Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Video: The two faces of Jamaican gay life

Jamaica Star cartoon

By Paul Canning

Recent LGBT flavoured stories from Jamaica have shown two sides to that country's attitude to gays.

The tabloid Jamaica Star recently focused on gay prostitutes in its usual sarcastic and expose-style(e).

Illustrated with a cartoon (right) which wouldn't have been out of place in the British tabloid the Daily Express maybe twenty years ago, the reporter took herself to a street in New Kingston (the upmarket side of the city) and found "animated and flamboyant gay men .. on the hunt for clients to sell sexual favours."
"The cross-dressing men, who frequent a specific avenue, can be seen from as early as 9 p.m., drinking and smoking, exhibiting their acrobatic skills and leaving in posh vehicles"

"While some were dapperly dressed in jeans pants and T-shirts, the others went all out, and were quite convincing in their attempts to appear feminine. Most were also sporting bleached faces"
She was told that their prices vary according to the type of service being offered. One explained:
"Di price depends on weh di man want, some of dem want a gangster ruff up, dat price different from if a man would want a blow or straight [sex] ... like a $1,000, it jus depends ..."
Clients, as everyone else in the world, include married men.

"Wi talk to different type a man, some a dem married and inna dem big position, some a dem kind and will all give a big money like $10,000 (about US $11) when dem ready."
The men, who ranged in ages from 17 to late 20s, were not afraid to talk to the tabloid and they said that despite the reports of Jamaica being homophobic, they have never been attacked (though Gay Jamaica Watch reported a shooting incident elsewhere in August).

The Star noted that "the men also gave credit to one of their companions, hailing him as one of the best oral sex performers around."
"Dis a gangster swiper, yuh nuh see his lips? When him swipe yuh, him mek yuh feel like yuh deh inna di sky."
The Chief of the local police, one Superintendent Derrick 'Cowboy' Knight, told the journalist that although they had received complaints about the prostitutes there was little they can do as they would have to catch them in the act.

And The Star followed up by interviewing local female prostitutes, who described their male compadres as "not a threat."

However the men are apparently willing to offer some services which the women do not offer as freely.
"Dem a offer oral sex hard and mi hear man seh dem offer di best oral sex, but because dem dress up like woman nuff a di man dem nuh know."

Keith 'Shebada' Ramsey
Meanwhile, in the more upmarket Jamaica Observer, Pondi Road covers 'lifestyle'.

S/he says that the very successful comedic play GhettOut by Keith 'Shebada' Ramsey (pictured right), a well known Jamaican actor and comedian rumoured to be gay, demonstrates that "Jamaica is one of the most complicated places in the world."
"Who would predict that the leading theatrical export (bigger than Oliver Yu Large [a TV character], Miss Lou [Comedienne], etc combined) would be the gay-baiting caricature from a place proclaimed to be one of the most homophobic on Earth. Explain that!"
Here's a slice of GhettOut:

Gay Jamaican blogger 'H' says that Shebada "has helped to soften the public's perception towards effeminacy thus dealing with effemophia in a cute way."

Linstead is a tiny town in the South East, now home, according to The Star (they love these stories) to a strip club which hosts "'ungodly' acts of females having sexual intercourse with each other openly."

Interviewing one 'visitor' "rushing out in disgust after seeing the activities" they quote him (must be a him?) saying:
"God is going to shock somebody to death very soon, as the things are just not right inside there."
The Star, after being informed by a local taxi driver "yes mi boss a dis gwaan dung yah every time dem have 'Freaky night'", had of course to find out more and, entering, "observed two females kissing passionately while gyrating on each other and panting heavily."

Local 'parents' are outraged, no make that "disgruntled":
"Di place get infested wid lesbian dem, even some of the young girls dem want to fight ova. It haffi stop man."
A 'householder' tells the journalist:
"Bethren, di people dem move to other woman, kiss, sex and take dem home. If a man ever mek a talk dem have fight over each odda, dem really jealous."
The local police sound just as disinterested as those in New Kingston, saying that "no formal reports or complaints about the club's activities have been made."

Star columnist 'Jackass' notes:
"Of course, to many a town person, the lesbian thing around go-go clubs is like waaaayyyy normal, so much so that the men know that if they have no cash to flash, they better stay waaaaayyyyyy in the back, cause is big spenders get front row seat."
"And it is a curious thing," he adds, "which has been going on in Jamaica for a long, long time, where men are very tolerant of two women but would burn fire and gash lightning and draw machete, at a strong hint of two men."

"Yeah man, let it even be whispered that a ‘man and man’ business was happening in the same club and that bun down flat, ‘men’ have to run away and police have to protect and serve those who remain, so they don’t get mobbed and killed."

"And it works the other way ’round as well, where many women are really palsy with gay men, rapping with them like it is just one of the girls, while man burn fire and breathe fire and sometimes want to light fire."
Last year popular dancehall act Busy Signal released "I Love Girls Who Love Girls" - to the anger of critics who suggested that "homosexuality is being snuck in through the back door."

Gay Jamaican blogger 'H' notes one reason why a rural go-go club might have lesbians using it:
"It is no secret that men out there like public lesbianism in exotic clubs and there are a few clubs that allow lesbian patrons open access to their services as it is said lesbians consume more alcohol per head in a mixed club environment than straight men do."

"So much for slow integration eh?"
In yet another sleazy article from The Star, it reports on two lesbians caught in the act - of sex with 'strap ons' no less - by security guards at a shopping centre.

Underlining Jackass' point it notes that the guard who first saw what was taking place "quickly alerted his other colleague to see the two lovers holding on to the tree."

It reports:
"You would think is a man a sort out di girl, me can't believe weh mi see because only on cable I see these things," one of the security guards who witnessed the action said. "Mi watch dem for about 45 minutes before mi walk down towards them and seh a my time now and as mi seh dat, a same time di man one push in the dildo in her pants like a living man."
"Di two girl dem nuh shame because after we approach dem fi a piece of the action and dem jus walk off as if nothing never happen."

'H' also reports on a fashion trend for flamboyant dressing by Jamaican men, or rather Jamaican so called thugs or heaviots (the gay ones, says 'H'). He quotes a Gleaner article:
Three earrings in one ear, shoulder-length plaited hair. Cropped jeans, extending just below the knees, are harnessed to his waist by a bright yellow belt. In matching bright yellow slippers he goes, flip-flopping on the construction site, donning yellow-frame sunglasses to protect his sight.

Downtown Kingston. Tall, black-skinned vendor selling panties and brassieres, one of which he stuffs and wears, shouting to people to go and buy his wares. They are oblivious to the fact that he's also donning shimmering slippers, blond braids, plastic hoop earrings and false fingernails.
And 'H' comments:
"The changes in how men look and behave in this country have been glaring and leading the charge oddly has always been the dancehall DJs surprisingly despite their open challenge to gay themed lifestyles and aesthetics. Who can remember the days of bleached hair by artists such as General Degree and Elephant Man in the height of the rapid releases of "murder music" from the production houses."

"Now we have arrived at the "Cake Soap" [skin bleaching or rubbing as it is called in Jamaica] era and we all know who is leading that charge none other than the "teacher" Vybz Kartel who is quick to disassociate himself to any homosexual references in the song's first line "Mi nuh love man so tek yuh mind offa mi" (I don't love men so take your mind off me) so clearly while the metro-sexual lifestyles are being tolerated there is still an underlined belief that it is gays who really start or do more of these now mainstream trends than heterosexuals."
'H' says that Jamaican media is getting better at allowing more discussion on LGBTQI issues, noting "more balanced exchanges on the murder music campaigns, lifestyle issues and transgenderism." And he also reports on a gala year for LGBT parties and events in Jamaica.

But other recent reports show that, although these other reports suggest improvements, danger is still very much present for LGBT Jamaicans.

This report was headlined 'Gay Molester Killed': A man who police say was accused of raping little boys in Tivoli Gardens in Kingston was shot dead.

A third-year student of a tertiary level institution was forced to flee the dorm and the school recently, after a tape on which he allegedly confessed his homosexuality was released around the campus via bluetooth technology. JFLAG said that the student was savagely beaten.

JFLAG also reports that a cross-dresser was brutally hacked to death in Kingston on December 3.

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