The daily challenges of being gay in Jamaica include restricting seemingly ordinary conduct. Orientation must be kept a secret. Relationships, no matter how stable or supportive must be kept secret.
Sexual minorities are treated as less than second class citizens. If there is genuine support on a human rights level, I am not aware of it. Nor would I want to have to seek assistance of that nature. I believe doing so would be tantamount to committing social, if not literal suicide.
I have lived in St. Lucia, and visited St Vincent and Saint Maarten and in my experience Jamaica's approach to sexuality is almost “Taliban-like” compared to those places. While violence against gays still exists in most parts of the world, the average Jamaican, even those who are educated and exposed to what happens in the rest of the world, feel compelled to register their disapproval at every opportunity. While gays are not necessarily embraced openly in the places I have named, violence is not the socially accepted response.
I would narrowly judge successful advocacy by the freedoms I and my peers feel at liberty to exercise. That being said, I do not feel that the situation has really advanced in a positive way for the regular folks who aren't brave enough to risk their personal safety be openly challenging the status quo. We are no more confident today, than we were ten or even fifteen years ago to reveal certain facts about ourselves.
The advocacy movement does not adequately address the issues of the people who do not feel brave enough to come-out. While I don't suggest that the movement is at fault for this I do believe that there is still a gap there. After all, we can't be helped if we don't come forward enough to ask for help.
Nationally, the laws must change first. These issues will never be fully addressed in the absence of the right legal framework. Socially, straight Jamaicans need to be educated without the biases of religion and culture given prominence in the discussion.
On a community level, there are unfortunately the same social classes that exist in the wider society. Sexuality and it's struggles, as real as they are, are apparently not as uniting as one might imagine. Until the very clear class barriers are addressed in the wider society, I fear they will remain even in the minority groups. If the community is to move forward, the strength of its numbers would be a critical asset. Partnerships will either not be formed, or they will fail if the community does not see itself as a whole.
In Jamaica I hold little hope of things changing legally in my lifetime; in most of the rest of the Caribbean I think change might come within the next 10 to15 years. I don't know much about HIV status in the Caribbean, but I know the HIV prevalence is pretty high in Jamaica. I believe that we will see control of the spread of HIV being directly linked to change in social attitudes toward tolerance for minorities. Critical education about prevention cannot be effectively disseminated in an atmosphere of intolerance.
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