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Jamaica: Pride is a living legacy of the LGBTI movement

Logo of Montego Bay Pride 2017. Click image to connect to the registration site.

Logo of Montego Bay Pride 2017. Click image to connect to the registration site.

“Pride plays an integral role in our survival as a community,” says Roy Powell, one of the coordinators of Montego Bay Pride. “Within the movement of Pride we learn about our history and why it is important for us to be open about who we are and why we should never let anyone tell us we should be ashamed.”

Scene at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Scene at Montego Bay Pride, Jamaica, Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

In the run-up to Montego Bay Pride on Oct. 12-15, 2017, Pride coordinators in Jamaica are focusing on what Pride means to them and to the struggle for recognition of the human rights of LGBTI Jamaicans. This is the final article of the series.

Pride: The Legacy of the LGBTI Movement

By Roy Powell

Roy Powell

Roy Powell

The LGBTI movement has been one that coincided with the fight for civil rights during the days of slavery and the days of inequality amongst the sexes. And although we’ve progressed since then and have tried to make amends for past sins, we’ve ignored, stigmatized, and abused the LGBT+ community that have stood by us and have been an ally through many struggles.

I take full awareness in my deliberate use of the word “we”: I also implicate my fellow LGBT+ brothers and sisters for their negligence in allowing people to stigmatize our community and in many cases their carelessness in stigmatizing their own community for senseless reasons.

Perhaps the ignorance of many LGBT+ members is due in part because they don’t fully understand their history as queer youths and why it is integral for us to stand as a united community and offer Compassion, Love and Support to our LGBT family, who are struggling out there.

It is for that reason that Pride was invented. For that same reason, Pride plays an integral role in our survival as a community.

PRIDE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO ME AS A QUEER YOUTH

Enjoying time together at Montego Bay Pride 2016. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Enjoying time together at Montego Bay Pride 2016. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Pride to me is a metaphor for the love and support we seek from those we hold dear to us, accepting our difference and supporting us, the strength and dignity in standing with our heads held high and being proud of who we are, the peace in our souls when we no longer have to hide who we are, and the joy that comes with living one’s authentic life, free of the fears of being judged and condemned by others.

Pride is an essential tool for survival within the LGBT+ community and within any society where one faces opposition to their identity. Within our community, Pride is a movement, it is our legacy.

Within the movement of Pride there is no judgement, no prejudice, no hate; just boundless love. Within the movement of Pride, we join hands with our gay brothers and sisters and fight against the injustice that has been portrayed towards us time and time again. Within the movement of Pride we learn about our history and why it is important for us to be open about who we are and why we should never let anyone tell us we should be ashamed.

For me, being a queer youth growing up, I was told very young that I can be anything I want to be and that I should be myself and follow no one. The irony, however, is that when I discovered I was queer and my family found out, they wanted me to be less of myself and more like other people. And even before they found out, I dealt with the depression of being in the closet and having no one to turn to who understood me. I felt ostracized and alone, with the thought of suicide crossing my mind over and over again. I didn’t want live, hating myself for something I had no control over and something everyone was telling me to be ashamed of. That is the worst fate; I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, not even my worst enemy.

Dealing with that as a child was very hard, and it wasn’t until I hit adulthood that I learned to not give a crap about what people think about me, and learned how to love myself, and the benefit of approaching any given situation or adversity from an assertive standpoint. I couldn’t have accomplished all of this on my own. I had a best friend who cared about me and who was there to guide me in discovering and opening up about who I am, and who encouraged me to speak to the psychologist at the Jamaica AIDS Support For Life, who helped me to be the man I am today.

Another important attribute associated with Pride is having a dynamic family within the LGBT+ community who can offer us support and wisdom in dealing with opposition towards our sexual identity. We are even able to learn valuable lessons from senior queer individuals who have been through adversity and who can offer advice that’ll help many of us younger queer youths to mature to a level where we are able to overcome any adversity we may face.

As Pride evolves from a metaphor to a literal physical event, it embodies all the above-mentioned dynamic associated with Pride. We the LGBT+ community have created our own family — our own cultural carnival of sorts where we can show the manifestation of our will to stand up for who we are and fight for our right to exist on a national and international level.

It is for these reasons I’m looking forward to Montego Bay Pride, a local Pride event being held here in Jamaica, offering members of the LGBT+ family the chance to congregate and celebrate our queerness at a location where we don’t have to censor our identity, where we within ourselves can embody all the dynamics of Pride and be Proud, Open and Free.

Schedule for Montego Bay Pride 2017. Click on the image to connect to the registration site.

Schedule for Montego Bay Pride 2017. Click on the image to connect to the registration site.

Roy Powell is a youth advocate and a coordinator of Montego Bay Pride 2017.  As an openly gay activist, he uses social media to educate people, straight and gay alike, on the importance of equality and to highlight the struggles faced by gay men in Jamaica. His dream is for Jamaicans to one day recognize the true diversity of the country and make positive steps in accepting and protecting the LGBT+ community. Through open advocacy he hopes to build on the foundation and legacy of queer advocacy in Jamaica with the mission of one day making that dream a reality.

Previous articles about Montego Bay Pride 2017:

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