2013 was not exactly an exciting year for LGBT events in Jamaica. First there was the general economic climate that constrained people’s spending power and thus forced persons to pick and choose the events that they attended. The economy also seemingly affected the supply of party options itself, as when we began writing there were several Party Planning groups; notably several of these brands did not survive into 2013. Secondly, the homophobic operating environment constrained the range of venues that were available for planners. In this regard things seem to be getting progressively worse for the lgbt community as in the past, clubs such as Entourage operated on Main Street and not in ridiculously hard to access communities.
Notwithstanding the challenges, the party went on. Consequently, we at Pink tip our hats to all the LGBT Party Promoters as theirs is the story of resilience. What is interesting about this group of individuals (the LGBT party promoter) is that if one were to do a poll they would not rank themselves as Activists but rather entrepreneurs or providers of an entertainment space. However, their work operates at the intersection of Law, policy, economics and finance. Moreover, simply planning a party comes with considerable reputational risks and places a burden of responsibility on the promoter to ensure the protection of life and property for the attendee. In short theirs is a world of action at the literal front lines of tackling the issues of institutionalized homophobia in Jamaica.
3. Midori:- It is easy for one to be seduced by the high quality VIP section at Midori. In fact it was as if the planners of this event invented the concept of VIP. The event benefitted from a great location, great party favours, decent music and fair sized crowd. For more on Midori see our comments under http://pinkreportjamaica.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/midori-not-on-cloud-9-but-almost-there/
2. Miami Vice:- The specific Miami Vice we are speaking about is the one in May. This event suffered from a poorly designed VIP section. However, the VIP area counted for less than 10% of the persons in attendance and in any event, what the party lacked in VIP favours it made up in good vibes and a wonderful eclectic mix of personalities. The location was far, a bit of an exercise but once there excellent.
As a side note, the organizers of Miami Vice more than any other group have suffered from the challenges with identifying a location. The truth be told neither Miami Vice nor Midori are suited for the Warehouse and as such they have to be engaged in a longer search to identify an appropriate venue. This has resulted in some misses for the other two Miami Vices that have occurred for the year. However, we at Pink believe in Miami Vice’s basic formula and are off the opinion that once the location issues are resolved there will be a resurgence. As such we wish them well for 2014.
1.Cockiness the Balloon Edition:- This was an almost perfect party. We say almost not because we can identify specific faults but because we are sure they must exist. One of the things we liked about Cockiness was the absence of the VIP section and the embracing of their brand identity which is young, gritty and hip. A special point on the absence of the VIP area is that such a section at the Warehouse would be akin to those at a Strip Club. A wonderful place for drug lords, scammers and other such professionals to negotiate the finer points of their business contracts. However, as things stood it was a wonderful place for persons to dance uninhibited and simply have a good time.
The general consensus going into Midori was that the timing was simply bad. This event had to compete for attention with Dream Weekend and SPF at a point in time where persons simply wanted to be out of Kingston. Throw into the mix the fact that the venue, though widely known, is pretty new for this type of spectacle! Normally, these environmental factors would have meant that the Bible of Excuses was already dusted off and the relevant passages peculiar to the circumstance identified. However, this time the virgins of Cloud 9 decided to behave like well-seasoned pornstars and deliver a party that has significantly raised the bar for local LGBT entertainment.
The VIP Area and Bar
To be frank Midori delivered on what Miami Vice didn’t have the budget but never the less seemingly promised to do. For starters it had a well defined, appointed and secured VIP area. Secondly, VIP band holders did not have to compete with regular ticket holders for anything. However, most importantly VIP did feel like VIP and not some watered down version. In fact this was the party that it would have been an insult to use the term Drinks Inclusive to describe the pricier band.
To their credit, the promoters smartly provided Mojito specials. Now the beauty of a Mojito is that whilst it is an exotic drink, it really is Lemonade with a splash of Rum and mint tea leaves. Consequently, it can stretch thus avoiding the annoyance of hearing guests complaining about the lack of liquor, its perfect for the summer time, it’s a fiscally prudent drink to make as the alcohol content should not be too high and in any event a good Mojito can be made using Rumbar if one wanted to forgo the more expensive Appleton and most importantly it appeals to status conscious VIPs.
If there was one weakness in the VIP area was that it had too many options for entrances. This scenario meant that guests were subjected to spot checks by the security on duty to establish they were bonafide band holders. A better mechanism would have been to place stanchions at the front thus restricting access to one point.
For regular ticket holders, the bar may as well have been in another parish. The Cloud 9 promoters for the future should not make the bar an exercise of strength, patience and endurance. Yet another interpretation could be that the bar was strategically placed to ensure that patrons would be thirsty again by the time they reached back to the dance floor.
The venue was probably too big for the crowd on hand and whilst DJ David is clearly regaining his form, there were times we felt like gagging him. However, music aside this party lacked the vibes that was clearly on display at Cockiness and even Miami Vice. That is not to say it wasn’t a good party for dancing, which it was, it just clearly a solidly UPT party.
Midori Fashion Hits:
Midori Fashion Miss:
There exists two schools of thought as to how the Human Rights movement should proceed with its activism around LGBTI issues in Jamaica. One school argues for a slow moving ground campaign built on public education and the promotion of tolerance and acceptance. The other seeks to define LGBTI rights within the framework of constitutionality and the development of jurisprudence. The real distinction between the two is that the former sees Parliament and the Parliamentary process as the route for establishing change whilst the latter advocates the use of the Court as the agent of same.
Followers of the Constitutionality framework essentially argue that LGBTI Rights do not exist as a separate or distinct subject from the rights and freedoms enjoyed by all Jamaicans. Consequently the struggle for LGBTI Rights is merely an extension of the historical struggle for equal rights and protection under the Constitution. Not surprisingly, many in the wider society see this position as being unnecessarily adversarial and confrontational.
We here at Pink do not believe that the arguments are mutually exclusive and indeed they seem somewhat complementary. In fact from the point of view of strategy, there is seemingly merit in approaching the issues from the two avenues. However, there is certain sexiness in being forthright and upright. Moreover, there is a distinct charm in publicly advocating a line, which simply states I am human and I want to be treated no less and no more than my fellow human beings. This is the reason we have taken this step to come out of the closet, in full support of the work of Maurice Tomlinson and Javed Jaghai in seeking a constitutional review of the island’s Buggery Laws.
For too long, we as a community have been too silent in supporting and investing in the work of the Human Rights community. For those who define themselves as being middle class, we have simply preferred to prostrate ourselves before the general society, like well behaved house slaves thanking our masters that we are not field slaves. It will suit us well to remember that House Slaves are still slaves and those dirty, unkempt and forlorn Millsborough Boys are us, and more importantly, how society sees all of us. Let us not forget that when Clovis and the Jamaica Observer caricatures gays they make none of the distinctions that we invariably try to make. Ultimately we must recognize that it is no accident that Javed’s claim before the Constitutional Court is about housing and JFLAG itself is homeless.
As Javed and Maurice prepare to do battle on our behalves, ranged against them are the formidable armies of the Church and public opinion seekers. Rallies have been organized and the public has been fed a toxic cocktail of doomsday and hellish scenarios. To their credit, both gentlemen have responded with calm, grace but unflinching resolve. Yet it must be incredibly lonely and despairing to turn around and see your comrades fleeing like cockroaches when the light has been turned on.
Let us start today the necessary conversation and develop an action plan surrounding how we can tangibly support the work of Javed Jaghai and Maurice Tomlinson. Indeed, let us start the conversation today about how it is that we can take ownership of our own future and destiny. We like Javed ask the question if not now then when? We at Pink like his answer that: “We can sit patiently while our humanity is denied and wait for the paradigm to shift in a generation or two, or we can aggressively agitate for change now. I choose to do the latter.”
If one was at Cockiness and stayed until the end, then it is quite possible that you actually ended up enjoying yourself. This schizophrenic enjoyment, we suppose, can only be compared to the type of happiness felt by victims of robberies when they realize that they are still alive. Notwithstanding, it must be admitted up front that this review is written from the perspective of one silly enough to pay for VIP after the disaster of Miami Vice. After all if you were smart enough to pay only the regular admissions price, you would have been the beneficiary of Digicel like give aways such as access to even VIP!!
For most patrons, the common complaint was that the venue was too small to accommodate the crowd that was in attendance. We at Pink, take a different view and would like to congratulate the host on an excellent venue selection. Simply put excitement is an infectious disease and small, tightly spaced venues are an efficient means of transmission. Moreover, it wasnt that the venue was small but that the crowd was large and if a cross dresser could find space to split and twirl without hospitalizing anyone there is enough room!!
VIP versus Drinks Inclusive
The VIP concept has quickly become the newest addition to the LGBT party scene. Economically, it’s a brilliant idea and if done properly is one of those rare occasions, which can be classified as a win-win situation for both the promoter and the patron. At its core, VIP allows patrons an all access pass to the entire venue and a continuous flow of liquor. For the promoter, there is a guarantee of pre-paid liquor sales. Theoretically, however, VIP should be an other-worldly experience replete with Top-shelf drinks, high end décor and sexy servers. Yet we recognize this is Jamaica and not even well funded major parties can provide this sort of fare.
Yet, whilst we at Pink can accept that as a community we simply are not at the stage of development to provide the high-end experience worthy of the label VIP, we cannot accept what occurred Saturday Night. It was a larceny of patrons human and economic dignity that not even an apology and a refund can compensate for. To begin with the drinks variety was so limited that the area could have been branded Somalia. Worse when there was liquor there was no ice, when there was ice no liquor and interestingly water was not included in the all inclusive concept! To top it off, the host without even so much as a discussion opened the area to all and sundry. For all those persons out there with rape fantasies, this experience shows that the actual thing cannot be pleasant.
Without a doubt Dee-Jay David is beginning to rediscover his form as his musical selections and timing were for the most part on point. However, for the next party we are begging the promoter to limit the microphone time to three announcements and none of these should include the arrivals of any particular person!!
Developmentally, the VIP challenges first experienced at Miami Vice and repeated at Cockiness raises the question of whether party promoters wouldn’t be doing themselves and the community a favour by providing Drinks Inclusive as opposed to a VIP category. Such a category/rate would eliminate the need to channel limited resources into separate bar areas. Furthermore, it is simply a more honest way of doing business. Overall Cockiness was a good enough party, sadly the experience was too highly dependent on the price point one entered the venue at.
Before we launch into the community’s response to the recent happenings at UTECH, praise must be heaped on the divisional command of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in charge of Papine. Listening to the Senior Superintendent speak on Nationwide News Live at 5 Programme on Friday afternoon (November 2, 2012), it became clear the police force was willing to use all necessary force and tactics available to ensure the protection of the life of the young man at the epicentre of the mob gatherings at UTECH on the 1st November. This stands in stark contrast to the action of the security guards in beating and assaulting the young man who in an ironic twist of fate had actually only ran to the security guard station seeking their protection.
Yet this posting is not about that incident, as we suspect that the details will become the subject of a court case and ultimately a decision will be rendered regarding its particulars. What we are more concerned about is the wider societal impact. Indeed it must be noted that restitution in this case does not by any stretch of the imagination begin to address the larger issue of homophobia and intolerance.
We should recall that the genesis of the November 1st events at UTECH was that two men were accused of engaging in acts contrary to Sections 76, 77 and 79 of the Offences Against the Person Act. Readers should be aware that even if it is deemed that the bathroom facilities at UTECH constitute “Privacy” the Act makes no distinction between public and private spaces for the purposes of permissibility. In fact note the language of Section 79, it reads that Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
The impact of the above is that, those within the gay community who are desperately trying to make a distinction between themselves and the fellows involved, need to realise they are actually in the same boat. The law makes no distinction between gay sex undertaken in a four poster King sized bed in upper St. Andrew and that done in a bathroom stall and neither does the general society (as the UTECH action when compared to the earlier evictions in Jones Town illustrates).
Thus given the foregoing the question arises where do we go from here, as the society cannot maintain the offending laws whilst now admitting that its male homophobia is wrong. Legislation such as those contained in Sections 76,77 and 79 of the Offences Against the Person Act simply have no place in tolerant, civilized societies. Indeed, noting that all of the official responses have steered clear of this point, including sadly that of JFLAG, means that all that really has occurred is a condemnation of VIGILANTISM and not necessarily homophobia. Sadly, what this means is that even if just restitution is made in the UTECH case the ingredients are there for this action to occur again.
One wonders when gay Jamaica will learn that what happens to one happens to all!
Since our last post on August 11th, some chatter has occurred in the various discussion forums regarding the contents of that post. Whilst it is impossible to address all the issues raised, we here at Pink feel it necessary to address two, namely the perceived slight to Mr. Kirby and an expansion of our advocacy for greater South-South cooperation and indeed the promotion of a Global South lead strategy to tackle development challenges around LGBTI rights in their respective countries.
Malice towards None!!
We here at the Pink Report would like to make it abundantly and categorically clear that no malice or ill-will was meant towards Mr. Kirby. Indeed our concerns are far more developmental than personal. Moreover the questions that occupy our minds are purely focused on identifying a sustainable path for the promotion of social inclusion of LGBTI persons living in the Global South. In this connection, our worry is that a failure to ensure fulsome consultation and dialogue may lead to unfortunate unintended consequences for the local communities that are supposed to be the ultimate beneficiaries of the intervention.
It should be recalled, that the article of August 11th made no call for Mr. Kirby to be censured. Indeed, it is our position that he is a friend, ally, asset and stakeholder in the cause and not a foe. However, there is no denying the fact that the speech in question was overly sexed and bordered on pornographic. Thus our intervention is in recognition of the fact that friendship is a relationship and like every other type of such it must be managed and framed properly. Consequently, our note should be read as a cautionary tale and a call to action to frame that relationship such that it stands on firmer footing.
Towards a South Lead Development Agenda
Yet whilst we recognize Mr. Kirby and others as stakeholders, the reality is that persons in the South are the owners of their national programmes and must ultimately be masters of their own development solutions. In this regard, the North should view itself as facilitators! Further within the global discourse on the trajectory of LGBTI Rights recognition there has to be greater understanding and appreciation of the linkage between the former and the strengthening of democratic and judicial institutions in the South.
It is often noted that the distinction between functional democracies and majoritarian tyrannies is the ability of the democracy to listen to all its people in the first instance, as well as protect and promote the rights of the most vulnerable in the second. The issue of “listening to its peoples” is the argument of social inclusion whereby persons are moved from being members of marginalized population groups to being full citizens with all the rights and responsibilities that are associated with that and are therefore ultimately incorporated into the larger body politic of the state. From our vista this must be the ultimate goal of LGBTI advocacy and general development strategy.
The challenge then is how to accomplish the taking up of the full mantle of citizenship by the LGBTI person in repressive countries. The Pink Report’s view is that a strategy dictated by the North, though noble in nature unwittingly finances the silencing of the voices of the peoples in their own struggles. Southern voices and Southern actors, ably supported by partners in the North, must be engaged with their own governments and institutions to force the necessary reforms and actions. Indeed the lessons from inter alia the Arab Spring of 2010/2011, the ending of Apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, the fight for Indian Self Rule under the Mahatma and indeed Gay Rights struggles in Britain and the United States are of community ownership. We are advocating for nothing less than that which has been done before!
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