Jamaican/Canadian activist Maurice Tomlinson favors a boycott to protest obstruction of Montego Bay Pride, but a one-day Pride is still possible.
I’m an international human rights activist from Montego Bay. Here’s why you should take your next vacation elsewhere.
— Maurice Tomlinson, Out magazine, Sept. 24, 2018
By Maurice Tomlinson
Update on Montego Bay Pride
There have been strong reactions to the recent article in OUT magazine calling for a boycott of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre as well as the city due to the forced cancellation of Montego Bay Pride.
Many persons accept that this drastic move was necessary to get the attention of the Mayor of Montego Bay, whose bigoted decision to ban Pride from the taxpayer funded Cultural Centre triggered this call. But there have also been many others who have argued that a boycott would hurt the struggling Jamaican economy and make things worse for LGBT people by, among other things, casting us as scapegoats for the economic hardship that poor struggling Jamaicans feel.
Both of these positions have merit. And in the past, I have argued each side with equal vigour.
However, today I still support a boycott.
For many years Jamaican politicians have wanted to “have their cake and eat it too.” They have violated the human rights of LGBT people while still accepting money from LGBT tourists and their allies. There is an old Jamaican saying: “Yuh avi learn fi dance a yaad before yuh dance abroad” (loose translation, you have to take care of business at home before you go looking for business elsewhere).
So, before trying to court LGBT tourists and their allies Jamaica’s leaders must know that they have tremendous power to help or harm the security of LGBT citizens at home. This is amply seen from the avalanche of hate, which the Mayor of Montego Bay set off by his inflammatory remark that allowing Montego Bay Pride to use the Cultural Centre would damage the “sacredness” of that SECULAR space.
He has singlehandedly set-back the work for LGBT human rights in the city by decades due to his one careless statement.
Nearly 30 years ago the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, which, like Montego Bay, is heavily dependent on tourism, decided to end the ban on gay sex because he did not want to chase away vital tourism dollars. He was roundly condemned by the country’s powerful right-wing religious extremists, but he was firmly of the view that although the fundamentalists were entitled to their opinions, they could not be allowed to devastate the country’s economy with their bigotry. The Mayor of Montego Bay can learn a lesson from that PM.
One of the most disappointing things about this sad affair has been the lack of public support for Montego Bay Pride by powerful LGBT people in the city, many of whom hold very senior positions in the vital tourism sector. Their wealth and privilege makes these persons completely insulated from any physical or economic attack if they were to speak out and condemn the Mayor. However, through sheer cowardice they have refused to do so. In a perverse twist of fate some have even helped to keep Montego Bay Pride out of venues that they control because they didn’t want their spaces stigmatized. This is what internalized homophobia looks like.
Thankfully, other sectors of Montego Bay’s society have realized the truly devastating impact that the Mayor’s words have had on Jamaica’s international reputation and Montego Bay’s economic prospects. They have therefore been working with Montego Bay Pride to find a resolution to this crisis.
Since we announced the call for a boycott the police have contacted us to discuss security for our planned Walk for Rights. And another venue has come forward willing to host us despite the Mayor’s declaration.
The Montego Bay LGBT community has also asked that we put on some form of Pride event as they desperately need this release, even if it is only for a day.
So, depending on how talks go with the police about safety, Montego Bay Pride maybe holding a much scaled-back one-day festival on October 20 this year. The flyers below list some of the events planned for the day.
We are thankful for all our allies, locally and internationally, who have stood with us through this difficult time. We are determined that Montego Bay MUST recognize the human rights of ALL citizens, by any means necessary, and even if the process may cause economic pain.
However, this pain cannot compare to the anguish that Dwayne Jones felt as she was mobbed and killed in the city for daring to attend a public street dance dressed as she identified. And it cannot compare to the terror that I felt when vendors who supported the Mayor surrounded me outside the Montego Bay Cultural Centre hurling homophobic slurs and threatening to kill me.
We all have to pick our battles. And Montego Bay Pride chooses to stand and fight for the rights of vulnerable LGBT Jamaicans since those with power to change things are too bigoted and/or cowardly to do so.
- Jamaican LGBTQ+ Groups Call For Boycott Over Pride Cancellation (Sept. 24, 2019, Out magazine)
- Security risks force cancellation of Montego Bay Pride