Americas / Commentary

Jamaica-bound: Defying the odds with Pride

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By G. Wright Muir

I had no idea what to expect when my girlfriend and I flew in from Fort Lauderdale to Jamaica last year for Montego Bay Pride. Of course, it was an experience like no other. Glorious!

This year I’m proud to return to Montego Bay Pride as one of the coordinators of the event.

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)

AND I’m so excited to be moderating the open forum: “Culture Clash! Jamaican Music and LGBTQ! People” as well as serving as a co-host along with Maurice Tomlinson, the founder of Montego Bay Pride, and co-organizer Khavor Brown.

If you — yes, you — can join us to celebrate Pride in the Bay from October 12 to 15, please do. Follow this link for details:

I think back to May 2016, when Maurice first invited me to Montego Bay Pride. I got a Facebook message that simply read, “I hope you can join us for Montego Bay Pride!” followed by a smiley face. I had not really considered going, especially as a “Kingstonian” living in the U.S. for most of my life.

I also thought about all of the homophobia that has plagued Jamaica and I wondered whether we would even be safe while there. I teased my girlfriend, “Hey, I can’t save you.  I run fast and I hope you can too,” lol. But seriously, once it was clear we would be safe, I decided to go and that opened up another avenue for advocacy and connecting with the LGBTQ community.

I had already been catapulted into LGBTQ advocacy a few years prior and was particularly drawn to bringing a change to my Jamaican community. I had a long and challenging journey to become openly gay and gender non-conforming. With so few openly gay Jamaicans around, I felt alone and afraid to be myself. So once I got the courage to be myself, I was inspired to be an advocate and be very visible.

I started “Thou Art Woman” — an event for LGBTQ women and allies. I also started volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) … AND started being very visible & vocal @verygtv on Facebook, Instagram and at my blogsite—

G and Niki at Mobay Pride 2016 (Photo courtesy of G)

G and girlfriend Niki at Mobay Pride 2016 (Photo courtesy of G)

So last October we traveled to Montego Bay, excited with the anticipation of the unknown. I chuckled to myself — even the location of the event was unknown — a somewhat sad necessity for our safety. The morning after we arrived, we took the Pride bus to the venue that was announced earlier that day. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Maurice, along with a number of people who had flown in from around the world, and of course, people living there in Mobay and throughout the island.

This was my first LGBTQ event in Jamaica. It was perfectly planned on Heroes’ Weekend — a holiday commemorating the national heroes in Jamaican history. And there I stood with the modern-day heroes — fighting for equality for all. We made placards and drove from location to location doing “flash protests.” Our adrenaline rushed as we proudly protested on the roadsides of Jamaica.

As powerful as the protests were, I was most moved by seeing everyone in a space that was so free. I had wondered what the Jamaican LGBTQ community was even like? Of course, we’re just like most other Jamaicans: confident, a little “boasy” [Caribbean Dictionary: boastful, excessively proud], bright, passionate and extremely fab-u-lous — den nuh mus’.

G (Photo by David I. Muir courtesy of G)

G (Photo by David I. Muir courtesy of G)

I was in complete awe of the people who poured into the venue as the day progressed. I was particularly struck by folks who walked in looking like “men” and within minutes appeared as glamorous women. I thought, wow this space is so necessary — so vital …

The next day I had the opportunity to do a quick video interview with Maurice. And when I returned I excitedly wrote a blog about my experience.

Soon after returning from Pride, I got another invitation — and that was the request to help in the planning of Montego Bay Pride 2017. My life is busy, but I graciously accepted and have been working with a dynamic group of advocates to plan the now highly anticipated Montego Bay Pride 2017.

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