One news item I did not touch on in my weekly news post was the re-emergence of the problem of young, homeless gay men who live and move around in the very area of Kingston where I live. Two front-page articles in the “Gleaner” newspaper have once again sparked a flood of condemnation and anti-gay sentiment.
Just to point out a couple of things:
They are by no means representative of the Jamaican gay community in general, as most Jamaicans should know.
They are loud and harass people, but if they break the law they should be arrested, like any other Jamaican who might be trespassing on private property, etc.
May I introduce one young, openly gay Jamaican whom I admire greatly. His is smart, he is hard-working, he has a great sense of humor. Did I say he was bright? Like many other young Jamaicans, he wants to “make a difference” in his country. He does the normal everyday things that Jamaicans, and young Jamaicans, do.
He IS a Jamaican.
The only unusual thing about Javed is his courage as an openly gay Jamaican. And that is enormous courage.
Dear Editor, Sir:
The Christian Brethren Assemblies Jamaica (CBAJ) recently hosted a press conference at which they discussed their position paper on homosexuality. While reading through the document, I lamented the fervor with which church leaders use homosexuality as a wedge issue to keep themselves relevant in public discourse on morality.
I encourage anyone interested in seeing firsthand the moral bankruptcy that guides The Church’s teachings on homosexuality to read the position paper. Its contents are used as talking points by all major Christian organizations.
Among the most predictable claims outlined, we are told that “homosexual behavior can be changed” because “many individuals who desire to abstain from homosexual acts have been able to do so.” However, sexuality is a well-defined predisposition that exists whether or not someone is sexually active. A celibate gay person, or a gay person who initiates intercourse with someone of the opposite sex for functional purposes, is still a gay person.
The position paper goes on to explain that “some homosexual [sexual] acts are physically harmful because they disregard normal human anatomy and function.” Firstly, gays and lesbians do not have a monopoly on any sexual practice. What the position paper refers to as “homosexual acts” really are just “sexual acts”. Secondly, while the CBAJ believes the gay “lifestyle” is “obsessed with and/or dominated by personal sexual fulfillment,” “homosexual acts” also include deciding between bush tea or coffee, going to work, volunteering at community-based charities and supporting friends and family.
Church leaders persistently employ double-speak in addressing homosexuality and homophobia. On one hand, they claim that “anyone struggling with homosexual temptation should evoke neither scorn nor enmity, but evoke our concern, compassion, help, and understanding.” On the other, “the Christian community must help society understand that homosexuality has grave spiritual, emotional, physical and cultural consequences” and “Christians should oppose legislative attempts to grant special rights based on sexual behavior.”
As self-proclaimed guardians of public morality, their statements sound noble, until one sees the well-oiled propaganda machine that church leaders utilize to demonize, disenfranchise and silence gay and lesbian people.
You cannot actively work to sustain the cultural environment that makes violence against gay people permissible while claiming you support non-violence. That is barefaced hypocrisy. In addition, it is telling that the CBAJ would label as “Special rights” the demands made by social justice advocates to recognize the humanity of gays and lesbians. The rights to privacy, to love, to self-expression and to dignity cannot be “special rights” if these are human rights and if these rights are already held by the majority.
The position paper includes a number of colourful fables about gay people: homosexuals engage in active recruitment, because, obviously, same-sex attraction is induced, never innate; homosexuals are non-monogamous and promiscuous by nature, while heterosexuals, by deduction, are predisposed to monogamy; homosexuality and pedophilia are essentially twin perversions, even though pedophiles are repulsed by adults and often molest children of both sexes, while the majority of child sex offenders who have adult relationships are heterosexual; and homosexual parents raise homosexual children, in the same way, I suppose, that heterosexual parents raise only heterosexual children.
Antiquated and harmful narratives about gay people get entrenched when those of us who know better refuse to challenge the fear-mongering and the ignorance of those we consider arbiters of morality and paragons of virtue.
The Church is dead wrong in its stance on homosexuality and it will pay dearly for its intransigence. As more gay and lesbian people affirm their sexual identities, it will become obvious that most are upstanding citizens who are struggling alongside heterosexuals to make the best of a difficult life in Jamaica. The ranks of the most respected professions are replete with gay people. In fact, many Jamaicans are employed and supervised by gays and lesbians.
As more Jamaican Christians engage with gay couples at home, at school, in communities, and in workplaces, they will reconsider whether God is truly infallible and if his admonition to condemn same-gender loving people is morally absolute. The lies woven into the fabric of public consciousness will begin to unravel and The Church will be held in contempt.
I love and admire Javed. If you met him, I think you would love him, too.
Javed Jaghai - http://youtu.be/BS2P6TvzuFM
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130129/lead/lead1.html ”Arrest errant gays”: Human rights advocate says homosexuals who run afoul of the law should face its full brunt: Gleaner
http://www.jflag.org/2013/01/j-flag-supports-police-intervention-in-new-kingston/ J-FLAG supports police intervention in New Kingston: http://www.jflag.org/
Let’s Build Our Country - http://youtu.be/ffys1xXGq3E
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130125/lead/lead1.html Gays wreak havoc: Cops say homosexuals too much to handle in South East St. Andrew: Gleaner
http://anniepaul.net/2013/01/25/the-creation-of-our-collective-homophobia/?replytocom=3277 The creation of our collective homophobia? Annie Paul.net – Jamaican blogger
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11417-gay-man-set-ablaze-in-st-andrew-central-open-lot.html Gay man set ablaze in St. Andrew Central open lot: On The Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rowdy-gays-upset-J-FLAG Rowdy gays upset J-FLAG: Sunday Observer
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign
Weekly Brief, Sunday 27/Monday 28 January, 2013: The Dawn of the New Scrap Metal Age (petchary.wordpress.com)
J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
Now that Hallowe’en is over, the Petchary would like to speak up on behalf of an ancient tradition that is often much maligned on this island of Jamaica. Primarily by Christians - and I say this with emphasis, as they do themselves, possibly to emphasize their sense of superiority to the rest of us heathens. There we are, I’ve already started on a controversial note.
Hallowe’en – October 31 – was the last day of the Celtic year. As someone with more than a drop of Celtic blood in her veins, I don’t really appreciate people condemning the traditions that are a part of my cultural and indeed family heritage. I don’t disrespect other people’s traditions – and I think a little more understanding (and research/information/knowledge) would be nice. (It puzzles me that in this “age of information” one can still be so ill-informed. I guess it’s lazy thinking).
But I digress. The original Hallowe’en was the Celtic feast of Samhain. It goes back to the eighth century and even further back – some say to Roman times. A time of year when the nights draw in, the sunsets are richer and the shadows deeper. The end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. A time when thoughts turn inward, away from the material, towards the spiritual. OK so far? I think so. Evil and Satanic? I think not.
The odd thing about these Christian anti-Halloweeners is that they completely miss the point that, although this Celtic festival pre-dated Christianity, it was almost immediately absorbed into the Christian (Catholic) calendar and has always been recognized int (although the Puritans weren’t too happy with it in England for a time, but then they weren’t happy with a lot of things). Today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day and tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. Again, these days are a time to reflect on the spirit and its passing from this earthly life – and a time to pray for the dead.
What is wrong with honoring the dead? The Mexicans (and others) do it every year at the same time – the Dia de Los Muertos – they are doing it right now, putting flowers and sweet things on the graves of their ancestors. Sure, there are lots of skulls and macabre costumes, as there are in Hallowe’en, but it is a celebration and an honoring too. Now, I do wish Jamaicans would honor their dead more. If you look at “then and now” photos of Kingston’s May Pen Cemetery (the “now” being a wasteland) you would see what I mean. Respect for those who have gone before us is a part of All Hallows’ Day and All Saints’ Day – it is a time of mysterious connection, when the spirit world draws closer to us. A recognition of that world of spirits – that land of shadows. And that’s the “scary” part.
Where does the dressing-up part come from, and the trick or treating? Well, they are both connected and both originate from the belief that if you disguise yourself, those spirits won’t recognize you. Again, it goes back hundreds of years – it is not some silly new-fangled American thing. Trick or treating was called “guising” (as in disguise) and it is even mentioned in Shakespeare. And it has been a tradition in Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall (going back to the Celts again of course) for hundreds of years.
Now, my Christian friends always talk about the “Satanic” nature of Hallowe’en. But where does that come from? I grew up with Hallowe’en, and never was there any mention of “Old Nick” in that context (that was my grandmother’s name for him – an English expression that dates from the seventeenth century). He never came into the picture, nor does he in any of the Hallowe’en traditions that I know of (someone, please correct me if I’m wrong).
In fact, I have never heard so much talk of “Satan” as in Jamaica. When something won’t work out, it is blamed on Satan. I was rather startled when I first encountered his name in an everyday conversation, and I still do wonder why his name is recalled so often. Even gangsters call themselves Satan from time to time – the baddest of the bad, I guess. I think part of the confusion of Hallowe’en is the confusion of the “dark side” – the spirit world of ghosts, spirits, fairies and the like – with Satanism. But why? Jamaicans have their own incredible duppy stories too – the Rolling Calf sends shivers down my spine – but Satan doesn’t get mixed up in those legends. But then, there is no Christian origin to those stories either. All very complex.
And now for other Hallowe’en traditions, which you may or may not know. One of our favorites at home was “apple bobbing,” the kind of thing they would do on TV game shows these days to get people to make a fool of themselves. You had to kneel and grab an apple out of a bucket of water with your mouth, not using your hands. Of course apples were in season at that time of year, and there were the toffee apples (or candy apples as they are called in the U.S.). I remember as a child, in great fascination and excitement, watching my grandmother dipping the apples into the sticky, tawny-colored toffee, which she boiled up in a deep pan with dire warnings not to go anywhere near it.
Then there were the fancy-dress parties. The whole point that the Jamaican Christians are missing – sadly – is that in fact, Hallowe’en is tremendous (and quite harmless) fun. Their cries of “Satanism” and “evil” sound like killjoys.
We had fun. I would spend weeks planning my costume (always home-made, by my long-suffering mother) and we would have noisy, boisterous parties, pretending to be someone else. What kid doesn’t love dressing up? It is empowering. My parent would pretend to be scared by me and my raucous friends. And we felt safe and secure in our masks and crazy headgear. My best-ever costume was a scarecrow.
So please, give Hallowe’en a break. Try to understand and respect a tradition that is hundreds – if not thousands – of years old.
A little more tolerance. A little more understanding.
And remember there is the light, and there is the dark. All a part of life.
OK, own up now. You didn’t get raptured. And how does this make you feel? Quite a blow to the self-esteem, wasn’t it? But hey, you’re in good company. I didn’t get swept off my feet, either.
It is now May 23 and a cool, rain-soaked evening in Kingston Town, and I never felt less raptured in my life (what a silly word, anyway – there is no such verb as “to rapture” – it’s a noun. And rapture (or “rapt,” adjective) is how you feel when admiring a photo of… No, I won’t go down that road again. My photo of a certain person with his shirt off in my last blog caused too many ripples of excitement among my online female friends. Too distracting).
Now where was I? Ah yes, the rapture that didn’t rapt (or whatever). I got up lateish on Saturday, and looked at the sky. No rain, no thunderclouds, no fire and brimstone (yet). But hold on… Didn’t the old man say that May 21 was not going to be the end of the world as we know it? He said October 21 is going to be when all hell breaks loose – May 21 will just be the rapture bit, so let’s focus on that part of it for now. By the way, the months in between were going to be fairly unpleasant, the old man said. We are all going to do a lot of wailing (I’ve been practicing the technique), weeping (or in Jamaican parlance, “bawling”) and gnashing of teeth (the “g” is silent and I’m not sure how to gnash my teeth. It sounds painful so I may pass on that).
After breakfast I pottered around in the yard, again looking expectantly at the sky. The usual tropical thing going on up there. Because it occurred to me – you have to be outside to be raptured, right? I mean, you can’t be hauled up through the plasterboard ceiling and the struts and the hurricane straps and the zinc roof can you? You would be an awful mess by the time you got to heaven. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. And there are grills on every window as of course Kingston is riddled with “tiefs” and worse… So God couldn’t pull me through the window, could he? One has to think of the technicalities of the matter. Perhaps that’s something fundamentalist Christians haven’t thought through too well.
So there I was, checking out the not-yet-ripe Bombay mangoes somewhat wistfully. Can inanimate objects be raptured? Perhaps I could take a few with me, just in case I have to bribe St. Peter. Looking at our ever-loving dogs, I wondered who might feed them – unless they got raptured too. I would have to insist on that.
A knock at the gate. It was our gardener, with his charming daughter. Neither of them looked worried, but perhaps they were hiding it. I spent a little time with the daughter, picking flowers. Here she is, ready to go home with them…
Wandered back in the house, had lunch with husband. Still no rain, thunder, lightning, hail, plague of locusts etc. Oh no, this is just Rapture Day isn’t it. Nothing spectacular seemed to have happened either in Jamaica or elsewhere on the planet, except for an Icelandic volcano with a name the BBC only made a half-hearted attempt to pronounce properly. No earthquakes (although I hear mini-earthquakes are going on all the time, unfelt). No football on TV, either! The last day of the English Premier League season, and nothing on TV? What’s with that, oh Football Powers That Be? Humph.
Sorry, the above caption was far too long but Gooners (Arsenal fans for the uninitiated) have got to have their say. We are called whiners. Maybe. Just a little.
Investigating further, I learned that the rapture would take place on a “rolling” basis – that is, it would start at 6:00 p.m. local time, wherever in the world it was. That meant that, by the time I had staggered out of bed on Saturday morning, it was already rolling in the great cities of Sydney and Brisbane Australia. I figured my brother in Brisbane would be a good candidate – always so kind and such a peacemaker. But no, he was passed over – snubbed, in fact. Just not right.
6:00 p.m. Jamaican time now, and I was messing around on Facebook, waiting for something to happen. The evening passed. Time to watch Saturday Night Live’s final fling of the season, with Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake. Weren’t they concerned by then that they had not been snatched and grabbed? As usual, there was plenty of humorous snatching and grabbing going on on the program.
And so, well…to bed. With an overwhelming feeling of anti-climax, I lay in bed with my little book (a wonderful book actually – “Bird Cloud” by Annie Proulx), and finished it. A nice and definitely uneventful Saturday… The way I like Saturdays, actually. Husband agreed.
If you were raptured, please let me know. Surely someone must have been, but it seems no deal. Not even an aged relative of ours, who goes to church several times a week, with a marathon on Sundays, visits “shut-ins” (what a weird expression that is, can’t we let them out sometimes?) and is generally quite saintly… Nope, not her. Not good enough.
Finally… Have you ever wondered what goes on up there? A deeply intellectual theological discussion started up on Facebook but quickly descended to the level of “what to wear” again… And that was after a girls’ discussion on what to wear for the day, starting with comments like, “And I am going to wear my Victoria’s Secret red satin bra and matching panties…new braids…blue nail polish…” with various brand names being dropped.
I returned to the contemplation of On High with other FB friends, who were busy debating how the “de rigeur” white robes worn in Heaven could be jazzed up a bit… a tuck here, a loop there… in the finest Egyptian cotton, of course. Still basically dull, though. And who wants to play a harp all day? Such a boring instrument, normally played by prim women in staid evening dress, sitting bolt upright in their chairs. An Irish harp, perhaps – a bit more lively, as the Irish always are. In fact, I hope there are plenty of Irish up there. Should be, since they love religion so, and have many times fought over whose version of God is the best. Perhaps that can be sorted out amicably, once and for all, Up There.
By the way, I have a mental list of those whom I would like to meet, if I should ever be admitted to Heaven (whether raptured or by the conventional “kick the bucket” route) and be handed one of those robes and a bloody harp. The list includes Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other obvious shoe-ins for Heaven. But I would so much like to meet Oscar Wilde (he could keep me amused with his witticisms) and the wonderfully flamboyant Freddie Mercury (see an earlier blog of mine). And Kurt Cobain, to figure out why he did what he did. Was it just the drugs? Marilyn Munroe would be so much fun, too. She could tell us all about her husbands, and of course whether JFK was good in bed.
But hold on a minute – would St. Peter let those guys in? Perhaps not. Perhaps the Other Place Down There would, in fact, be much more interesting. I should give this some more thought. It might change my life. If Jimi Hendrix is not in Heaven, then I definitely don’t want to be raptured and that’s that.
And now, after all that… I’m afraid the May 21 business is passe, darlings. (Sorry, couldn’t do the French accent on “passe” but you know what I mean). Back to the drawing board, better luck next time. I’m sure there will be a whole new generation of suckers growing up who will believe (or half-believe) in such silliness.
Meanwhile, it has been good writing fodder for journalists, commentators and mere bloggers like me, the world over.
P.S. I hear the Reverend Camping (his name is a verb; and where did you go camping, reverend?) is, quote, “flabbergasted” that May 21 was a damp squib. He probably expected to be one of the first to be whisked away on a fluffy white cloud, at 6:00 p.m. California time. Perhaps, like last time (1994) the 89-year-old former engineer made a mathematical miscalculation. That’s understandable, I’m not too good at Math myself.
- Harold Camping “flabbergasted” by non-Rapture – CBS News (news.google.com)
- Maddow Survives The Rapture! (huffingtonpost.com)
- Rapture a No-Show: San Francisco Chronicle