Image from channel 4
Unreported World. May 2014.
(TW: mentions of abuse & homophobia/biphobia/transphobia)
(link to video – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/videos/all/jamaicas-underground-gays but it may not be viewable outside the U.K)
I don’t watch a lot of television. I find a lot of it frustrating and boring because it never reflects anyone remotely like me: black, fat and queer. But I tuned in to see the Unreported World’s short documentary on queer folks living in Jamaica. I lasted about five minutes before I had to switch off and have a cry.
The documentary was very moving; in one scene LGBT people had rocks thrown at them by crowds. When the police showed up, they said the LGBT folks were throwing stones at the crowd, completely reversing the truth. The next scene showed a government official telling a few queer folks that they can’t come to Jamaica and dress the way they did: “You’re not foreigners.” The last scene I watched after I tuned back in, showed a young person crying, saying that when he couldn’t bear any more, God would send an angel to him. I started crying again at that point.
I know that bigotry, homo/trans/biphobia exists all over the world. Jamaica isn’t the only place where queer people of colour live in fear. My home in England has laws to prevent discrimination, but I am still subject to physical, sexual and verbal threats and abuse on a regular basis because I’m black and bisexual. But what affected me so much about the programme, was that the hateful things that were done, were done to people who looked just like me. The nasty slurs were said with a Jamaican accent – the same accent I grew up with and was expected to emulate, even though I had never been to Jamaica. One particular slur, “b*tty boy” is something that still makes me scared because it was used often by the people around me growing up.
I’m glad the documentary aired, but I wish I’d been better prepared for how deeply it affected me. I was upset for the rest of the evening; I had flashbacks of the abusive people I grew up with, and all the horrible things they said and did. My heart went out to the LGBT folks who had to live in a sewer drain just to stay safe. After I was done crying, I remembered J-Flag (http://jflag.org) who support LGBTI people in Jamaica.
I know that I am fortunate that I can live as an openly out and proud black bisexual. I hope that one day, those in the documentary can do the same, and live in safety and freedom.