Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Truth Has Been Told

Life is filled with options and each one that we choose affects our lives in incalculable ways. I started this blog a little over a year ago in an effort to find a voice, something that had been long denied me. Having now found my voice and achieved the objective I had set I will discontinue writing on this blog.

Throughout this journey of self-discovery I have trapped myself in a depressing reality. I want the world to change to accommodate me, but it won't any time soon. I want people to respect me for the honourable individual I try to be, but they can't because they are crippled by their prejudices. So what do I do till the world changes to my liking, wallow in self-pity? That should never have been an option.

I accept myself for who I am. I love myself, and I am surrounded by people who love me. It is time I start living for me. All my life I've tried to take a stand against anything I find unjust. I've done whatever I can to jar the worldview of others, and help them realize that there is more to this world than their own conceptions of it. But why do I think this is important? Who am I to mount a crusade against an army of normativity and ignorance? I have become so obsessed with what is wrong with the world that I have forgotten to focus on what is important to me, finding whatever happiness there is to discover.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing these experiences with me, and thank you for providing words of comfort when I needed them most, or criticism when it was merited. For the gay Jamaican boy who comes across this blog by chance, remember to love yourself, knowing fully well that the only opinion about your self-worth that matters is your own.

This blog has served me well, and now it is time to move on to other ventures. I wish you all the prosperity that life has to offer.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Origin of Homosexuality in the Black Male

I recently read the work of a Black college student in America, which suggested that homosexuality in black men is a legacy of the subjugation of the "African male" by White colonizers. I don't mean to simplify his arguments here, but apparently the colonizers were intimidated by the apparently more virile, robust Africans (with larger penises) and sought to emasculate them through enslavement, and through raping them. I never realized emasculation was a primary intent of slavery, as opposed to developing from it.

I don't yet have enough knowledge to substantively disagree with this persons argument, but I have a few opinions I'd like to share. I do not believe that homosexuality has anything to do with lacking "manhood". As "manly" as African males were/are perceived to be, the occurrence of homosexuality is no less, or more, marked in African societies than it is in every other today. Surely there were/are cultural mores that proscribed homosexual behavior more stringently than in Europe (where there was some documented discussion about variance in human sexuality), but to suggest that (black) African people were entirely heterosexual before colonization is rather gratuitous. 

Why would anyone want to convince themselves that they are gay because of the systematic emasculation of black men by europeans? Supposedly this subjugation continues today with global structures that perpetuate imperialistic relations between (black) Africans and their descendants, and the powerful, white West. So, I am to believe that my attraction for men is less essential than the attraction European gay men feel for other men, because the incidence of homosexuality in my lineage is nonexistent prior to the 17th century. Oookay. So then if it wasn't for colonization and slavery I would be straight like everybody else? Fuck the white man! 

After responding to his essay this budding scholar was quick to remind me that "the truth is offensive". His claims are somehow credible because "he spends his entire time reading and writing, and has thought about the origins of homosexuality in Black men for months". Consider this "fact" that he reminded me of: homosexuality was considered a mental problem, but when alot of white people within the white collective started to come out of the closet, it was removed from the list of mental disorders. Oh really? I didn't know that. This entire time I thought it was removed because in fact gay people are not mentally ill. Obviously the development of a politically active (primarily white) gay community was crucial, but homosexuality was not removed from the DSM of the APA without due consideration of empirical data available.  

There are no homosexuals in Jamaica, or at least, there weren't any a few decades ago. It's tourism, American television, and the Internet that are eroding the moral purity of my Christian country. Bunkum and Balderdash! People need to stop recycling this misinformed and ignorant bullshit. It's scary what formal education can do to people who do only selective reading. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Blackmail: Battyman Pay Mi, or Else...

Blackmail. It's a word we don't use very often in Jamaican Creole, and I can't now think of an equivalent word or phrase. In detailing the struggles faced by gays and lesbians in Jamaica few would mention the threat of blackmail, but the Jamaican situation, marked with intolerance and repression, nourishes this kind of crime. 

A few months ago, one of my good friends from high school, we'll call him Michael, told me about how he was blackmailed. Like many Jamaican gays and lesbians he turned to the internet to try to find other queer Jamaicans. Michael happened across a popular chat-room in which one of the men took particular interest in him and hey eventually exchanged phone contact details. Through their phone conversations my friend became more trusting, and he mentioned casually what he was studying at a university and also the company he worked with. One day he was shocked when the tone and nature of the conversation changed. His online-buddy contacted an informant in the HR department of the company that he worked and uncovered his home address. This phone friend was not gay, and wanted to be compensated or else he would start telling people that Michael was gay. 

Michael was terrified. What if this guy went to the apartment and told all the neighbours? What if he went to the university and posted signs? What if people at the company were to find out, would he lose his job? Michael refused to answer any more calls from this guy, but then the texts came flowing in... characterized by stinging homophobic epithets, among death threats, and a reiteration of the price to be paid to keep the prospective informant quiet. The attacks continued for weeks, and would only come to an end after Michael contacted the telecommunications provider, explained that he was being harassed and asked that the number of the attacker be permanently blocked. 

The texts stopped coming. Michael breathed free. But he always considers that this unknown, malicious and opportunistic fiend knows where he lives, and could make another orchestrated attempt to corner him if her ever had the resources. 

Michael's experience is not unique. I'm sure many other Jamaican gays and lesbians have suffered this fate. Crimes like these will continue so long as people have to remain closeted. Now we have one more thing to fear, besides the wrath of our intolerant families, or communities. Fear and intimidation are bitches. In fact, what proof did this man have that Michael was gay, besides some cryptic online screen name, and maybe a few texts from telephone number he assigned the name Michael he wouldn't have much damning information. But the idea of being outed is paralyzing, and it was under the grips of this paralysis that Michael suffered for weeks. 

Online chat-rooms are not safe. You can never be assured of someone's purported identity, and should be careful about revealing personal details when using these media. 

Take care,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coming Out On Facebook

A few years ago when I opened my facebook account I opted to leave the "Interested In" field blank. I wasn't ready to tell the world that I was gay, and I wasn't going to lie that I loved women. One day after coming out to a friend she revealed that she always guessed I must have been gay, because I left the aforementioned field blank. She opined that no 'normal' Jamaican man would give up an opportunity to tell the world that he loves 'pum pum', if it were true... and also, that the fact of leaving it blank suggests that I thought about what it might mean, knowing fully well that it would raise speculations about my sexuality. She was right. 

Most straight people include this information in their profiles, even though one would already assume they are heterosexual. It never crosses their minds that the decision to complete this field might be troubling for some (facebook does a similar thing for gender that I dislike, having only two possible fields: "male" or "female"). 

So the reality for gay or lesbian Jamaicans is grim; damned if they do and damned if they don't. It is completely understandable that many choose to lie by saying they are interested in the opposite sex. 

I envy straight people for the ease with which they can declare their sexualities. Since I like to push boundaries I do the same, but I am sure my decision will not be without consequences. However, this is something that I have to do. The more we hide our sexuality, the uglier and scarier it becomes to us and others. Every time I saw the blank field I was reminded that I lived in fear. I worried about what people I cared nothing for would say, or who they would tell. It was a constant reminder of the shame I should feel for simply being a gay Jamaican. I refuse to continue living like that. 
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dancehall & Reggae in France

"Geenie, wine up yuself..." Wait, are my ears fooling me? I turned to my professors and classmates and gushed that the song is Jamaican. It was the first day of classes and Mr Vegas was being blasted in the metro of one of France's biggest cities. Three weeks later I went to a reggae concert featuring Tarrus Riley, Duane Stephenson, I-Octane and Dean Fraser. While waiting for the concert hall to open I was entertained by a group of about fifteen men who had a music player that was belting Sizzla, Vybz Kartel, Movado, and Capleton. Inside, the hall was packed! And I fell in love with Duane's music. I was particularly moved by one of his songs about War, but I can't find it online. Queen Ifrica would be playing at the same venue a few weeks after.

A few weeks ago I visited the city of Montpellier. The main "park" around which the town is centered is La Place de la Comédie. One afternoon while on my way to visit a museum just next to La Place I distinctly heard Jamaican music being played in the distance- my ears are attuned to Dancehall/Reggae beats. There was an open air concert, and would you believe the specialty was Dancehall?! And I don't mean Sean Paul, or Serani. It was LOUD. The music dominated the park and could be heard by everyone in the town square. Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Movado, Baby Cham and you name it. My profs were a little disturbed because the walls of the museum were thumping with Dancehall beats. You should have seen the smile on my face.

Then in Paris I was on the metro when I overheard a man singing along to a song from his ipod. "Gaza. Pan di Gaza. Pusi nofi sok pan di gaza. Bad man." It didn't take me a long time to realize that he must have been listening to a Jamaican song. He was really into it. Then at the club later that night I was treated to some oldies from the 80's and early 90's. Shabba Ranks, Red Rat, and some others who I didn't recognize, though I knew the songs.

You know, when I meet people and tell them I am from Jamaica, besides them smiling at me they usually offer the name 'Bob Marley' January everyone mentioned Usain Bolt firstly, and one guy even suggested Merlene Ottey before all the usual suspects.

My friend from Burkina Faso was at first puzzled by my pleasant surprise. She reminded me that Jamaican music is all people dance to in Burkina. She was shocked when I told her Jamaica's population was less than three million (Burkina: 15,208,586). Like myself, she is not able to understand how such a small country can hold such a prominent place in people's consciousness around the world. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gay Men Policing Heterosexuality in Jamaica

As always, the architects of the proverbial closet subjugate his mind and provide him with the tools needed to perpetuate the suppression of his fundamental instincts, and those of others, effectively elevating lowly "slaves" to the position of "slave-drivers". It provides for effective social control.

We hate ourselves, because we have been conditioned to consider who we are as evil. I can't remember if I shared this with you before, but it's relevant to this post so here goes. A few months ago I met my school's LGBT advisor for a conversation, along with one guy from Morocco, and the other from Connecticut. The American noted how interesting it was to meet gay men from other countries, for he had never thought of them before. I then said to him that we might be from very different places but our experiences trying to negotiate socio-cultural spaces that marginalize us is the same, albeit to different extents. He disagreed. He said, "my coming out was actually quite easy. I told my parents, they said okay, and that was that." 

I on the other hand struggled for years to get to the place where I am now. I never doubted that I loved men, or that I was gay when I discovered that people in the world identified as "gay" and led quite normal lives, but I fought hard to understand why society was so hostile towards the idea of someone like me. Many gay Jamaican men don't quite get to the stage where they question the validity of their cultural paradigm. Instead, they continue to hate themselves, constantly wishing the gay away, hoping to meet the woman who will sweep them off their feet. Some of the most robust rejections of my being gay have come from Jamaican men struggling with their sexualities. But, I understand extremely well the factors that give rise to this kind of self-loathing and oftentimes outright rejection of the notion of a gay identity. It makes perfect sense that we have internalized the homophobia of our society, and interesting how one is given the tools to perpetuate his own oppression and that of others. 

We must learn to love ourselves. We must erase every thought we've ever had that the attraction we feel is dirty, or evil. We will have to ignore every hurtful word people hurl at us when they question our masculinities. None of this is easy, but we must not hesitate to begin peeling away the layers of shame and guilt in which our Jamaican upbringing has encrusted us. The slave drivers were better regarded by their masters, but we gain nothing from perpetuating hatred and fear against our own. 

Live. Let-Live. Love. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kirikou et la Sorcière: A Social Commentary

The film Kirikou et la Sorcière was released in 1998. Kirikou is a precocious West-African boy who delivers his village from the wickedness of a sorceress, Karaba. I grew up listening to stories about witchcraft and retribution so I was intrigued. The graphics were simple, but the story was profound. It would make for an excellent alternative/ addition to the European fairy-tales that we are accustomed to, I thought...

Today my professor discussed the film in class, but made a rather intelligent analysis of the story (My excuse: I was watching the film from the perspective of a child hehe). So I decided to take another look at the film and here are some interesting things I noted:

The community described in the film is similar to my own in many ways. My parents for example, are very superstitious, and their belief in deities further gives credence to this disposition. Everything is the way it is, because a deity made it so. In the film, Karaba is the mover and the shaker behind the misfortunes that befall the village. The water source runs dry, and most of the adult males disappear. Karaba is regarded with fear and reverence, though she is not directly responsible for many of the misdeeds attributed to her.

In the minds of the villagers, Karaba is punishing them because she is wicked. It makes no sense to ask why she is wicked, as Kirikou does throughout the film, because the response will always be: "It's Karaba's plan". How Karaba relishes the ignorance of the village-folk! Recognizing their gullibility she claims, or at least does not deny, responsibility for the series of misfortunes. With the help of her minions, she is able to rob the villagers of their gold, which they value. Her omnipotence grows, proportional to the fear she instills in them.

The cursed water fountain is a constant reminder of the community’s fate. People are advised to stay away, lest they get cursed and suffer further from the wrath of Karaba. Kirikou disregards the rule in his quest for answers and discovers the reason why the water no longer flows- it wasn't a curse. The problem could easily be remedied, and so it was. Everyone celebrated. Yet still, every successive effort Kirikou makes to challenge the status quo is met with reproach or disapproval. His mother, who is well aware of the systematic oppression her community faces is not able to find out Karaba's secret, but she trusts Kirikou and helps him to get to the other side of mountain, beyond Karaba's dwelling so he can get answers from the Wise Man.

The film does not tell us how the wise man came to be in the mountains--- and if he always knew the solution to the village's problems, why he never attempted to advise them accordingly? To be fair, the Wise Man never hesitated to share his knowledge, after Kirikou had risked his life to get to the mountains (a combination of supplication and sacrifice I believe is the real-life equivalent).

After doing some research, my professor discovered that in the original folk-tale Karaba had become bitter and evil only after having been gang raped by men from the community. The creator of the film skillfully weaves in this historical twist in a way that is hardly evident to a child. Speaking of the origins of Karaba's wickedness, the Wise Man tells how her attackers restrain her while one of them drives in the thorn. This ‘thorn’, which remains in Karaba until Kirikou devises a way to remove it, is symbolic of the physical and psychological trauma she endures.

Another little detail, which I couldn’t help but notice, is the rejection of Kirikou by his peers. He is too small, they said. Even after Kirikou rescues them twice from the wretched grasp of Karaba they continue to regard him as inferior. Shunning everything ‘different’ seems to be rooted in the human psyche. It’s perhaps an evolutionary adaptation, which once guaranteed security and kept communities together. Anachronistic, surely, in a globalized world where I’d like to think we are starting to move beyond perceived ethnic and national boundaries.

I'll finish with a line from Kirikou:
Sometimes I am a little tired to fight on my own, and a little small and a little frightened. 
But fight he did. And so should we.

** Forgive my indiscriminate mixing of tenses. The film can be found on Youtube, with english subtitles, of course. Watch it, and tell me what you think :D

Monday, February 8, 2010

Patwa Kaana: Di Graas Griina fi Chuu, Bot...

Dem se di graas aalwiez luk griina pan di neda said. A chuu. Wen mi likl mi yuuz tu driim bout plies laka Frans an chos mi, di rialiti no mach-op so porfek at aal. Bot i mek sens stil, kaa wen yu no yuus tu a sertn ting we siim fi de somwe els, yu mos staat fantasaiz bout di somwe els. A jos so man mek. Bot aal di chrabl mi a chrabl, mi kyaahn siim fi sekl nowe. Mi naa se di graas no griin griin pan fimi said fi chuu ino, kaa chos mi i griin, bot aal di ruol mi a ruol ina di bam graas a bie krach mi kin a krach mi.

Wan a di ting dem we mi kyaahn andastan a ou kom no mata we mi go gie man afi yuuz websait an chatruum fi miit dem wananeda.
Waa gwaan. Yu gaa mi skuul no?
Ye…waa yu stats.
We yu miin?
Blak ar wait. Ou taal/shaat. Ud lent. Kot ar ankot. Tap ar Batam. Fies picha.
Amm, yaa juok rait. Nuo? Taak tu yu lieta den.
Ina Jumieka mi kyahn andastan, kaaz a no laik se yu kyahn jos waak op tu wahn man we yu laik, an fi nuo bout di paati dem yu afi nuo smadi uu nuo smadi uu gie- evribadi naav dat de logzri de. Nou wa mek ina Kianada, Merika an Frans a di siem ting mi a si? Evribadi a aid baka dem laptap. Everibadi jraa dong uu dem bi tu kopl suupafishal statistik and puoz op demself fi ii-shii-an-di-uol-liedi. (Big op if yu pruofail picha a wahn picha a yu bodi!!). An den mi tink, ef gie man kyaahn miit dem wananeda fies tu fies ina wahn konchri we dem av raits an protekshan, a we mi kuda riili ekspek fi apn ina Jumieka?

Mi taak aal di wail se mi ago bi selibet, an piipl no biliiv mi, bot mi jos kyaahn andastan wa mek wi lou piipl fi ron wi main so. Mi a di fos smadi fi tel yu se kolcha a wahn powaful sinting, bot nuo man, piipl kyaahna mek siek a kolcha dem liv di wuola dem laif widout lov, an widout di fiilin se dem uola- se notn no rang wid dem. Muo taim mi afi aaks miself ef a mi wan si laif disya wie kaa muos a di res a gie man dem uu mi kom kraas luk kwait kantent wid dem laif ina di shado. (Mi naa taak bout piipl ina Jumieka, kaa mi no ekspek se piipl ago git op an ris dehn laif fi "lov"). Ef smadi liv ina wahn sosaiyati we kliem se i naav notn gens gie man, ou kom sumoch piipl stil afi a aid baka kompyuuta pruofail!

Piipl aalwiez taak se gie man lov seks muo dahn aadineri, an mi aalwiez riizn se i mek likl sens kaa piipl no av di chaans nof taim fi miit an bil rilieshanship so wen dem du miit, ataklaps mos apn ina di bedruum! Bot no tel mi se wi kyaahn muuv paas disya setop ya, we get papyula jos kaa a wehn di siefis wie fi miit piipl. Tingz likl difrent nou man!

I luk tu mi se nof piipl stil no riili komfatebl wid demself. Mi andastan likl stil. Miebi di ting we a bada mi di muos a se mi wehn imajin se tingz uda nof-nof difrent. Bot eniwie, yu si chuu mi kyaahn tek no jraama, mi ago tan faar fran dem saiba piipl de, kaa wen yu tingk bout i siirios, tu dem yu a jos smadi fi ad tu di stak ina dem rampin shap. Afta di ak dem tuu shiem fi bil notn siirios we gwaihn fuos dem fi kanfront di fak se dem lov man.

So dis a wahn riil dailema. Mi figa se man tu man websait a fi piipl uu no riili av fimi andastandin bout seksualiti, an mi an dem naago grii, bot pan di neda an, anles a mi wan tan de wie ya (a kyaahn so!), mi no nuo we fi fain di ada man dem. Di graas mait griina pan di neda said, bot graas afi gruo ina dort, an a bie worm mi si a rigl chuu evriwe mi go.

Friday, February 5, 2010

To Dad, With Love

I finally did it. The earth opened up briefly while I said, and repeated the words "I am gay." I braced myself for his response as he calmly replied, "Do you know how long I have been waiting for this day to come? I'm glad you can now relieve yourself of the burden."

"How could you ever have expected that something so insignificant could come between us," he asked. "I love you, and nothing will ever change that," he continued. I had to ask him if he was listening to himself, because he seemed to have been reading from a manuscript which detailed all the right things to say to a son after he comes-out. He asked how my siblings had reacted, and demanded that I tell him if any of them has been teasing me so that he may give them a little talk. Unbelievable, right? Thankfully, all my siblings have been extremely supportive, listening to my stories, asking intelligent questions, and reassuring me of their love for me.

Now everyone who needs to know knows. My relationship with my family has never been stronger. I can feel it. After I spoke to daddy, I called one of my brothers and shared with him what had transpired. He was glad.

"FP, I hope you find a nice partner and settle down. And remember, always have safe sex." Wait, who abducted my father!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We Are the Masters of Our Fate

Yesterday I watched the film Invictus, and despite my spate of cynicism in recent weeks I Ieft the cinema with a sense that with inspired political leadership it may still be possible to realize my nation's potential in my lifetime. Naive idealism? Perhaps.
Jamaicans need to be inspired to the greatness the world has come to expect of us. On my recent sojourns in Nicaragua and France everyone I introduced myself as Jamaican to burst into a smile and offered the name Usain Bolt and Bob Marley. One Frenchman even mentioned Merlene Ottey, and we nodded in mutual understanding of the greatness for which Jamaica is prodigious.
South Africa today is the only country in the Global South whose constitution enshrines the full equality GLBT people. Post-apartheid leaders fully understood what prejudice and oppression felt like, and were dedicated to removing the scourge of discrimination from their nation. The majority of South Africa’s people were not in agreement, but the leaders boldly pressed on with the reforms that were necessary to create the nation that they envisioned.
"In November 2006, the South African Parliament voted 230:41 for a bill allowing same-sex civil marriage, as well as civil unions for unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples."
From my studies of history it seems apparent that insightful and revolutionary political leadership is critical to motivate a people to maximize their human potential. It also appears that great leaders typically emerge after periods of great challenge and unimaginable suffering. The Jamaican people are waiting.
I have the good fortune of being from a country that people recognize all over the world. It is time we use this comparative advantage to secure the prosperity of the next generation of Jamaicans.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Annie John: A Gay Boy's Hero

In grade 9 English Literature we studied the book Annie John, by Jamaican Kincaid. There are aspects of the book that I have never forgotten, and this is because I believe Annie's story provided a framework for me to envision a different future, perhaps away from Jamaica.

After looking at a summary of one of the chapters, I remembered why Annie's story stayed with me.

Chapter 6: Somewhere, Beligium

In this chapter, Annie is fifteen years old, and she imagines that she is unhappier than anyone else could possible be. I was also fifteen. I feet alone, yet everyone seems oblivious to the pain I felt. Her unhappiness cannot be traced to a simple factor, but thrives inside like a heavy black ball that is covered with cobwebs This is one of the symbols that I always remembered. Annie believes that this blackness inside makes everything that she once enjoyed appear sour.

Annie starts to daydream. She decides that she wants to move to Belgium, where Jane Eyre, her favorite character, once traveled. In Belgium, Annie's mother could address letters to her as "Annie John, Somewhere Belgium," because Annie would not say in what city she was. I have had a mild obsession with Belgium to this day. It is worth noting that the character of Jane Eyre, herself, is an orphan who always felt cast out and separated from the world. Annie's tendency to identify with Jane, despite the fact that she has a family, demonstrates how alienated and isolated she feels from her mother. I too started to feel alienated from my mother after my parent's divorce. Especially when my mother started to date men. She loved me less, surely.

One day Annie walks into town after school. She finds herself in front of a clothing store and sees her reflection in the window. Annie sadly observes that she looks awkward and ugly, and she compares herself to a picture of young Lucifer. Puberty was an interesting time for me. First I was the chubby child, then the maaga adolescent. I never felt attractive, and even today still am very self-conscious about my body. Some boys standing nearby start teasing Annie gently. Her mother explains that she was in the clothing store and saw Annie looking in. She also saw Annie flirting and conducting herself improperly with those boys. After Annie's mother uses the slang word for "slut" numerous times, Annie says "like mother like daughter." I too quipped at my mother when I felt she was out of line. I was punished, but parents should not be allowed to exercise power absolutely, absolved of wrongdoing because supposedly they know best. Sometimes parents do not know best. My mother lived in a time very different from my own. How dare her apply her own mother's parenting tactics today.

Annie's feeling of dismay at her physical body and appearance prefigures her physical illness that follows in the next chapter. Already by obsessing over the black ball of sadness in her and by seeing her face with distortion, Annie appears to be on the cusp of a mental breakdown. I'm not sure what insanity feels like, but I feel sure that I have come close to it. You think so much that you get absorbed into an alternate reality, characterized only by your concerns, anxieties and fear. Your resolve to fight disappears, and you become hateful of everything and everyone that has induced your feeling so inadequate. One of my teachers in high school once pulled me aside and informed me that she noticed I was quite aloof, and needed to change my approach to people if I was ever to be a good leader. I never cared to lead inconsiderate people, so her words meant little to me then.

Annie thinks she is ready to have her own trunk to put her own objects and stories into. Annie's desire for a trunk of her own foreshadows her eventual desire to emerge as a separate person. I can't as easily identify when I decided to step back from my reality and construct an identity and a place of my own. I think it happened near the end of high school when I made friends with other misfits who also sought to get away from their own realities.

The book ends with the following line:

"I could hear the small waves lap lapping around the ship. They made an unexpected sound as if a vessel filled with liquid had been placed on its side and was now emptying out."

Annie John drifts slowly away from every reality she has ever known, but towards one that she has dreamed of for years. The novel ends with her emergence as an independent young woman who will discover the world on her own, and determine a more agreeable reality. Not surprisingly, my own life follows a similar trajectory. I'll never forget the feeling I had while sitting on that Air Jamaica flight to Miami. I couldn't contain my excitement. I couldn't stop smiling. I looked out the window as the Kingston cityscape grew less and less visible. The cobwebs slowly started to fall from the black ball within.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Glass Closet + Gay Men in Jamaica

I recently discovered an interactive website, which explores how Jamaica’s cultural, political and religious traditions are making it harder for public health officials to control the spread of HIV/AIDS. The project is titled The Glass Closet. It puts faces to people living with AIDS, men who have sex with men, and the people who often risk their lives to provide services to these vulnerable communities.
"In Jamaica, strict anti-sodomy laws and often violently homophobic social currents have skewed the national HIV infection rates. While the general population’s infection rate is currently about 1.4%, the infection rate in the gay community is more than 20 times higher -- almost 32%."
The site has many videos and commentaries, and also offers a section for people around the world to share their stories about the impact of homophobia and stigma.

Here are some of the videos created for the project:

Gays in Jamaica Worship in Underground Church

Violence and Venom Forces Gays to Hide

Jamaica's Battle Against Aids Fought in the Shadows

Ida's Story: Reversing the Stigma of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica

Check out the site by clicking here.