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Early one late summer morning, more than people gathered under the lush canopy of Hope Gardens in Kingston, Jamaicafor a breakfast party.
The revellers ate — ackee, saltfish, fried plantain — and swayed to a soundtrack of dancehall and soca. Same-sex couples danced together. A transgender woman strutted by in a flowing white dress adorned with a sash bearing the words: The park was strung with rainbow banners for the fourth annual Pride JA celebrations.
At about midday, the party wrapped up. A light rain eased the heat and the dancers went home to sleep.
Yet that label has clung to Jamaica ever since, and with good reason. Non-violent discrimination is even more pervasive, with bullying and exclusion faced in education, healthcare and within local communities.
When the organisation launched on 10 Decemberit caused outrage.
A journalist in the Looking for that girl from jamaica or africa wrote at the time: Public reaction has, however, been hostile … for the next few years, at least, gay rights in our society, as far as road marches or public appearances are concerned, is a very dim possibility.
Since then, pride week has grown: Pride celebrations have gurl unprecedented visibility to the community. As a result, the former minister for justice and the mayor of Kingston have both spoken out publicly in support of the group.
Policy change has not followed, however. But attitudes are changing.
The first time J-Flag addressed parliament calling for changes to these laws, inthey were not taken seriously or treated with respect. But the second time, inpoliticians listened courteously. The organisation itself has grown considerably since Nelson joined inaged 24, when there were just three employees.
J-Flag now employs 14, with more than volunteers recruited to help coordinate their growing number of events and activist programmes. But, says Nelson, the lingering Time magazine headline is a hindrance.
You think of yourself as the next victim of murder, rather than seeing yourself as an individual with rrom.
Before Jamaica could get to that Washington dc swingers of tolerance, however, J-Flag activists had to learn to latch on to bigger themes. The organisation works to reduce the spread of HIV across the island, and campaigns for the environment.
Murray echoes these sentiments. It means promoting the LGBT message while presenting that community as part of wider Jamaican society, he says.
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