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.”