I apologize for not posting more often. I have a tendency to bottle up my emotions and process things internally. Blogging is a new concept to me. It’s only when I really feel compelled to spread the word that I write these thoughts down and post them on Facebook (a rare occasion) or send them in an email to a friend.
I think there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way. Maybe as you read this, you find that you have the same tendency. I find that with the stigma and discrimination that surrounds homosexuality in Jamaica, people are confined to suffering alone. It upsets me to think that people are forced to suffer alone simply because they are attracted to people of the same sex. It is very common in Jamaica for persons living with HIV to be utterly rejected by their own family.
Shar-Dey’s recent blog post titled “Crossing Paths” touched on a subject that I had also been contemplating. The person she referred to is also known to me, and although I was not present during their conversation, him and I had our own. It was during that discussion that I found the need to write about homosexuality, the issues surrounding the discrimination in Jamaica, and how it affects the transmission of HIV.
By now we all know that HIV has been labeled “the gay disease”, a notion that I find repugnant. There is a poster hanging above the door to the JASL office that says “HIV does not discriminate; why should you?”. It’s true. I’ve said this many times to many different people, and probably in one of my past blogs as well. I distinctly remember telling this to the man in Shar-Dey’s blog.
The buggery law in Jamaica states that “Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding ten years” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Jamaica). The fact that they even compare sex between males to that of sex between a man and an animal is enough evidence to support my argument: The laws of this country and the beliefs of many residents prevent us from stopping the spread of HIV.
When will we reach a point in time when we can seek proper care and treatment for HIV/AIDS without fearing the backlash of discrimination? I say ‘we’ because we are all vulnerable and it is everyone’s duty to work towards a more accepting and inviting society. So many times I have heard people say that the testing and treatment of HIV in a regular clinic in Jamaica is ridiculous. With it comes judgement and shame. Then they fear attending a clinic free of discrimination for fear that someone may see them in a place known to be a haven for homosexuals.
In Jamaica, homosexuals are justified to say that they may, at some point, fear for their lives. One friend is sometimes harassed by groups of young men on his way to work. In bathroom stalls all over the world you see the disturbing words “Fags burn in hell” etched in to the paint amidst the pee stains. In Jamaica they read “You’re dead batty boy”. Who can do their business when that is staring them in the face? Seriously.
During my training in Ottawa, one Two-Spirited person person gave us a presentation on HIV prevention, and she said that we won’t be able to stop the spread of HIV until we can talk comfortably about sex around the dinner table. Furthermore, we can not prevent the spread of HIV until we can accept everyone as equals. We can not prevent the spread of HIV until we accept that everyone makes mistakes. We can not prevent the spread of HIV until we are comfortable in our own skin. We can not prevent the spread of HIV until we address the social issues on the reserves in Canada. We can not prevent the spread of HIV until we are comfortable enough to get tested regularly. We can not prevent the spread of HIV until we accept ourselves and have enough self respect to say “Fuck it, I care about myself and I don’t want to die”.
Ya hear me?