Gender Variances and Sexual Diversity in the Caribbean
Perspectives, Histories, Experiences
- ISBN: 9789766407414
- Published: May 2020
Gender Variances and Sexual Diversity in the Caribbean: Perspectives, Histories, Experiences is a collection of critical perspectives on fundamental questions of how sexual orientation and gender in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean are conceived, studied, discoursed and experienced. Bringing together and updating existing and in-progress scholarly work on minority genders and sexualities in the region, this collection seeks to provide a fresh set of lenses through which to examine the issues affecting people in the Caribbean who fall outside the traditional binary categories of heterosexual males or heterosexual females.
Opening with a variety of perspectives – from the biological to the religious and historiographical – the volume explores definitions of sex and gender as well as constructions of sexuality among Commonwealth Caribbean scholars, and the ways in which the Judaeo-Christian tradition popular in the region has responded to these. Other chapters examine the socializing forces that reinforce or challenge conventional conceptions of gender and sexuality, and how these result in the constraining forces of social exclusion and discrimination that many members of the LGBTQ community in the region experience.
The book ends with chapters that interrogate the normative standards of gender and sexuality that have traditionally underlain Caribbean popular culture. Additionally, there is an exploration of how anti-gay discourse in Jamaican dancehall, embedded in a language linked to the country’s vernacular nationalism, has been neutralized by a coalition of local and international LGBTQ activists.
Marjan de Bruin and R. Anthony Lewis
Marjan de Bruin
2. Conceptualizing Sex/Gender Diversity: Considerations for the Caribbean
3. The Variability of the Sexes from a Sociobiological Perspective
Ronald E. Young
4. “Male and Female Created He Them”: Calling for a New Discourse on Gender and Sexual Diversity in the Jamaican Church
Anna Kasafi Perkins
5. Taboo and Obligation: Normative Pressures on Sexuality and Gender in the Caribbean and the Rise of Hard Masculinity
6. “Bring It Cross?”: Sexuality and “Passing” in Jamaica
7. The Myth of the “Free Pass” in Jamaica: An Assessment of the Representation of Women Who Love Women in the Media
8. The Impact of Jamaican Popular Culture in Shaping Normative Conceptions of Gender and Sexuality
Donna P. Hope
9. Dem Bow: Translation, Globalization and Dancehall’s Recalibrated Anti-Gay Discourse
R. Anthony Lewis
Marjan de Bruin and R. Anthony Lewis
Over the last two decades, the question of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans- gender (LGBT) identities and the politics associated with them have advanced significantly on the global stage. The protection of the human rights of LGBT citizens has become common cause across multiple national, regional and international organizations, among them, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Caribbean – including the Commonwealth Caribbean, marked as it is by colonial-era legislation and attitudes that proscribe same- sex activities and nonnormative gender expression – has joined this emerging rights discourse. In fact, many Commonwealth Caribbean countries have in recent times become home to organizations focusing on LGBT issues. On 10 December 2018, for instance, Jamaica’s J-FLAG, the country’s best-known LGBT rights organization, celebrated its twentieth anniversary, while Guyana’s Society against Sexuality Orientation Discrimination marked its fifteenth anniversary a week later. In the last five years or so, too, LGBT pride events across the region have increased – again, most remarkably for the Commonwealth Caribbean – with many taking on a semipublic nature, and laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy have been challenged in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago; in Guyana, the law against cross-dressing has been declared unconstitutional.
Notwithstanding progress on these multiple fronts, much of the Common- wealth Caribbean has remained relatively unwavering in its resistance to attempts to create a more visible space for LGBT citizens and residents. The churches of that part of the region, coalescing mainly under umbrella para- church organizations, such as Jamaica Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation (Jamaica CAUSE), Belize Action/Family Forum, and TT CAUSE, have staged mass rallies against what has been dubbed the “gay agenda” – from Belize to Jamaica to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. And while there have been noticeable and meaningful steps towards openness and tolerance, including a significant decline in the output of anti-gay Jamaican dancehall music, some Caribbean spaces remain especially difficult to navigate for LGBT citizens, many of whom swell the ranks of diaspora groups in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and, increasingly, the Nether- lands, through semi-voluntary or forced migration. The existence of LGBT citizens and residents of the region thus remains marked by the struggle for place and voice in an improving but relatively hostile environment. Furthermore, their lived experiences remain understudied and inadequately documented by the academy. In this regard, Kempadoo (2009) observes:
Despite the mountain of grey documents that include some mention of sexual praxis (reports, conference papers, theses, and policy briefings) and the growing number of more accessible documents (published journal articles, electronic articles, chapters in books, media reports and books), there is little consistency in existing studies, thus little basis for comparison cross-ethnically, cross-nationally, or regionally. Repeti- tion of ideas through multiple reviews of studies and several small-scale qualitative research efforts that are not replicable is also apparent. (p. 2).
A decade since Kempadoo’s publication, little has changed.
The goal of this book is to update some of the existing work and work in progress on minority genders and sexualities in the Caribbean – particularly Jamaica – as well as to examine new insights on the fundamental questions of how sexual orientation and gender identities and performance in the region can be understood and differentiated. In this way, the book seeks to deepen the understanding of the lives, challenges and opportunities for those in the region who do not fall into the traditional binaries of heterosexual males or females – living in spaces where they are often treated as “socially excluded family outcasts” (Carr, 2009, p. 74).