Monday, April 27, 2009

Patwa Gaan Abraad!!!

Last year, I petitioned my university's language waiver committee when they overlooked my request to have my language requirement waved on the basis of my proficiency in Jamaican Creole. Every student must take language courses besides English, unless they can prove that they speak another language, or are from an area of the world where they are likely to be fluent in other languages. I questioned the decision of the registrar, who then referred me to a linguistics professor to whom I had to prove my fluency in a non-English language.

I was asked to describe the language situation in Jamaica, in Patwa, and I'll tell you- it was hard!!! It had never been necessary for me to speak Patwa formally, for I was always inclined to speak English in academia. But this time, I had to do this for the sake of my language. The professor said he would have to deliberate with his collegues further, even though he agreed that Jamaican Creole is a legitimate language, for some might have reservations about its position as a language form.

Four months later (yesterday) I received a letter, which pronounced that my request was granted, and that I had satisfied the language requirement on the basis of Jamaican Creole!!! I was thrilled, to say the least. So many told me it couldn't be done... that Patwa was too close to English for my request to be given much validity; that is is merely a "dialect". They were wrong!

Mi no ina no aagiment wid nobadi agen bout weda Patwa a langgwij. The linguists have spoken. Nou enibadi we kom ya frahn Jumieka naago afi du no muo langwij ef dem no waahn, kaa di skuul don rekagnaiz Patwa. Aal nou mi kyaahn biliiv tu raatid. Mi wehn swier se dem wehna go kaal mi iin fi wahneda roun a diskoshan, aalduo mi wehn redi fi dem. A tuu langgwij mi chat! Bruce kyahn gwaan ron aaf ihn mout bout ou wi fi laan Spanish ahn French. I no mek muo sens wi staat wid wa evribadi nuo fos? Mi don taak.

Mi baan ahn gruo a taak Patwa, an nou mi kyahn se a fimi fos langgwij fi chuu. Yaav prablem wid dat? Gwaan go tek i op wid di rejischraar.

Patwa tu di worl! A ful taim nou!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Combating Homophobia in Schools

This is an extract from an an essay about homophobia in American schools.

Enshrining protection for LGBT youth:

A herculean fight against institutionalized heterosexism and homophobia

“Homosexuality is a sin against mankind; pure evil and wickedness!” “The gay agenda in public education must be squashed at all costs!” These and other similar sentiments colour the viewpoints of the strident opposition, which confronts every effort to introduce LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues into the curricula of American schools. Recurrently, studies show that the experiences of children and adolescents in school directly affect their achievements and general outcomes as adults. It is disconcerting then, to note that throughout the last two decades, right wing, religious conservatives have successfully worked to inflame public prejudices against queer individuals, in an effort to impede the introduction of content regarding LGBT issues in school curricula. This has been to the detriment of queer youth, who suffer an indeterminable amount of harm from verbal and physical harassment. The statistics regarding the challenges faced by these ‘at risk’ youth are compelling and are bolstered by additional studies, which point to widespread heteronormativity, and homophobia in school environments. A survey conducted by the campaigning and lobbying group Stonewall, indicated that teachers were the occupational group who found it most difficult to be open about their sexuality in the workplace. In a pressing effort to mitigate the destructive impacts of institutionalized homophobia , school policies must be reformed to ensure that schools can guarantee every child’s safety, and their attainment of emotional, physical, and educational wellbeing. There is no easy way to achieve this. In this essay, the two main approaches to reform, through platforms of “multiculturalism” and “public health awareness” will be carefully examined, with the premise that, though they are far from unproblematic, they go a far way in advancing the interests of the many disenfranchised LGBT students. Achieving legislative protection for queer pupils will necessitate overcoming heterosexual hegemony, and the homophobia with which it functions simultaneously; this is primarily a battle between queer activists and evangelicals, but it is education policymakers who ultimately need to be convinced.

The homophile movement has come a long was since the founding of the Mattachine Society in 1950. The increased visibility of queer America is undoubtedly attributable to the hard work or advocates in that movement, who have worked to fashion a place queer individuals in the history of America. In a further bid to legitimize the existence of queer people in society, public education has taken its place alongside domestic partnerships initiatives, as a key site for lesbian and gay social reform. The demands of activists, who have long challenged schools to address acts of individual and institutional discrimination against lesbian and gay students and teachers, must be met with exigency. Importantly, the influence of the religious right must never be underestimated; they notoriously mobilize immense public support against pro- (homo) sexuality education by inflaming public fears about an indoctrinating gay agenda, and the potential for molestation of their children by homosexual perverts- considered a redundancy for some. Opponents have created pedagogical videos to advance their own agenda, such as The Gay Agenda, and The Gay Agenda in Public Education. These propagandist videos serve to incense public ignorance, and thwart efforts to create a safe environment for queer identified youth in the school system. These videos cast homosexuals as depraved and diseased individuals who die young, and are clearly designed to sway an uninformed public to oppose lesbian and gay rights and educational reform initiatives. It is imperative that queer advocacy groups work closely with communities to clarify the nature of the desired policy changes, in allaying their fears that one could ever seduce someone into becoming homosexual. The bottom line remains, that no one should ever have to fear going to school because of their sexual orientation, or perceived deviation form normative values.

School administrators must build a culture of tolerance, which leans towards the multicultural approach to policy changes, however problematic. More germane to the larger goal however, it seems best to illustrate the challenges faced by queer youth in academic institutions; this approach may circumvent personal prejudices against queer lifestyles, and instead strike at the humanity of people. Still, given the problems inherent in both the “multicultural” and the “public heath” approaches to educational reform, there is no unproblematic means of achieving the necessary changes. Irvine asks a question that is worth considering: Is it the case that some critics would oppose school reforms no matter what elegant conceptual frameworks might be crafted? I am inclined to answer that question affirmatively, sensing that the conservative right will not relent in its efforts to sustain heterosexual hegemony, despite the apparent negative consequences on queer youth. Regardless, the plight of queer youth across America, who in many places are not guaranteed protection from harassment, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, demands that pro-sexuality education advocates are equally indefatigable in their efforts. History has shown that political backlash is an inevitable response to the advancement of queer rights in America, and must never become a deterrent against continued advocacy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day of Silence

What if it were SAFER to be SILENT?

Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQ students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school.

The Day of Silence is a national, student-led action to raise awareness of the discrimination, harassment, and abuse -- in effect, the SILENCING -- that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people and their allies face daily. Join students on your college campus in creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

TODAY, for part or whole of the day, take a VOW OF SILENCE

Think about the voices you are not hearing


In Jamaica, innumerable young men are bullied by their peers, who constantly remind them of how "dem gwaan like gyal." These individuals have no one to turn to, for even their families are unsympathetic to their situations. Reform is but a necessary means to a heterosexual end. Because of this, Jamaican homosexual youth must learn to negate their identitties at a very young age, internalizing the homophobia that is a fixed part of their daily lives, and consequently hate themselves. I remember many effeminate boys while I was in high school, and I was empathetic towards their realities, for I knew they suffered as much as I did. Still, we never spoke of our mutual challenges. I now know one of those individuals to be gay, and he recently told me that he once thought of killing himself.

I though of suicide too- a permanent means to escape the hell into which I was born. Most disconcerting, was the fact that I never identified as a homosexual, I was just perceived to be one. I knew it wasn't an option in Jamaica, so I never thought of it... I was heterosexual, of course. Still, the taunts were worse than a plague of locusts, for they stung relentlessly, without seasonality. It was my life... I spent many lonely days by the beach, wishing I never had to retun home; wishing I never had to go back to school. Everyone knew me as the "girly boy", and no matter how hard I sought to shed that descriptor, it followed me always.

I look back on those times, and I remember the pain I felt everyday. Born with an affliction that I could never be rid of... that I could never seek counsel on. How many more Jamaican boys face such challenges? Surely, there is a boy out there like me, searching for answers as to why he was born into a world which does not respect him for who he is as an individual. The Jamaican Christian God has no answers.

For all you silenced Jamaican youth, today I commit to an hour of silence in your honour. You may not be able to speak out for yourself, but my heart screams out for you.

Boycott Against Institutionalized Bigotry

I long to live in a world where individuals will instinctively stand up for the rights of others. This is but a far-fetched dream, stymied by the self-interests of moralizers who are blinded by their culture, and who refuse to recognize that there can be no excuse for institutionalized violence, or the lethargic efforts used to mitigate such violence. The recent boycott efforts of the BoycottJamaica group instantly caught my attention, and I was initially outraged by their efforts, which I believed to be misguided and doomed to failure. Today, I believe differently. We simply cannot keep finding excuses for maintaining the status quo; we have to do something!

The hatred perpetuated against homosexuals, and the reasoning used to support such attitudes, are no longer secrets. Everyday, in communities across the world, people live in fear, only because they have an attraction to people of the same sex. Society doesn't understand these people, and the bible explicitly says their lifestyles are abominable, and so the land must be purged of them. Now I wonder, how many people with this view know a homosexual? And I don't mean, oh they've seen one on tv- not many I bet. It's incredulous that I have to state this, but I will- you haven't met one yet, not because they are rare, unnatural members of the human world, but because the majority of them fear being ostracized by their families and their societies, and if you are from Jamaica, or any of the other notoriously homophobic societies, for their lives. Homosexuality is not viewed as a variance of human sexuality, but as a purposeful choice against what is most natural. I can't imagine why anyone would
choose to lead a life of shame and fear...It's so frustrating for me to be writing this, because I don't know what I need to say to homophobes to convince them that their violent regard for homosexuals has no rational basis; that their attitudes towards queer identified individuals is a most obvious display of their poor understanding of human gender identity and sexual expression. People are not simply male or female based on their genitalia, and they do not fit prescribed gender roles and sexual orientations because you desire it to be so. The reality is much more complex than we have been led to believe in the Jamaican education system.

The Jamaican government needs a wake up call, because it currently speak out against homosexuality as though there are no homosexuals in Jamaica. It's always "the lobbyists" in north America attacking Jamaican values. This is no simple matter, and it must be dealt with in earnest. Unfortunately, the many people who believe in advocating for a change in the government's position continue to shy away, because they do not want to be implicated as sexual deviants. This is somewhat understandable, but what is the alternative? Let us have the gay men in Jamaica organize a pride march through Kingston, because they are best able to lobby for their rights in a most oppressive context. You do not need to be black to be a black rights activist, and you do not need to be a woman to be a women's rights activist. All you need is a conscience, which many of us seem to have lost on our evolutionary trail to the present day. Where are the feminist groups advocating for greater representation of women in government, and better harassment and sexual abuse laws to protect women? Where are the liberal groups speaking our against legal moralism, and the crippling hold it has on the archaic laws of our land? Where are the Human Rights advocates who are brave enough to declare war on the government, for maintaining laws that actively discriminate against a minority group in the nation? Jamaicans are so expressive, so open, so loud. Why is it that we only hear the church bellowing discriminatory garb down our throats? The few organizations just as Jamaicans for Justice are representing a cause that is so important, that their voice should be more powerful. More of us needs to join the chorus of these organizations.

Jamaica is in the spotlight once more, and the time is ripe for us to express to our government that it needs to defend the rights of all Jamaicans. Liberty, and equal protection under the law are touted as inalienable rights in the Jamaican constitution, but so many are without it- and they have no chance of attaining it without powerful, orchestrated efforts by those who recognize this need.

The Boycott Jamaica campaign is playing a part in this process. I would never ask someone to boycott Jamaican products, but I do not refrain from telling of the painful realities faced by many queer Jamaicans. I have read one too many chilling tales of gays and transsexuals being beaten, and burnt, as sanctioned by our communities, for me not to be outraged and fed up with the situation. If they use their consciences to decide that they do not want to support Jamaica in any way, then that's their choice to make. I will not refrain from educating people, based solely on concerns about the imminent destitution of already struggling Jamaicans.

The state has no business regulating the private, intimate lives of its citizens, and that is exactly what the buggery law seeks to do. If we are as concerned about the family as we claim to be, then maybe its time to create laws that support mandatory DNA testing for men who refuse to claim their children, born to women outside of their marital unions. Perhaps too it is appropriate to imprison women who have more than 6 children, who remain without a job, for they put the livelihoods of Jamaican children at risk, in a manner that should not be tolerated. You see, we don't understand why we hate homosexuals anymore. For the reasons we come up with today are easily contradicted by our own deviant lifestyles, and our laxity towards activities that directly influence the continued erosion of Jamaican society.

People often claim that homosexuals are predators, actively seeking to lure unsuspecting young boys into illicit affairs. This is but one of the many myths purported by the aggressors, in demonizing a group of individuals they know nothing about. The BoycottJamaica campaign is taking an affirmative stance against such destructive stereotyping. If you disagree with their approach, talk to them; tell them what you would like them to do instead. I'm tired of hearing people say "stop the boycotts", without offering viable solutions to address the problems at hand. Inaction is not an option. If resocialization, and education is what people need to overcome their puritanical and often downright bigoted views, then that we must do from within Jamaica. It is simply not appropriate to make judgments and critiques of other people's approach, while we sit on our asses and do nothing to mend a tattered ("tear-op tear-op" works better) social fabric.

ATAKLAPS AGO BOS!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH MAN!!! I am launching a personal boycott against Jamaica's institutionalized bigotry. We have international gay rights organizations dictating the parameters of the debate we need to have about the violent manifestations of Jamaican homophobia, because we have been silent for so long. Now we have some momentum going; let us not waste it.

Documentary: For the Bible Tells Me So

Can religious belief and homosexuality be reconciled? Without a doubt one of the most moving films I have ever watched- but then again, I am biased, so you decide. I recently bought a copy of the DVD for my mother.