[Part II] It is not illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender [LGBT] in Jamaica

Gay-justice I did some reading on the three primary rules governing the interpretation of laws by courts. The three rules are literal, mischief and golden. The literal rule has been the most commonly used technique by judges for interpreting the law and has only been sidelined where the court believed a literal interpretation would somehow be inappropriate, create mischief, civil unrest, or be otherwise unfair. It is difficult to gauge interpretations based on the mischief and golden rules, therefore, I am not going to discuss those rules here.

Based on part 1 of my legal ramblings I deduced that as per literal interpretation, the Sexual Offences Act was discriminatory “on the ground of being male or female”. However, my investigation into what is called Savings Clauses has put me in a bit of a conundrum. My understanding of the Constitution of Jamaica with a little help from sages such as Kenneth Hall and Stephen Vasciannie led me to assent that Savings Clauses were inserted into constitutions of the Caribbean to protect the old executive British order. There was a pontificate presumption by the British Imperialists that no laws in effect prior to Independence infringed on the human rights of Caribbean citizens.

According to Section 26 (8) of the Jamaican Constitution:

Nothing contained in any law in force immediately before shall be held to be inconsistent with any of the provisions of this chapter;  and              nothing done under the authority of any such law shall be held to be done in contravention of the provisions.

So with all this flaming talk of legal reform by the Government of Jamaica we are left with a Savings Clause that in many instances, deny our human rights as citizens of Jamaica. Some laws and sections of the Constitution have been repealed or revised to account for progressive changes to our human rights. However, since the Savings Clause ignores and denies us some of those rights, in effect, we remain violated, discriminated against, and harassed because we want to engage in “buggery”, “gross indecency” and “grievous sexual” assault with our consenting adult partners of the same gender.

We can argue all we want as LGBT persons and allies, fact is, although some of our laws are discriminatory and disrespectful to human dignity, any changes to those laws are ab initio because of the Savings Clause.  Any such law is inconsistent with the Chapter and cannot be used as a basis for adjudicating contemporary progressive human rights.

While our lowly government members pretend at international conventions and conferences to be ardent supporters and legislators of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the centennial lack of political will to remove or revise the Savings Clause by a simple majority (since the Savings Clause was not entrenched in the constitution)  is distasteful, discriminatory, unfair and inhumane in my opinion.

The effect is we are left with an Offences Against the Person Act, for example, which is bigoted, given that the offence of pleasuring the anus with a “carnal penis” [even in holy heterosexual marriages] was gazetted and saved by the almighty Clause. And while the Savings Clause is not entrenched in stone, I don’t know when we will find 32 members of the Lower House, 11 members of the Upper House and a Governor General (even though we already found the Queen) to amend, or rather remove buggery between consenting adults from the Savings Clause.

What will my government do? Do we need external pressure from super powers to recognize the inhumanity of saving flogging, buggery (between consenting adults), whipping or the death penalty? But oh! We’re independent nuh? Silly me! Then again, it was Massa who damned us with this Savings Clause so maybe David Cameron and his conservative executive with a little help from Hussein can once again force the hands of our astute legislators.

Up next is my appeal to the Government of Jamaica for a revision of those laws that criminalise some homosexual acts, in light of the view that they contribute to the homophobic attitude of my fellow citizens.

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A Fi Wi Gully Queen!

Pausing legal ramblings to talk a little about the recent brutal murder of Dwayne Jones in St. James, Jamaica and what it means for survivors, like persons, and the general LGBT population in this space. . .

The first time I heard the news about Dwayne who identified as Gully Queen, I was flabbergasted. Today, after listening to survivors of the incident I’m an emotional wreck. I have never been so close to any such incident prior to this one and it pains my heart to think about the fact that male cross dressers and/or female transgender persons literally have no place in our society. We believe it is okay to discharge our venom of hatred and treat our own citizens like scum, inanimate objects, and slaves to be stoned and chopped at our leisure because they got a skin which didn’t quite suit their persona.

As reported by J-FLAG Dwayne was a very fun, kind, loving, jovial and brave person who had dreams and aspirations as all of us did as teenagers. Dwayne identified as female and I know some of you do not quite get the depth of that, but let me just say that everyday we defy the limitations of our bodies in one shape or form and Dwayne was trying to do just that in her own way. She was such a vibrant artistic teenager who could dance better than the average trained dancer (in my opinion) and it was unadulterated cruelty that took her talent, her life away. She brought no harm to anyone. She never assaulted anyone. She absolutely DID NOT bring this on herself!

Her family did not protect her as required by our precious Child Care Protection Act [I don’t know that her parents will be prosecuted for failing to protect their child, which makes them culpable in her death, in my opinion]. She was disowned, forcibly migrated to the streets, and literally left to die.

J-FLAG reported that although Dwayne had aspirations to become a Spanish teacher she was forced to drop out of school as early as grade nine because of the constant, unbearable bullying and discrimination experienced as an LGBT teen. When will we become a society that is not so selective about the diversities we accept and appreciate? When will we realise that something is wrong with throwing out our children into the streets simply because we do not have the patience or will to understand and accept their own interpretations and actualizations of their skins? Why must we allow them to bear the burden of not knowing what they will eat today or where they will sleep tonight? When will our arms open to them so they don’t have to keep running away from the spits of ignominy, the stones of disgrace, the knives of discrimination and the guns of death?

I had a recent conversation with a friend [and survivor of the incident] of Dwayne. And I was telling him I wish I could single-handedly help him in a meaningful way and he simply said: “Latoya, u know weh mi want? Mi want a life”. I didn’t know what to say after that. . .

How is it that I feel so helpless and others bask in terrorizing their lives almost DAILY? Do any of you know what it feels like to be afraid to walk on the street at daytime because that could mean signing your death sentence? I hope we will see cooperation between our NGOs and the Government of Jamaica on effectively dealing with this issue and so that better will come for our yute!

I am pleased by the efforts of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica to host in honour of Dwayne:

“EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO BE & A RIGHT TO A LIFE FREE OF VIOLENCE.” At the Emancipation Park, Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:30-6:00pm

Please follow the links below for press releases from a few Jamaican NGOs condemning the gruesome murder of our Dwayne.

Quality of Citizenship Jamaica:

http://qcjm.org/press-release-murder-of-17yr-old-irwin-st-james/

Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays:

http://www.jflag.org/2013/07/violence-against-lgbt-people-is-an-affront-to-democracy/

Jamaicans for Justice:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/jamaicans-for-justice-jfj/jfj-press-release-jamaicans-for-justice-horrified-by-mob-killing-of-cross-dressi/555725737796662

Written by J-FLAG: Remembering Dwayne Jones (Gully Queen)

Dwayne Jones, also known as Gully Queen, was born on January 31, 1997 in the community of Paradise Rowe in Montego Bay, St James. The teen was displaced at an early age and was one of several lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth who are forced to live and work on the streets.Dwayne was found dead on Monday, July 22, 2013 after being set upon by a mob at a party the previous night. Dwayne wanted to become a teacher of. . .
http://www.jflag.org/2013/07/remembering-dwayne-jones-gully-queen/

It is not illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender [LGBT] in Jamaica, BUT… [Part I]

De Social Justice Advocate

So, with its loud voice the church has managed to ignite the society into a deny-gays-rights-frenzy. I believe it was their bawling that influenced the changes to the original wording of the new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms [herein referred to as The Charter] to exclude discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Today we are left with a Charter that ignores and/or denies some rights of the LGBT population in Jamaica. Thankfully, there is nothing in Jamaican law that prevents an individual from being lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender. However, because the law criminalises some homosexual acts, the average ‘Joen’ interprets that to mean it is illegal to be LGBT, not recognising that sexuality is deeper and not so microscopic or limited to sexual activities.

I believe as a community we need to embark on an extensive educational programme that will allow Jamaicans to understand that

Choosing…

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It is not illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender [LGBT] in Jamaica, BUT… [Part I]

So, with its loud voice the church has managed to ignite the society into a deny-gays-rights-frenzy. I believe it was their bawling that influenced the changes to the original wording of the new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms [herein referred to as The Charter] to exclude discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Today we are left with a Charter that ignores and/or denies some rights of the LGBT population in Jamaica. Thankfully, there is nothing in Jamaican law that prevents an individual from being lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender. However, because the law criminalises some homosexual acts, the average ‘Joen’ interprets that to mean it is illegal to be LGBT, not recognising that sexuality is deeper and not so microscopic or limited to sexual activities.

I believe as a community we need to embark on an extensive educational programme that will allow Jamaicans to understand that

Choosing to live with someone of the same sex

Or raising a family with someone of the same sex

Or feeling emotionally attracted to someone of the same sex

Or wanting to party as a same sex couple

Or being in love with someone of the same sex

Or making someone of the same sex your orbital shell

Or wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone of the same sex

Or caring deeply for someone of the same sex

Or getting butterflies in your stomach because of the connection you feel with someone of the same sex

 Or your willingness to make sacrifices for the love of your life who is of the same sex

IS NOT ILLEGAL! Whew! Neither is it illegal to choose not to conform to gender norms.

But because of cultural and institutional attitudes, as LGBT people we then become afraid to do, feel and express all of the above, given that, the sometimes misguided application or interpretation of the law may result in a fate similar to Dwayne’s [the teen recently chopped to death because his gender and sexual expression was not aligned with the heteronormativity that exists in Jamaica]. And just to provide a little context here, this was one social media commentator’s exclamation in a response to the recent story: “kill him bomboclaat yes battybwoy fi dead. In the biblical dayz they were stone to death the bible said so, so killing is definitely right for them quiers [sic]”. Oh, the joy of being LGBT in Jamaica. . .

Sadly, my next few posts will have to focus on sexual acts between consenting adults in order to drive the point home, that in my opinion, Jamaican laws discriminate against males in general and homosexual males in particular.

My first point of contention is the perceived conflict between The Charter and the Sexual Offences Act. The Charter (which replaces and repeals chapter 3 of the Jamaican Constitution) is supposed to provide “more comprehensive and effective protection for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons in Jamaica”. It seems, however, that The Charter somehow neglects to include LGBT citizens of Jamaica as “persons”. The Charter goes on to read that “the state has an obligation to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms”. Additionally, “all persons in Jamaica are entitled to preserve themselves and future generations the fundamental rights and freedoms to which they are entitled by virtue of their INHERENT DIGNITY AS PERSONS and as CITIZENS of a free democratic society and all persons are under a responsibility to respect and uphold the rights of others recognized in this chapter . . . no organ of the state shall take any action which abrogates, abridges or infringes those rights”.

The more I read this highfalutin Charter the more I realise that in practise we are the exemplification of a marginalized minority community, given the countless incidents of discrimination meted out to us by our ‘loved ones’, social institutions, the state and the society.

But let me proceed to explore one of the ‘grandiose’ ‘unabridged’ rights – “The right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of being male or female”.

The Sexual Offences Act clearly states that if someone [the offender] penetrates the anus of another [the victim] with a body part other than the penis of the offender [if the penis penetrates the anus that’s considered buggery], or with an object manipulated by the offender, s/he shall be guilty of grievous sexual assault if there is no consent between the adult parties. I interpret that to mean, that once the consenting adult parties so desire, legally, the anus may be stimulated or penetrated by the fingers, Heineken bottles, cucumbers, sex toys, etc. without being prosecuted by the state.

Therefore, in a marriage between one man and one woman, if the wife straps up and penetrates the anus of her husband and the husband in turn straps  up and penetrates the anus of his wife [given that they both consent], ain’t nothing wrong with that! There is no breach in law. BUT, if the husband decides to penetrate his wife with his penis, he may be sentenced for up to 10 years imprisonment based on prescriptions of the buggery law.

A wife will never go to prison for ‘anally’ penetrating her husband because she does not have a non-purchased penis. Now, if that isn’t “discrimination on the ground of being male or female”, I suspect I need to register for a programme at the Faculty of Law, UWI, Mona.

I don’t want to bore you with a lengthy piece, and I want you to reread and digest this first bit of my interpretation, which I intend to further analyse in part II (including an examination of the Savings Clause).

So let me shut up now and proceed to an abrupt end; remember it’s part I so I’m not quite ready to conclude. Cheers!

Duffle Bag of Questions

When persons incite violence against us and discriminate against us as LGBT people, do they ever pause for a moment and consider that we are homo sapiens sapiens? Who or what is responsible for indoctrinating Jamaicans to believe that all non-heterosexual people should be “stoned in Half-Way-Tree”? Who or what socialized us to believe that LGBT persons are sick, disgusting, nasty and abnormal? Who or what socialized us to condemn and victimize LGBT persons who have been abused in a bid to ‘correct’ their sexuality? Who or what influenced the unofficial policy of discriminating against LGBT populations?

Do you know? I don’t, at least not for sure. But the loudest anti-gay voices echoed by our culture seems to be my favourite [?] institution – the church. Several sources may be explored but in my opinion, religion has single-handedly controlled the sexuality narrative in Jamaica. Remember we are one of the most murderous Christian countries in the Western Hemisphere so it’s no surprise that we have been labelled as “one of the most homophobic countries in the Western Hemisphere”.

It is the screams of anti-gay rhetoric from the pulpit that has pierced the cerebral cortex of Jamaicans who no longer care about our human quality, but where and how we use our anatomy in the privacy of our homes [which, by the way is ONE element of sexuality]. A lesbian’s choice to perform cunnilingus rather than fellatio becomes the basis on which she is denied her inalienable rights. A gay man’s choice to perform fellatio rather than cunnilingus also becomes the basis on which he is denied his inalienable rights; not to mention prostate stimulation between men! But why does it matter where consenting adults place their organs in private? Why should we become pariahs? Why should we be victimized, discriminated against, verbally and physically assaulted, and blamed for inviting assault and battery on ourselves?

Shouldn’t the church discourage rather than encourage the society to place us under siege? How much longer should we remain within the protective shells of our clothes and shoes because of fear? I want to be able to go Downtown, Kingston and shout from ‘Parade’ that I am a lesbian without the fear of being assaulted arresting my mind – as ‘out’ as I am, I quiver with great trepidation because I know the risks involved.

In my opinion, the church took that freedom of movement and speech from me when they indoctrinated all of us about the eternal damnation of same gender loving. And no, I do not want to muzzle or gag the church; I just want the church to understand that rights and freedoms have necessary limitations as per social contract. Your rights and freedoms should not be used to infringe upon the said rights of others, especially minority populations that are often subject to institutional and cultural abuse. As a nation I want us to elevate our thought processes and learn to accept and appreciate diversity with respect.

There is nothing more I want to say to/about the church at this point. I started with the church because of the significant impact I believe they have on the homophobic culture in Jamaica. I want to now focus my attention on the human rights of, and legal implications for LGBT persons in Jamaica. Let me just say I have no expert knowledge on legal affairs but whoever created me blessed me with a mind that tries to be critical and analytical. So I will spend the next few days exploring some of the laws that impact sexual identity and expression in Jamaica and share my interpretation with you. Look out! It’s coming!

My Grouse with the New Testament Church of God [NTCOG] in Jamaica

I am an ignostic, but for the thousands of LGBT persons in Jamaica, I wonder whether there is a place for them in the Christian community. Writing from personal experience in the New Testament Church of God (NTCOG) and from my knowledge of the preached doctrines of that denomination I will try to “pontificate” that LGBT persons are not welcomed in the church.

A number of persons have engaged in the debate about whether someone can be gay and Christian. It is difficult to respond to that question because we all have our interpretations of what it means to be Christian. In Jamaica, it probably refers to someone who is inter alia God-fearing, believes in the omni-everything of God, attends church regularly, ministers to others through their lives and talent, abides by Canon laws, seeks divine forgiveness if s/he sins, pays tithe and is a documented member of a congregation. With that said, let me attempt to contextualize two possible responses to that question based on the doctrine of the NTCOG: Yes and No.

YES! Of course you can simultaneously be a member of the LGBT and Christian communities. Being attracted to the same sex and embracing the power to choose your gender does not disqualify your membership in a community that preaches love, forgiveness, understanding, kindness and treating all persons as God’s creation. [Without going into the nature vs nurture dichotomy of sexuality and sexual orientation], as creatures of God’s user interface [UI] design, all persons are equal and created in His image. So while the teachings of the Great Book would suggest that homosexuality is in breach of Canon law, much like adultery, false prophecy, blasphemy and fornication, such sins do not negate the love and kindness we should show our neighbour.

The only problem with this argument for LGBT populations who want to be, or say they are Christians is, they must accept that their homosexuality is a sin before God’s ‘eyes’. Such sinful thoughts and actions require repentance, change, and the suppression of their sexual identity and expression. Consequently, if we baptise a homosexual or transgender person in holy water, it is expected that s/he will have some semblance of an epiphany and purge all non-heterosexual thoughts from mind. His/her new mantra will be dedicating her/his body and soul to the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. At least, that’s my interpretation of what would happen to a devout homosexual member of the NTCOG in Jamaica, which brings me to an alternate response: [HELL?] ‘NO’!

Because of the hard stance taken by the executive of the NTCOG in Jamaica and in keeping with the creative and sadistic story of Sodom and Gomorrah, if a member of the church self-affirms his/her non-heterosexual identity s/he better keep it a [quasi] secret. To my finite knowledge, there is currently no openly LGBT person who is a member of the NTCOG in Jamaica. And even if someone had the audacity and bravery to make their non-heterosexual identity known in the church, I am certain the pontiff Bishop Dr. Blair and his executive council of men would order that individual removed from the sacred membership roll. After all, the most learned bishop is committed to “fight[ing] homosexuality and lesbianism with every fibre of [his] being”.

The fact that we cannot have openly gay members in the NTCOG suggests that, culturally speaking, a person cannot be gay and Christian in Evangelical Jamaica. It is my opinion that subscribing to a few principles of a religion does not make you a member of that religion. And I want to be clear here: there is a difference between subscribing to Christian principles and BEING a (practising) Christian. To my non-heterosexual friends – you are not welcomed in the NTCOG unless you come for forgiveness (for being homosexual) and are willing to stamp your sexuality under your feet and find a church wo/man.

It really comes as no surprise to me that the NTCOG has taken such a position. This is the same denomination that discriminates against females as they are forbidden the highest rank available to men – ordained minister. Sometimes I feel like slapping myself for being a former member of this church – a church whose executive chief that does not dedicate every fibre of his being to resolving the issue of homelessness in Jamaica or inhumane living conditions of the poorest proletariats. But I suppose ‘Weh lesley kno who fi frighten’.

As we move forward, I advise my Christian friends to reflect a while on their utterances against LGBT persons and remember that we happen to be human beings too. If it weren’t for my dad [an ordained NTCOG minister] I would rant and rave some more . . . who knows? Maybe we need Russo #2 . . . Perchance in my next post!

The Great Book, TheIgnostic1 and Why I Write

I was a member of the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica as recently (?) as 15 years ago – an ardent believer of the gospel; a practising Christian who attended church regularly [and by church I mean: Sunday school, divine service (Sunday worship), family training hour, bible study and youth fellowship]. My favourite church service was bible study because I was infinitely curious about the Great Book that guided the doctrine of the church and the lives of those who called themselves Christians.

Church was everything to me. It was the place I discovered my (former) singing talent. It was the place I developed friendships. It was the place from which I found mentors. It was the place I learned the maxims of the Great Book. And it was certainly the place I experienced the power and joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

BUT it was also the place that aroused my curiosity – my philosophical curiosity.

Why was the Great Book so controversial?

Who really wrote those stories?

Was everything in the Great Book really gospel?

Did the Great Book possess the most supreme predictive power known to mankind?

Why was the Great Book so confusing?

Why could I use the Great Book to justify and argue against every assertion it contained?

Was the Great[est] Book (of all time?) just a collection of excellently penned stories edited by his worship King James?

Was it culture, money/goods, indoctrination, war, slavery or greed that allowed the Great Book to become so powerful in many societies across the globe?

Who is Jesus?

Where was he during creation?

Was God a magician who played a once in a millennium trick on us by reincarnating his old son into a baby of humble beginnings to be slaughtered as sacrifice for the not so privileged bastards?

Is God benevolent or malevolent?

What is the role of the devil in our quest for eternal happiness where we all become lactose tolerant and immune to teeth decay?

The list of questions expanded as my faith in God, the church and the Great Book evaporated. Not even the learned minister had practical answers to my questions, because faith was at the centre of the New Testament Church of God’s dogma.

So with all these unanswered questions and with a little education, as the years progressed, I discovered that I was quite theignostic1. Sufficient conditions do not exist for me to affirm or deny the omnipotence, omniscient, and omnipresent character of God; neither am I able to affirm or deny the science/evolution of creation and the universe. In my opinion, religion is just a pseudonym for culture. Therefore, although Christians around the world are guided by the principles set forth in the Great Book, the practices are nothing but transparent two-way mirrors.

It is against this backdrop that I write about the relationship between religion and sexual identity and expression in Jamaica. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the church plays a critical role in how LGBTQ people are perceived in Jamaica. So although this may appear to some as an attack on the church, it is not! My own sexuality and experiences will be explored within the framework of a larger LGBTQ context. And I hope the views and stories I share here will be mutually beneficial and contribute at least in a small way to the development of a tolerant, diverse Jamaica, where Christians can pray for LGBTQ people to change and LGBTQ people can exist free from hate and discrimination.