Gender. Sex. Silence. Survival.

All across the globe, gender revolutions are happening. And it’s not just in National Geographic’s January 2017 Gender Revolution issue. From the Women’s March in Washington D.C. (and others like it around the world) to the #saytheirname movement in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, the concept of gender and sexual autonomy have become the prescient buzzwords of the new year.

So many changes are taking place in the landscape of gender – now we’re talking about it openly, for one. Compare the evolution of gender into terms like ‘non-binary’, against the potential backpedaling of the US government away from reproductive autonomy. What a time to be alive.

Of course, negative reactions are to be expected. When Loop JA posted their article on Trina, a Jamaican trans woman featured in the National Geographic issue, almost every comment disparaged the young woman – calling her ‘it’, saying she should have died in one of the many attacks on her life. And somehow in the same breath, being angry that she ‘chose’ to portray Jamaica as way more violently homophobic than it actually is.

It’s true that not all Jamaican gays/trans-folks/bisexuals experience life the same way. Jaevion Nelson (long time human rights activist) points out that by focusing on the most brutal stories we forget about the voices who are not so downtrodden, but equally important. There is no one way to be gay/trans/non-binary and Nat Geo should have considered that in their piece, instead of perpetuating the horror crusade that has become de rigueur in discussions about Jamaican homophobia.

This is not to say that there aren’t things about Jamaica that are downright horrifying. Take the recent travesty involving a Moravian pastor caught in a “compromising position” with a 15 year old girl. (Which is being handled terribly by the media, might I add).

The Moravian church has a lot to answer for, but the culture of silence isn’t only perpetuated by church-goers and elders. The silencing of young girls is so entrenched in our society that it seems impossible to break.

The silence of mothers should not be passed to their daughters. Daughters do not need to inherit the silence of their mothers.
–Ijeoma Umebinyo

Organisations like We Change JA and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (along with dozens of human rights activists) are writing letters and editorials that demand an end to the secrecy. The #saytheirnames movement is growing.

But human rights movements always gather momentum really well only to fizzle out as the public loses interest. Right now everyone is interested in what WROC and the activists have to say but in another nine days those groups will be behind the scenes again, unobtrusively working to change the way our society thinks.

What great catalyst will it take to shake Jamaicans out of their indifference? When will one million women march together for gender equality, sexual autonomy, reproductive rights? Is it to be a slow, inevitable downward spiral, despite the desperate efforts of an enlightened few?

Will we wake up in time to save ourselves?

2 thoughts on “Gender. Sex. Silence. Survival.

  1. Brittanie Clacken says:

    Perhaps one of the main deterrents to active participation in these events is the tendency to lump many different “human rights” issues together under the same umbrella. I, like you, would gladly march to end violence against women, to end rape in its many forms, to expose and end the abuse of power that exploits women and children…

    But to lump that with “gender equality”, which we know is a euphemism to expand the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Bestiality/Zoophiles, Transsexual, Transgender, Queer, Pedophile/Minor Attracted, Intersexual, Asexual (LGBTQPIA…) persons, is a turn-off (putting it lightly) for many. I would agree that no one should be mistreated or marginalised because of their sexual choices, however, I reserve my right to disagree with certain behaviours and chose not to promote those behaviours which I deem to be dangerous, counter-productive or morally wrong. And whereas I have friends who are lesbian, gay and bisexual (though I disagree with their chosen lifestyle), I couldn’t approve of or agree with a person who enjoys having sexual relations with children or animals. So I couldn’t march for that.

    To include “reproductive autonomy”, which we know is a euphemism for abortion, along with the fight for women’s progress is just as egregious. The unborn women among us don’t have rights? That’s like saying a premature baby isn’t a human (or doesn’t exist). Now I don’t believe that women who choose to abort their babies should be marginalised or mistreated either. However, I don’t think allowing murder of an unborn child is a human right, as much as murder of a 23-year-old woman or 5 year boy is not a human right. So I couldn’t march for that.

    Furthermore, why is abortion even a thing? Women often feel trapped…They fear the backlash from their families and the community…Perhaps they were raped and don’t want to keep the child…They feel the child is inconvenient to their current lives. Can we march against those things? Children are a blessing from God…can we march to keep them alive? Can we encourage families to love their children regardless of the mistakes they make? Can we stop promoting wanton sexual abandon as the new craze and instead promote healthier sex practices? See who the world would be missing if their mothers had exercised their “reproductive autonomy”

    See also…/redditors_who_are_the_pro…/cic5i7h/

    This may not be the popular view, but it’s my honest opinion and I hope it can be viewed objectively, with tolerance as many on the other side would wish from me.


    1. Thank you for your comment Brittanie! I appreciate your well thought out response (even as I disagree with parts of it).

      I completely agree that “gender equality” is a phrase that encourages the protection of LGBTQ rights, but I have never considered that movement to include pedophilia (illegal) and bestiality (also illegal?). I find that argument a little reductive. Marching in support of the LGBTQ population is not giving de facto support to pedophilia or bestiality. Quite the opposite usually, as most activists I know also stand firmly against the abuse of children and animals.

      On the matter of reproductive autonomy we must agree to disagree. The pro-choice pro-life debate is not easily tackled. I firmly believe abortion should be legal, and that all women should be counseled extensively on its benefits, risks and appropriate use. Maintaining the status as a felony closes that discussion entirely and keeps the procedure limited to less legitimate practices which are far more dangerous to women’s health.

      Thank you again for your very respectful disagreement!


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