of LGBTQ+ Guyanese experience with Caribbean culture, trans and queer Guyanese representations of joy and euphoria on screen, the interethnic and cross-cultural kinships LGBTQ+ Guyanese build in diaspora, and Guyanese LGBTQ+ diasporic conversations with back home. This presentation interrogates these themes as part of the forthcoming thesis The Cultures of Trans and Queer Guyanese Communication.
Andrew B. Campbell
The Power of Counter Narratives: LGBTQIA+ Issues in Jamaica
LGBTQIA+ issues have been depicted in stereotypical, controversial, and problematic ways throughout Black and Jamaican media through hate-based language, deficit argument framing, and negative assumptions. The limited and discriminatory media discourse on LGBTQIA+ issues perpetuate the largely negative and one-sided sentiments held by the Jamaican population about this community. This project began several years ago as 135 articles and cartoons from Jamaican newspapers were examined through qualitative document analysis. Narratives of trauma, oppression, hate, shame, embarrassment, violence, and poor self-esteem emerged. To demonstrate the power of counter narratives, artists created new portrayals of the Jamaican LGBTQIA+ community with empowering and inclusive messages. I intend to expand this work internationally, culminating in an exhibition to be mounted within the Canadian, Jamaican, and wider Caribbean Black LGBTQIA+ community. Much of academic literature comes from dominant voices and ignores the specific issues and challenges faced by Black, racialized, and immigrant queer people. This work is designed to elevate their voices and highlight their stories in the hopes of ensuring greater Black queer representation in media and general texts. My research questions are as follows: 1) What kind of imagery and messaging is being communicated by major news outlets in Jamaica and Ontario surrounding Black LGBTQIA+ issues and community members? 2) What impact does this imagery, combined with socio-cultural norms, have on Black LGBTQIA+ community members? 3) How can we use counter-narratives to disrupt and dismantle deficit thinking in our society about Black LGBTQIA+ people?
Mariko Rooks and Michael Williams
Archiving Space Through Making Space in the Archive: Analyzing and Building Queer Jamaican Spaces in Creating a Jamaican LGBTQI+ Archiving Project
In April 2023, a group of multidisciplinary researchers set out to support the work of a Jamaican University of Miami PhD candidate interested in the creation of an archive to house the histories of Black Queer Jamaicans through conducting intergenerational oral histories. The creation of this archive will help existing efforts to honour and immortalize members of the Jamaican LGBTQI+ community who are still living, those who have died, and those who remember them in the face of historical erasure. The creation of such an archive would not only be beneficial to scholars, advocates, and otherwise interested persons, but also to the Queer Jamaicans who continue to seek out their history, representation, and solidarity.
One of the most prominent themes that span preliminary archival oral history conversations is imagining and enacting a nuanced, culturally rich queer Jamaica as a space of resistance, futurity, and survival. This paper will conduct a qualitative mixed-methods analysis of these themes and discuss how building and structuring an archive to house these conversations makes these creations of place visible, placing into conversation institutional physical space-building by policymakers at J-FLAG, legal spatial protections campaigns developed by the former University Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) coalition, and the literary development of a Jamaican homeland that re-imagines queer justice through traditional parables.
We Believe, We Transform: Cultural Confidence as the Solution to the Colonial Hesitation of the Caribbean
Angelique Nixon, kellog nkemakolam, Johannah-Rae Reyes, Rae Alibey, Chinyere Brown
“The only way to ensure such rights and freedoms, to extend full human dignity to others, is to domesticate the sense of justice people feel towards each other. No matter how much external suasion exists, it is really local ownership that will prove transformative.” - Colin Robinson This roundtable features an engagement with the feminist LGBTQI+ civil society organisation CAISO: Sex and Gender Justice in Trinidad & Tobago and our Wholeness & Justice Programme. We will offer reflections on our philosophy of collective care and unshakeable cultural confidence in a future free from discrimination and violence, a future where human rights are respected. We believe that where the colonial hesitation of our political leaders and duty-bearers fails us, our cultural confidence and feminist-sexual decolonial praxis will advance the calls for justice and human rights for all. CAISO’s work is guided by eight core values that underpin how our work is designed, implemented, reported and sustained: Wholeness, Justice, Imagination, Inclusion, Empowerment, Community, Accountability, and Feminism. These are the concepts we use to approach change-making and transformation in our communities and systems. From these eight core values, our programmes and projects emerge. The Caribbean is often described as being forged from the crucible of modernity. This begs the question, can’t we re-shape, re-model, and forge something else. Our answer is yes, and we will tell you how we do this every day in Trinidad and Tobago. We will offer practical examples of how we activate feminist and sexual praxis and collective care in our work that seeks transformation and justice.
Wholeness and Justice: A Philosophy of Transformative and Collective Care
We created the framework and philosophy of Wholeness and Justice as our pathway and approach to transformation, collective care, and social change. CAISO established the Wholeness and Justice programme in 2020 to expand access by diverse LGBTQI+ people in Trinidad & Tobago to wholeness, justice, and social services. The Programme responds to violations of LGBTQI+ community members, with an emphasis on trans, non-binary, gender- non-conforming and intersex people; and to deliver clinically competent, trauma-informed interventions that enable healing and resilience.
The Wholeness and Justice philosophy is decolonial, feminist, queer, trans, and class conscious prioritises those most marginalised because of sex and gender. Our approach to wholeness and justice is situated in the understanding that to activate legal and political forms of justice, one must also include support for psycho-social care and basic needs. This presentation will offer an overview of the programme, philosophy across our work, and how it can be a model of transformative and collective care for sexual and gender justice work that is rooted in place and decolonial.
Beyond Decriminalisation: The State, The Law, and the Culture
Contemporary jurisprudence continues to evolve in ways that affirm the unconstitutionality ofthese colonial-era laws around sexual conduct, which disproportionately impact LGBTQI+ people. The colonial foundation of our society ensured that our nation's systems and structures, centred heterosexuality as the norm and ideal, and all other sexual and gender expressions, as perverse. The lack of protective legislation to proscribe the particular kinds of violence LGBTQI+ people face, may be construed as acquiescence to that violence on the part of the State. Even when private consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex is decriminalised, without a robust anti-discrimination infrastructure, LGBTQI+ people are unlikely to experience any material difference in their everyday lives. Violence towards people based on their (real or perceived) LGBTQI+ identities remain prevalent and the lack of a response from the State is glaring.
We engage the State apparatus enabled by the data produced, which recognises the intersecting experiences of clients through the Wholeness and Justice programme. With a view of the wholeness of individuals, courts, workers’ unions, public and private sector are used as vehicles for justice and sites for continued advocacy for the full inclusion, protection and enjoyment of human rights for all.
Signing Together: How are LGBTQI Caribbean citizens included and inclusive?
Sign language interpreters are powerful gatekeepers between Deaf people and a hearing world. Deaf people often require interpretation to communicate with others about sensitive, personal and emotional matters (e.g., sexual health, domestic violence), and may be victims of their interpreters’ values, biases and sense of shame. Opportunities for Deaf LGBTQI+ persons to enjoy LGBTQI+ community and access the services and programmes provided by LGBTQI+ organisations are similarly limited by language barriers.
This presentation offers insights into how the project Sign Together supports those who want to bridge the gap between the hearing and Deaf worlds. This work seeks to eliminate biases and negative stereotypes to co-create a culture of inclusion within the spaces we control as
an LGBTQI+ organisation.
Baptism in Woodford Square: TQ+ sex workers Re-imagining and Claiming Space and Place in Trinidad
Community engagement and casework through Wholeness and Justice programme includes a focus on people engaged in sex work and informal economy, particularly trans, queer, and intersex people, as well as migrants. This work began during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and the ways migrant women and people of trans experience were excluded from much of the national response/grants. Vulnerability and marginalisation have forced community to activate different ways to make a living and forge alliances between community groups working to support sex workers and trans community. Historically, there are spaces in Port of Spain where trans folks (but then called drag queens or “dress-up girls”) and other gender non-conforming folks would re-imagine and re-claim space in Woodford Square and get baptised with their chosen names. This little-known experience of community space-making is a vital one for us to name and claim as a part of queer/trans- history in the Caribbean.
Wholeness and Justice programme supports trans community through vital legal services (from name changes to supporting clients getting protection orders) and navigating social services and advocating for gender-affirming healthcare. This presentation will highlight the clinical services provided to community members and the engagement with community support efforts through the food bank, share space events, and support groups. Working collaboratively with partner organisations such as Friends for Life, Trans Coalition, and PAM, our work features a unique approach to community support, self-advocacy, and alliance building.
Transformative Public Education, Creative Imagination, and LGBTQI+ Inclusion
Research and public education work in concert to support informed opinions, decisions and policies. They are essential when considering how we share information with community members about their rights, identities, histories and the social landscape of the region. Engaging imagination is a cornerstone of effective communication around many decolonial, LGBTQI+ rights issues. Visual art and design become invaluable tools in this context. This presentation will highlight some of our education work including the production of resource guides (namely the social service navigation guide and education to empower series), our planning and future work around a sex worker policy and discuss the importance of visual art for public education. This work also includes attention to the creative imagination as a guiding principle for cultural transformation and celebrating Caribbean LGTBQI+ voices through our annual BackChat event and Art Showcase, as well as through workshops and events activating healing justice.
Navigating Queer Survival, Finding Affirmation
Chair: Isis Semaj-Hall
Walk Good an Come Mek Wi Go: Analyzing Place and Geopolitics Affecting Queer Dancehall
Following up on the work of my dialogical undergraduate thesis conversing with the presence and considerations of queer dancehall, this project seeks to understand where queer dancehall is possible and what historical, cultural, and material conditions (or geopolitics) make a queer dancehall not only possible but also visible and viable. In invoking queer dancehall, this project posits dancehall as a site of violent homophobia in service of the state and its cisheteropatriarchy while simultaneously holding space for erotic autonomy where women, queer, and trans identifying people have control over their bodies, sexualities, desires, and pleasures. Here, dancehall operates as radical care, in which practitioners actively confront and dismantle (post)colonial norms to secure and better their marginalized futures.
In tracing queer spaces and places both in Jamaica and the US, this project conducts a virtual ethnography using dancehall lyrics, scholarship, and online videos (e.g. tutorials and performances) in addition to activist work by organizations like J-FLAG/Equality JA. More concretely, this project thinks about the recent formations of queer dancehall by performers like Shenseea, Jada Kingdom, and Spice alongside the work of dancehall artist Drew Angel and the work of nonprofit organization Caribbean Equality Project (CEP) both based in New York. Situated somewhere between Black queer studies, Caribbean anthropology, performance studies, cultural analysis, and transnational feminism, “Walk Good an Come Mek Wi Go” attempts to piece together queer Caribbean livelihoods and their relations to bodily autonomy through my positionality as a queer Afro-Jamaican diasporic femme and US-based researcher.
Andrew B. Campbell and Kaschka R. Watson
Recounting Tensions, Trauma and Triumph: A Duoethnographic Approach of the Experiences of Two Black Male Gay Educational Leaders
This presentation is a description of duoethnographic journey as an approach in which we explored the similarities, differences and nuances of our experiences as Black gay men who have navigated homophobia in Jamaica and are now living and teaching in Canada as educational leaders. Through a duoethnographic methodology, we engaged in personal reflections and dialogic narratives that were enriched with emotions and were rooted in reflective research that enabled us to analyze our experiences in relation to our intersecting identities as we shared empowering stories that seek to disrupt and dismantle homophobia in the Caribbean education systems. As authors, we discussed the following four core sub-topic areas of our experiences; 1) Early years: Recounting and coping through traumatic experiences in homophobic Jamaica; 2) Navigating tensions: The church, religion, and sexual identity; 3) Visibility: Being our authentic selves; and 4) Triumph and Black joy. After discussing each sub-topic, we met through Zoom and reviewed emergent themes and nuances of our experiences to help enrich the data collection and analysis process. As educational leaders and scholars in Canadian academic institutions and activists for the LGBTQ community, we recounted the tensions, trauma, and triumph of our experiences as gay men in homophobic Jamaica and offered our readers with substantial implications for education, educational leaders, policy-makers, and stakeholders on how they can intentionally act to foster bravery, care, well-being, belonging, safety, transformative leadership and advocacy leadership toward disrupting and dismantling homophobia within education in Jamaica.
Carla Moore and Rich Richards
‘Man’ a Badman: ‘Badness’ as a Tool for Survival and Affirmation Within the LGBTQIA+ Community
Between 2020 and 2022 Jamaica had the highest homicide rates in Latin America and the Caribbean. Simultaneously, the country’s population, including its LGBTQIA+ community, hints at the normalisation of violence and aggression (referred to here as ‘badness’) as the hallmarks of masculinity, and ‘bad’ men as the ideal partners and protectors. Case in point Skeng’s Protocol and Talibhan, his duet with Stalk Ashley (which encapsulate the aforementioned trends) were the second and third most streamed Jamaican songs on Youtube in 2022. How do the commonplaceness of crime and violence delineate what is considered ‘real’ masculinity and what is deemed attractive in masculine partners? And how does that impact and shape norms and preferences within the LGBTQIA+ community, including their most intimate relationships? Moore (2020) examined the deployment of badness as heterosexuality among gay bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in Jamaica’s dancehall. This paper expands this work by examining how badness may be employed as a marker of heterosexuality among GBMSM within and outside the dancehall space, and as an affirmation of masculinity among masculine-presenting lesbians. It goes on to examine how ‘badness’ as masculinity may influence gender-based violence (GBV) within intimate partner relationships and whether GBV may be tolerated by feminine partners because the masculine partner’s capacity for violence is deemed a necessity for survival and central to identity making.
Caribbean LGBTQI Community in Focus: Globalization, Religion, and Power
Sudean Peters, Mali Dust and Kristina Neil
This roundtable will explore the complex dynamics of globalisation and religion within the LGBTQI community in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica. It delves into the power structures that influence and shape the local LGBTQI community's identity and aspirations, shedding light on where this power resides and how it is wielded.
Globalisation, as a variable force, has ushered in a transformative era for the local queer community in the Caribbean. It has challenged traditional notions of a utopian future, introducing a web of complexities that often displace indigenous desires and cultural identities.Simultaneously, globalisation has provided access to invaluable resources, aid, and international solidarity, linking us with diasporic and global LGBTQI communities. The need for these resources has often been prioritized over the true needs of our local community.
Religion, too, plays a pivotal role in defining the physical and cultural landscapes of Jamaica. Christianity simultaneously fosters a sense of otherness and displacement within the nation. This process can marginalize African syncretic religions, which frequently offer solace and space for individuals who have been similarly marginalized, such as the queer community. This roundtable will delve into the evolution of these concepts, unraveling the LGBTQI community's place in the physical and cultural religious spaces in Jamaica.
Together, this discussion aims to examine the interplay between globalisation and religion and how they intersect to define and reshape the LGBTQI Caribbean community's identity, aspirations, and struggles. By engaging with these nuanced dynamics, we seek to better understand the challenges and opportunities that arise, fostering critical dialogue and offering insight into the quest for liberation, autonomy, and self-determination within the local LGBTQI landscape.
This presentation will look into the re-placement of Christian ideologies with Afro-spiritual practices within Jamaican LGBTQIA+ people, primarily from physical and abstract contexts. With a rise in pushback against queer and more particularly trans individuals in the USA and Global North, Jamaican Christian churches have clung on to the spread of transphobic misinformation to power their own faith-based movements. Where one major accepted religion takes over the Jamaican space, many queer individuals have found their own affirmation through other means, especially in less accepted Afro-spiritual spaces. Through the deconstruction of stifling colonial Christian theologies, LGBTQIA+ Jamaicans can and do reclaim their own power and autonomy and envision and exercise it in self-affirming afro-spiritual practices and astrology.
Globalisation as a project of neoliberalism, has at its center the idea of a universalized human experience that flattens the historical grounds of movements by minoritized groups. As a mechanism within this project, NGO through the demands of its granting schema, intends to obfuscate the inextricable condition of Blackness and the experience with colonialism as necessary to queerness in the Caribbean.
Questions to be addressed:
Where does the power to define the LGBTQI Caribbean reside? In law? In cultural imagination? In our “leadership” classes? At the grassroots? In Global North media? In Global South movements?
How has globalisation enabled and imperilled local LGBTQI movements in the Caribbean? Has it opened up ideas, optimism, solidarity and access to resources? Has it robbed us of autonomy and self-determination or trapped us in imposed ideas of Caribbean homophobia and Global North prescriptions for liberation? Has it emboldened global Religious Right movements to evangelise and recruit here?
Geopolitics, Religion, and Queerness
Chair: Anna Perkins
Muhammad Saajid Hosein
Exploring Conceptions of Queerness and Masculinity Amongst Indo-Trinidadian Muslim Men
The proposed paper investigates conceptions of masculinity and queerness amongst Indo-Trinidadian Muslim men. Ideals of masculinity amongst Indo-Muslim men in Trinidad have continuously shifted since the period of indenture into the current postcolonial period through various religious changes, gender negotiations and cultural influences that have occurred both at local and global levels. Contemporary machinations of Indo-Trinidadian Muslim male subjectivity therefore possess a historical precedent and are constructed in different ways at the crossroads of ethnicity, sect, age, and nationality, but also gender, sexuality, and queerness. This paper attends to the intersection of queerness as it relates to the Indo-Trinidadian Muslim male subject by utilizing data collected for my MPhil thesis in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies. Thirty-five (35) interviews were conducted with Indo-Trinidadian Muslim men between May 2023 and November 2023, where some participants identified as openly queer, while others did not. I explore how queer Indo-Muslim men negotiate their identities at the intersection of religion, race, and Caribbean identity, as well as how non-queer Indo-Muslim men’s perceptions of queerness shape their constructed boundaries of masculinity in their respective ethno-religious, Caribbean context. In doing so, my work produces a new imagining of the queer Caribbean, one that contemplates ethno-religious belonging.
R. Anthony Lewis
Place, Space and Socio-cultural Othering: Dis/junctures in Evangelical Antigay Narratives of Nation and Belonging in Africa and the Caribbean
US political culture of the last few decades has been radically marked by a key set of tensions. At the heart of these have been, among others, disagreements over gender and sexuality rights, most notably the legal status of abortion and the nature of liberties to be accorded to gays and lesbians. As strains over these issues heightened, the ideological contestation associated with them became the US’s exports to places under American cultural influence—particularly that of Evangelical Christianity—such as sections of the Caribbean and Africa. Evangelicalism’s penetration of these zones of contact has spawned domestic versions of the US culture war, emblematized by heightened concerns over homosexuality and its treatment as a pre-eminent social ill. In the context of countries emerging from decades of totalitarian rule, or where totalising social discourses based on dominance by one social group over others have been the norm, and where countervailing narratives have tended to be weak and unsupported, Evangelical discourse has entered with its own totalising and exclusionary discourse of righteousness linked to a putative ‘national’ indigenous culture. Further, it has dismissed purveyors of oppositional discourse such as gay and lesbian rights lobbies as foreign interpellants seeking to damage the “Christian” character of the nation. Highlighting Evangelicalism’s US antecedents, this paper explores how it has contributed to the socio-cultural exclusion of gays and lesbians in Africa and the Caribbean for purportedly betraying traditional local norms based essentially on domesticated versions of the US culture war.
Zhorelle Brown (Zee Xaymaca)
Possibly, a Cocoon of Queer Radicalism: A Reflection on the Role of Tradition and Family in Fostering Progressive Views Toward Queerness
This essay employs a version of the little tradition/great tradition framework of culture formation as a potent tool for conceptualizing the ways in which we relate to queerness as Jamaican people. My work explores the theoretical underpinnings of the little and great tradition as it relates to social vs religion-based responses to gender and sexual nonconformity. This essay illustrates possibilities for acceptance of queerness within the little tradition by teasing out its role in my devoutly Christian maternal family’s response to my queerness.
The role of religion in the ways my maternal grandmother and family matriarch related to sexual and gender nonconformity has emerged in unexpected ways within my family. The lessons from my experience with my typically matrifocal family network located on and off the island are an indicator of the possibility that Jamaican culture can be well-suited to supporting queer and other non-normative identities. The little traditions, particularly those associated with Afro-Jamaican family systems, are crucial points of engagement with queerness as a politic beyond sexuality and, if well employed, can act as an incubator of socially and politically ‘radical’ thought.
Screening and Discussion
Between Worlds: Navigating Sexuality on the Homefront
Kerry Chen and Shane Slater, Co-Curators
Roundtable Participants: Dalton Harris, Nadean Rawlins, Staceyann Chin, Jovanté Anderson, Kim Longinotto, Franky Murray Brown, Lorine Plagnol
Contemporary Jamaican society has adopted a veneer of acceptance for individuals across the LGBTQI community. However, this apparent tolerance is only surface-level, frequently expressed in vague or ambiguous terms, and lacks comprehensive inclusivity. The documentary film "Dalton's Dream," which traces the path of Dalton Harris, the Jamaican recording artiste and 2018 winner of The X-Factor UK, is a compelling case study on the contemporary landscape of homophobia and illustrates that being openly gay is not an option for all Jamaicans. Dalton’s experiences transcend geographical borders, and, in doing so, open up a discourse that explores the multifaceted ways in which sexuality, tolerance, and homophobia are encountered and negotiated across diverse spaces. Between Worlds: Navigating Sexuality on the Homefront interrogates the issue of homosexual permissibility in Jamaica by screening “Dalton’s Dream” followed by a roundtable discussion featuring the protagonist Dalton Harris; Jamaican filmmaker, Nadean Rawlins, who has produced and directed several short films with LGBTQI narratives; Jamaican author and LGBTQI activist, Staceyann Chin; and Jamaican doctoral student, Jovanté Anderson whose research focuses on queer and trans forms of speculative world-making in postcolonial Jamaica. The discussion will be moderated by Kerry Chen, an Arts Manager, Film Producer and Curator who conceptualised and curated the inaugural Cinema Under the Stars (CUTS) LGBTQI Film Screening in 2022 as part of Community Fest.
Rewind/Forward: Sharing Queer Expressions of Sound System Culture in Toronto’s Caribbean Diaspora (presentation)
“I would love to be able to have like a massive party in a park with dancehall being played, reggae being played, and everybody's there: all the queer aunties and uncles, all the straight ones, all the questioning ones are there—all the youth are there and everyone feels comfortable and it is safe... I guess you could say it like a queer Caribana. I would love that.That would be the sickest thing in the world.” - Jamaican-Canadian DJ, Ace Dillinger
My arts-based presentation responds to the curiosity: How is Caribbeanness experienced by LGBTQI people in the Caribbean’s diaspora? How do we identify and play? I will present the sonic and playful dimensions of Jamaica’s Canadian queer diaspora through a re-mount of the Rewind/Forward exhibit. Rewind/Forward is a photo-based, multidisciplinary public art show hailing up bass music and soundsystem culture in Toronto, Canada. It features monumental photos, taken by Jamaican-Canadian photographer Jorian Charlton, of five notable selectors: Heather “Live Wire” Bubb-Clarke, Tasha Rozez, Ace Dillinger, Nino Brown, and Bambii. Each image is accompanied by personal stories narrated by the system owners that share the life experiences that contributed to the evolution of Toronto’s bass music community. Rewind/Forward’s Beyond Homophobia edition will centre on the queer DJ cultures cultivated by Ace Dillinger, Nino Brown, and Bambii, specifically. Together, their stories demonstrate how Munoz’s disidentification, Mecija’s queerness of sound, and Ellis’s queer dancehall, and Henriques’s vibrational model’s perspectives are animated in queer dancehall parties in Toronto, Jamaica’s third largest diaspora. Bringing Rewind/Forward to Beyond Homophobia is a moment to explore: how do Caribbean audiences based in the Caribbean respond to queer diasporic expressions of dancehall and sound system culture? And what are the parallels and perpendiculars between Toronto’s and and other queer diasporic Caribbean expressions? Through visual, audio, and textual storytelling (made accessible through image descriptions and transcripts), Beyond Homophobia’s specifically queer Rewind/Forward remount Caribbeanness is an opportunity to learn how Caribbeanness is expressed and innovated in Canada’s queer diasporic everynight life and places, and the impact of the queer sound system diaspora ‘playing telephone’ with the culture (Chung, 2019).
Desire Lines (video)
Desire Lines documents the initial stage of the eponymous long-term artistic and research project which foregrounds issues around queer love in the Caribbean, Pan-Caribbean, and across North American and European diasporas from an anti-hegemonic, decolonial and intersectional perspective. The first edition, organised in collaboration with Beyond Homophobia, took place in 2022 at the House of World Cultures in Berlin as an event with artists, activists, scholars, DJs, and nightlife collectives from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, UK, and Berlin’s diasporic QTBIPOC communities. Activating different forms of collectivity and knowledge, the two-day gathering combined a discursive space of learning, unlearning and dialogue with a communal space of mutual care, solidarity and celebration. Through talks, discussions, performances, screenings, informal interactions, and an all-night dance party the contributors addressed the coexistence of queerness and homophobia in island imaginaries,
with a focus on QTBIPOC practices, experiences and attitudes which unravel the conventional interpretations of gender and sexuality.
"Beyond Homophobia: Place Matters"
UK Black Pride, in its commitment to fostering unity and cooperation among Black and POC individuals of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American descent, as well as their friends and families within the LGBTQI+ spectrum, actively addresses the diverse and complex experiences of these communities in and beyond the Caribbean. Through collaborative efforts we challenge societal inequalities, advocating for a more inclusive and understanding world. Our approach at UK Black Pride, deeply rooted in collective work and solidarity, seeks to navigate and reshape the geopolitical and cultural landscapes affecting LGBTQI+ individuals. I will talk about fostering strong partnerships and promoting a unified front using an intersectional lens, championing the rights of diverse communities, amplifying their voices in the regional and global arena, and creating a more equitable and just environment for all. UK Black Pride understands that the Caribbean LGBTQI+ experience is deeply influenced by geographic, political, and cultural factors, requiring a nuanced and inclusive approach to advocacy and support: this is why “Place Matters”.