Monday, November 26, 2012

Continued Trans erasure/invisibility by Jamaican advocates ..............

As Transgender Awareness Week and indeed Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov 20) passed not a peep came from local LGBT rights based group The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays, JFLAG (and their allies) albeit that its hands are supposedly full in securing the long awaited controversial homeless shelter idea space that was to deal with the out of control problem of msms/pre-op trans homelessness. In a town hall meeting arranged by the Global Fund's Country Control Mechanism CCM representative of Jamaica on November 7th and which had present JFLAG, JASL and others it was poorly attended (only 18 persons) giving us clear evidence yet again of how cynical and disinterested the general LGBT population has become of their stewardship. The Executive Director of the agency Mr. Dane Lewis after fielding questions from myself and others present regarding the makeup of the shelter and the programs therein promised to provide more information on the shelter which was slated to have been opened on December 1, World AIDS Day now word has come that that may not happen after all as talks seemed to have stalled with the managers of the intended sight thus leaving the displaced and homeless to remain out there a little while yet. 
Assessments regarding the population were to have been done and were to be readied by November 14 for persons who were in the meeting to peruse and to share elsewhere but still no word to date has come regarding the follow up which makes one wonder why even bother when follow up was never one of the agency's strong suits yet they desire community support. 

It works both ways please!!!!!!!!!!

As the awareness week itself passed I was out of town for some time and was involved in a gay men's health workshop but was hoping that someone would have at least remembered the recognition and even as JFLAG tries to clean its image locally with the community nothing came from them regarding this feat not even the worldwide November 25th violence against women call as well in the face of rising challenges in the same gender loving and cisgender women communities locally, we certainly do not expect the J to be all things to all people but if it says it wants to be the leader on the ground while engendering cohesiveness it cannot do so in a vacuum and aloof from the very populations it serves while not following up on promised action items from a simple forumatic activity. I am tired of the limp wristed approach to doing business for and behalf of the community, while apologists would curse anyone out if they try to express any frustration on their failure to be more strident and proactive and the buggery review/repeal/decrim is the ultimate prize or carrot before the eager donkey. I needn't remind us of how long it took for them to finally respond to homelessness after repeated public spectacles as highlighted by the press, the Cargill Avenue eviction comes to mind, go HERE to see it on YOUTUBE

This transphobia by default as I call it is coming on the heels of our counterparts in the United States examining their own visibility via the recent GLAAD study that looked at images in media over the last ten years.

GLAAD among other things found:

Transgender characters were cast in a "victim" role at least 40% of the time.
Transgender characters were cast as killers or villains in at least 21% of the catalogued episodes and storylines.
The most common profession transgender characters were depicted as having was that of sex workers, which a fifth of all characters were depicted as (20%).
Anti-transgender slurs, language and dialogue was present in at least 61% of the catalogued episodes and storylines.

Some of the exploitive and negative representatives included:
CSI (CBS), which not only featured a transgender serial killer who murdered his own mother, but scenes in which transgender murder victims were openly mocked by the show's lead characters while examining their bodies and crime scenes.
The Cleveland Show (Fox), in which a man vomits on screen for a lengthy period of time after discovering he had slept with a transgender character. The episode also contained anti-trans language and defamatory characterizations.
Nip/Tuck (FX), which featured a storyline about a transgender woman who regretted her transition, a transgender sex worker being beaten, and an entire season about a psychopathic trans woman depicted as a baby-stealing sexual predator who sleeps with her own son.

Meanwhile a criticism I have of the flag agency (even while serving) over the years regarding their engaging the trans community through media is that their website in this case still has gone unchecked and rectified as it only speaks to a wikipedia definition of what transgenderism is and not what ongoing programs are being carried out with, for and by the T community. 

As part of its five year strategic plan the J says that one of its main objectives is to make themselves into an umbrella group to improve service to the LGBT community but L B & T issues are often times left out of the conversations and activities and when members of such groups try to raise their own profiles even by branching off they are told Jamaica does not need another LGBT group and that we MUST work with JFLAG. The definitive strategy to achieve this umbrella status is to in their words - strong proactive leadership while becoming national in scope (while all revolves around Kingston) with a majority of the community agreeing that they are generally experiencing an acceptable level of cohesion. But JFLAG seems still not to realise that by not speaking about, of or to the groups under the LBT categories it is in effect committing one of the most egregious of infractions LBT-invisibility!!!!!!!!!! while gay men's issues are full front and centre (not to mention buggery an act which I enjoy), however the UTECH physical abuse comes to mind, a terrible episode indeed although it was a non penetrative same sex act that was alleged to have occurred yet a full length press release came from the J yet we lost a lesbian by murder just a month before in the Dunoon Road area and not a word yet plus the murder of popular trans socialite Dolly Minaj(photo immediately below) last year but still no word or recognition, if it were a gay man well we know what would have happened to include the usual press release ............ and the media rounds.

Let us also not forget the murder of this rising star (photo immediately above) last year as well but no word came from the J either, although the brother of the deceased reportedly tried to get assistance from the J but to no avail, was it because she is a woman and the J is mostly a male dominated structure insensitive to the issues it ought to properly represent? Her memorial is slated for December 1, 2012 at a private function of which I hope to attend and to see at least one J representative there.

The recent Miss World LGBT competition which I thought the agency would have aligned themselves far more than they did than just the Office Admin being a judge and the almost mendicant requests the planners had to do to get use of the office space for the pre judging spoke volumes to me, a few of the contestants are transgender persons but no formal assistance came or even financial help to have the entrants who needed such to prepare themselves for the tasks at the time or for basic things such as makeup, the finals were held last Saturday much to disappointing numbers of patrons than in previous years. 

A smaller group that faced some unexpected opposition from key persons in advocacy has been working for some time with some connected persons but of course the lack of funding is their major setback but notwithstanding several workshops have been conducted and a mentorship series is ongoing. Another group as founded by a leading trans voice has been working as well named Aphrodite's Pride but as with most new entities they get very little support from agencies such as JFLAG as they, the J, feel threatened by each new voice that decides to go independent.

The photos above shows one of my first direct cases I handled back in the day when one of our trans sisters who was displaced at the time was viciously attacked in New Kingston and mistaken to be a cisgender woman and where the two hoodlums who committed the act tried to also rape her. It was also one of those turning points in terms of the police handling matters of this nature as they were the ones who took her to the Kingston Public hospital and also investigated the matter for weeks on end but to no avail as she could not recount the physical attributes of the men. We engaged the officers (mostly by phone) for weeks but what was refreshing in the end were the questions and curiosity that followed about the difference between a cross dresser as a drag queen versus a pre-operative transgender woman, it was learning curve/teaching moment for all involved. There are still some concerns with the looping of transgender issues with msm issues particularly aesthetical matters regarding cross dressing presentations versus gender or body dysmorphia in individuals.


Allies like myself do try to raise the issues but that is not nearly enough to begin tor raise the overall profile of Transgenderism in Jamaica overall. Some concerns also exist as to the confusion surrounding gender or body dismorphia or dysmorpic disorder versus cross dressing/drag aesthetics for entertainment, something that needs to be cleared properly as there has been some tension with the two populations involved i.e. drag queens versus pre-operative trans women who present a female aesthetic permanently.

Some things for us to reflect on. Inclusivity seems to be only a word for the relevant groups but it must be achieved for any meaningful growth to take place or for us to ask for tolerance elsewhere.

Our neighbours 90 miles away have made history in recent days as they elected their first transgender official there:

Adela Hernandez, born genetically male, was incarcerated in the 1980s for “dangerousness” a rather backward sounding charge these days but with a national sensitization from CENESEX via television Cuba has been exposed to sex and sexuality education and reproductive education at the same time while our Ministry of Education officials run to the hills after just the mention of anal sex and homosexuality in a guided imagery activity via a home and family life curriculum. More on the HFLE fiasco HERE The landmark appointment of Adela Hernandez as Cuba’s first transgender elected officer has made history in the Caribbean communist country. Forty-eight-year-old Hernandez was elected delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien, in the central province of Villa Clara, earlier this month.

Adela Hernandez, who was born genetically male, has travelled a rocky road to reach her destination, bearing the brunt of discrimination and harsh punitive measures along the way.
She has lived as a transgender woman since childhood, with her openness drawing familial and legal repercussions. In the 1980s she endured incarceration for “dangerousness.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights have come a long way in Cuba, where openly gay individuals were punished for their homosexuality following the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

Gays were fired from their jobs, jailed and sent to “re-education camps” until homosexuality was technically decriminalized in 1979.

The country’s perceptions of homosexuality appear to have gradually evolved over the past 30 years, and in 2010 former Cuban president Fidel Castro publicly took responsibility for the persecution of the nation’s gays.

While in Europe an EU broad based study to include Croatia was released today on discrimination with a slant on sexual orientation and gender identity, a first of its kind there where it has revealed that 45% across the EU think transgender people face discrimination, and 42% disagree. More HERE

Peace and tolerance



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