By Khavoy Brown
On Saturday, International Human Rights Day, I was at Emancipation Park in Kingston with about 28 Montego Bay “Pridesters.” We went to listen to a pastor, Scott Stirm, deliver the keynote sermon at what was billed as a Human Rights Day Rally. This annual event is put on by the anti-gay religious group, Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), and usually features a foreign religious person telling Jamaicans to reject foreign cultural influences, by which they largely mean homosexuality. Talk about ironic.
On this occasion JCHS flew in the American-born and Belize-based Stirm, who has campaigned aggressively against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights in his adopted country for years. As was expected, Stirm’s sentiments at the rally were very antagonistic towards LGBT people, and largely misrepresented what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. His edited version was one of hate and condemnation.
He also stated that the main argument against the British colonially-imposed anti-sodomy law is that the Government should not be involved in the “bedroom affair” of consenting adults. However, he opposed that view, stating instead that the Government has always been involved in our bedroom affairs hence the enactment of the anti-sodomy law in the first place(!)
Curiously, Pastor Stirm did not mention other “bedroom laws” criminalizing consensual intimacy that have since been repealed, such as the laws against adultery.
Stirm also claimed that gender is no longer about male and female and that there are now LGBTQI genders. I found this to be very embarrassing for him, as he clearly confused sexual orientation with gender identity and expression.
Quite simply, such blatant lack of knowledge is a main reason for Pride.
Every year more Jamaicans are bravely identifying as members of our local LGBT communities. As humans and citizens, we are becoming increasingly self-accepting and liberating. At the same time, local and regional human rights and LGBT organizations have engaged in a strategic and systematic approach of building the capacity of the LGBT communities in policy advocacy and activism.
2015 was a historic one for Jamaica and our communities when we be became significantly more visible through our inaugural hostings of PRiDE Jamaica and Montego Bay Pride.
Against the backdrop of our society’s worrying levels of intolerance, homophobia and inequality, we have nevertheless matured in our confidence. Considering the vast number of churches spewing homophobia across our country — we are reputed to be the country with the most churches per square mile — we need more Pride, more often!
My own journey of liberation started when I became profoundly inspired by Maurice Tomlinson and was introduced to and participated in the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s visibility campaign. This included short unannounced “Stands for Equality and Inclusion.” The first stand I ever participated in was on December 10, 2015 — another International Human Rights Day — when Maurice launched his constitutional challenge to Jamaica’s anti-buggery law.
I also attended forums discussing how to challenge homophobia and support LGBT activism. I subsequently volunteered with and took part in Montego Bay Pride 2016, where the sense of liberation motivated me to work for even greater inclusion of LGBT people in our society.
This motivation led me to work on and eventually be elected as our co-coordinator for Montego Bay Pride 2017. Coincidentally, I was notified of my election on Saturday while I was listening to Stirm’s hateful rhetoric. I have rarely felt so empowered as in that moment. I thought: “THIS is how I can challenge the lies that I am hearing.”
I therefore officially accept and offer myself wholeheartedly to serve in this position with a commitment to work to the best of my capacity in achieving another successful Montego Bay Pride. I hope that you will join me!
My profound appreciation to everyone who volunteered and voted. We have approximately 11 months to effectively organize, become “rainbowed up” and ready to go. Our success is critical as, for many young LGBT people across Jamaica, Montego Bay Pride 2017 will be their first ever Pride. Let’s work to make it monumental and phenomenal for them.
Yours with Love and Pride!
Khavoy Brown is a Jamaican human rights advocate who will be the co-coordinator with Maurice Tomlinson for Montego Bay Pride 2017. He is a research assistant at the University of the West Indies in the Office of Social Entrepreneurship in the field of strategic planning and policy advocacy. This commentary was written by Brown and edited by Tomlinson.
- How was Montego Bay Pride a success? Let me count the ways (October 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Jamaican success: Fun + advocacy at Montego Bay Pride (October 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Deliriously happy after Jamaica’s first Montego Bay Pride (October 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Montego Bay Pride – here’s why (August 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Jamaica’s first Pride gets boost from government officials (August 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Commentary: Why Jamaica Pride is important (August 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Star power of Ellen Page supports Jamaica Pride (August 2015, 76crimes.com)