Utech Beating, Jamaica, Homophobia and Backra Massa’s Legacy

me not so few words on the matter

 

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6 Replies to “Utech Beating, Jamaica, Homophobia and Backra Massa’s Legacy”

  1. Dear Miss CFLT, I agree with your basic sentiments of opposition to homophobia and discrimination against GLBT people. However, my Jamaican friend disagrees with me on this and told me to pass on to you that “homosexuality is not a part of our Jamaican culture.” She thinks that I am too permissive of GLBT because of the influence of American culture on me. She is a wonderful person, but on this issue she doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me or you. She sees homosexuality as the new aberration, rather than homophobia. I suspect that both have been around for a very long time.

    If colonialism is the source of homophobia, then why do Rastafari and the Odú Ifá of the Yoruba religion generally discourage homosexuality, why are Caribbean and African nations generally less permissive of GLBT than the former colonial nations, and why do African & Caribbean leaders complain about colonialism forcing GLBT culture on them? Does it not seem that there’s more going on with the homophobia than just remnants of colonialism?

    Thanks for having the courage to address this sensitive issue.

    1. Hi Phil,
      thanks for your comment. and your friend is right, homosexuality is not a part of our Jamaican culture…now. and given our colonial history has possibly never been. what i am arguing for is a consideration of why its not part of our culture and how that links back to what happened to Jamaicans (africans at the time) in the colonial period. I talk about it in the video…but perhaps it was not clear. many Jamaicans will use the argument that Jamaicans are homophobic because homosexuality is Unafrican. which has been disproven time and time again by sexuality studies on the continent. but what happened is that when Africans were brought to the Caribbean there were discouraged from any kind of sexual practice that would not result in a baby, because a new baby was a new slave, and the backra massas needed slaves. add to that the fact that sodomy was used to emasculate black men and what you have is a situation where something that was expressed among a people and taken as natural among them is now discouraged by external sources and demonised within the community because it has become associated with something painful- the loss of manhood. because this started happening so long ago, and homosexuality within Caribbean communities became taboo (as a result of these occurrences) so long ago, its been handed to us as something that is normal, natural, and something that always was.and rarely do we do the work to go back and find out what really happened then and how its affecting us now. it creates the impression that homosexuality is new when there have always been gay Jamaicans they just did not come out…or rather…people have often peacefully lived with the knowledge that people among them were gay but the people never categorically ‘came out’. but just as with slaves and any other oppressed group the time will come when they will grow frustrated with silence and rebel.

      I can also understand why it may seem the LGBT movement is trying some neo-colonial type of thing now. I disagree with the way the international community puts pressure on Jamaica to conform and the way they position Jamaica and Jamaicans in their discussions. Their actions are also based on a) a history of telling people how to run their lives and not considering how that’s wrong and b)their unwillingness or oversight in not interrogating why Jamaicans are homophobic and how some of their own forefathers may have created it. Additionally they have not considered what it might bring up for a primarily black country coming out of the colonial experience to have a white country come in again and tell them what to do. So its like you created the conditions and now you come and tell us that we have to fix them or you cut funding. fooliniss unnu a gwaan wid! when unnu goin learn that money and technology does not give you the right to rule people! They also don’t consider how other neo colonial aspects of their interaction with us- IMF and removal of trade preferences that affect our economy etc may affect gender relations in our country – especially the men who may feel emasculated and try to assert power in other ways – by controlling women or gay men. or who may become hypermasculine in response leading to increased homophibia. they also don’t consider how their (not just LGBT groups but north american political entities) constant dabbling in issues of national sovereignty leads to the government and people choosing what will define Jamaican identity in opposition to what defines them—they are denied by tolerance of difference…especially sexual difference…we won’t have non a dat roun ere!..once again the gay man must be controlled.. him represent farrin and dem dutty ways….national identity has become tied up in homophobia. but all of this does not negate the fact that gay men in Jamaican have a hard time talking up for themself because they are at risk of losing their lives and it does not negate the fact that Jamaicans are committed to being uncritically homophobic which is becoming an issue of national development. so, something must change. the present method does not work, but something needs to change now.

      finally on the issue of rasta and yoruba…remember that rasta developed in the diaspora not on the continent. so whatever is prevalent in the diaspora will manifest itself there. rasta also had its genesis with disenfrachised men who felt the government and wider society did not do anything for them, and who wanted to assert that they were worthy and men as well. usually in asserting masculinity the homosexual comes under fire as the marker of that which is not man in communities affected by colonialism (for reasons explained above). so they would preach against it. also remember rastafari draws many of its tenets from the Bible.

      Finally the Yoruba and Africa and diaspora communities: Diaspora communities i spoke to earlier. And i would argue that some of the same thing happens in African countries as well. Just as we here in the Caribbean were affected by the slave trade and all the madness that did to how we understood ourselves, the same happened in Africa. there is a need to prove man-ness and moral purity especially compared to the countries and people that once occupied us….even as we use the same Christian religion that was used to enslave us to do it. (There are ironies here but as a Chrisian i haven’t finished working through them). There are very few….if any…black cultures that have no been affected by colonialism…so even looking at the continent now you can’t say ‘well see they don’t like it so its unnatural to us’ because there’s a history or it being natural to us. and at the same time thats why we share a resistance to it. not because black people are naturally homophobic, but because black people usually come out of a shared history of struggle that impacts how we think about things. With that said, all cutures will have variance. i am not arguing that homosexuality was celebrated or accepted in all African cultures what i am arguing is it was celebrated and accepted in some, which puts holes in our argument that its a white thing, or a recent thing in our communities.its not. historically wrong and historically representative of how the destruction of cultures during slavery and colonialism continue to make us blind to our truths today. we stop our interrogation of ourselves at the point at which we became slaves and ignore all that we were before.

      there is a lot more going on than the remnants of colonialism, but its a factor. and people always act as though homosexuality is being forced on the black people by the white people without looking back at how homophobia was first forced on them.
      Jamaican culture evolved from a place…and in a bid to decolonise my mind i am thinking through what i know as truth and how much of that is a remnant of something that was used to oppress me. because i won’t have it.

      thanks for commenting and hope i’ve made myself a little clearer.

      carla

      1. Wow. You make so much generalization and assumption in that argument. How about this? We don’t think this is what God wanted and we don’t want it for our children. It’s not so deep. The boy get lick because we don’t want him do that. They are saying to him, do something different. Same like we don’t answer back our parents and we don’t think jumping off a building is fun. If you Carla jump off a building and say you are doing it for fun, your mother or grandmother would pull you one side and ask you weh wrong with you. If you persist she will tell you to stop it and if you insist she will say do what you want but come out of mi yaad with that foolishness. Neither you nor nobody can force anyone to accept your beliefs just like you say we cannot force man and man to do what we say. But with everything there is consequence and if you insist on doing things that are not considered socially acceptable in your community then you stand the risk of being ostracized or worse confronted. The boy ain’t get lick because the people them hate him. Him get lick because they say, not here. A so it go. And because of his unfortunate experience he’ll think twice before doing it again. Because nobody want to get lick. I’m not denying these people their feelings. But we live in society with norms and customs. If you don’t like it then find the place where it works for you. I can live in Norway if I like but if I go there and I am ostracized then it may not be the healthiest place for me to be.

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