AROUND THE WORLD: Voices from Jamaica

Apr 13, 2020 | Around the World

Safety

By Miranda

I used to feel like I was cheating the LGBTQ+ community
by being bisexual. You tend to hear a lot of, “It’s just a
phase,” “You’re just being greedy,” “You’re not really
queer—you’re just experimenting,” etc. I felt like an
outcast; I didn’t even belong where I was supposed to
be able to belong. It took a very good friend of mine to
help me come to grips with the fact that being bisexual
wasn’t this horrible cheat that allowed me to live in both
worlds without committing to either, but it was a part
of who I am, and I should accept that. With her help, I
was able to be more confident in myself and my sexuality.
Music played a huge part in me not wanting to accept
my bisexuality. There are a lot of verbal attacks aimed
at homosexuals in Jamaican music and because of this, I
tried to suppress the part of me that was attracted to the
same sex. My thinking was that if I could be “straight,”
then why not just do that and ignore my homosexuality?
Thus, that became my life. I was walking around trying
my best not to look too hard at someone I found attractive
just because they happened to have the same genitals as I
do. This was very hard for me.

Growing up bisexual in Jamaica is a challenge. There are
constant attacks on queers of all shapes and sizes. I never
wanted to be a target of these attacks, so I tried my best
to stick to dating the opposite sex. That was safest, and
I do find both males and females attractive, so no one
was getting hurt, right? That’s what I thought, but I was
hurting myself. I was denying an entire part of my being.
It was crushing my soul and I didn’t even realize it. A
friend of mine had to sit me down and force me to face
it. That was, up until that point, the hardest conversation
I had ever been a part of. She made me realize that
denying an entire half of our species even though I was
obviously drawn to them was not only stupid, but
dishonest and ultimately driven by fear. I may not
have wanted to hear that, but I certainly needed to.
She ultimately helped me to come out to my best
friend, who surprisingly took it a lot better than I
expected. I then became more comfortable in my
skin and stopped hiding my true self. It was this
choice that led me to meet the person that
would introduce me to SPECTRUM, a resource
center for queer people like me.

SPECTRUM is the first safe space I’ve ever been in.
Except for roughly five of my friends, no one knows I’m bisexual, so
it is hard for me to be around a large group of my friends because I
can never really be myself with them. All that discomfort fades away
the moment I step through SPECTRUM’s doors. The people there
are so amazingly queer, I feel like I am enveloped in safety as soon
as I arrive, and I can finally be the me that I truly am, safe from
judgment and prejudice. I am very grateful for that space to just be
me. I long for a day where I can tell all my friends and family without
fear, but until then, the family I have gained at SPECTRUM keeps
me going.

To be SEEN

By Vicky

It often feels as though I carry the weight of stares around my
neck. I feel propped up, pampered, and posed to be craved and
gawked at for being so fabulously “other.” I am light-skinned,
bald, and pretentiously artistic. Oh, and I am bisexual, the
perfect mix of lesbian erotica and hetero-normative comfort
to send men cuckoo for cocoa puffs. While I was very grateful
for the (mostly) well-intentioned acclamation, over time it has
proven bittersweet.

The journey to accepting my bisexuality has been turbulent, to
say the least. At first, being seen as “exotic” was intoxicating. I
nonchalantly brought up my sexuality often as I had quite the
liberal social group. As my sexual life became more “enriched,”
I attracted many spectators. I enjoyed being seen. I enjoyed
being accepted. It all felt so very good. Even those opposed
to homosexuality found me intriguing. Because I had not
“completely crossed over,” my opinions and expressions were
somehow more agreeable than those of my lesbian and gay
peers. Earlier on in my journey, I had presumed that I was
welcomed because of growing liberalism in our previously
ultra-conservative Jamaican society—which wasn’t entirely
wrong. Admittedly, Jamaican society has evolved greatly since
Buju Banton released his infamously homophobic song “Boom
Bye Bye” in 1993. But experience and careful observation
proved that my bisexuality was nothing more than a fetish for
the hetero-male seeking to feed his inner freak. I had become a
showpiece for “queerdom,” palatable enough for straight folk.

The more my indigence of genuine love showed, the more
my “rainbow coat” began to itch.

As my one-dimensional outlook took on flesh and bones, I
shed pompous appearances, humbled my tongue, and stayed
close to the ground. I took to the internet and searched
desperately for others who, like me, wanted love but actually
found it. My spiritual life began to flourish, and my identity
expanded beyond my gender, sex, and sexual expression. I
stumbled into SPECTRUM at the University of the West
Indies, an LGBTQIA+ resource center organized by PRIDE
in Action—which was honestly God-sent. Being around
LGBTQIA+ peers helped me realize that our differences
in expressions of gender, sex, and sexuality were not our
only noteworthy features. In fact, it was those who used
their sexuality as agents of love that received my attention,
admiration, and trust.

Then it hit me: society had put so much weight on the fact
that I am not hetero-normative that my fight to be accepted
often became a fight for my sexuality to be accepted. While
helping others to understand and respect sexual expressions
different from their own is indeed important, the bigger
picture is for me to help my community respect and love
people like me for who we are as whole, multidimensional
human beings. Furthermore, my pride is no longer grounded
in my ‘exoticism’ but in my ability to LOVE, without
remorse, men and women. I do want to be seen. I do want
to be accepted, not only for my sexuality but for the entirety
of who I am.

Untitled

By Vicky

The want to be understood
like paint dried on canvas
Asphyxiated like
Incongruent to frame
Simple
Strange
on 10-foot wall in a gallery,
question sign in mind,
wanderers wonder why? What? Art?

I am a painter
vomiting my emotions 2 years prior on canvas,
with soul, with all,
asphyxiated like,
with message in eyes
with eyes on canvas
dreaming to be seen
And to be understood

But wanderers pass by at the discomfort of confusion,
draw righteousness over eyes,
plug ignorance into ears and walk right by.

That is true pain.
To want and not be given
That is true pain.
To be under spotlight before an audience wearing shades
ready to immortalize me for what I am not.

Religion & People

By Deborah Palmer

Sometimes I feel lost in the world;
like I don’t belong;
like if I tell them who I really am,
show them who I really am,
they’ll reject me and I’ll become the black sheep of the world.

They don’t understand that not everyone is going to agree with their ways,
agree with their teachings.
They continue to force their thoughts and beliefs down my throat,
hoping I’ll just take it and run;
hoping I’ll believe and be devoted as they are.
they don’t know we have a mind of our own,
I have a mind of my own.

Then there’s the matter of people
They say they are with you,
they say they’ll never leave you;
but the truth is the moment you show them who you are,
they take advantage of you,
they leave because they claim you’re tainted.

They don’t realize that you’re still the same person you were months ago.

They don’t know that I’m still the same person even though they know my secret.

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