So there are advocates and there are advocates and the never ended quest to produce proposals, abstracts and budgets continue in the grand scheme of things. One wonders if the present set of circumstances really are in a honest bid to tackle the problems we have in our GLBTQ communities.
The main organization serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender needs is a joke to say the least, this a criticism I have always had of JFLAG, they can do and ought to do a lot more, there are so many persons who need not just only crisis intervention typed assistance but also hotline counselling services that have been woefully lacking for several years, consultative forumatic sessions between the groups aforementioned are also urgently required to arrive at sensible and workable solutions to growth with tolerance from the mainstream.
With so many persons still having serious issues directly related to homophobia such as ostracism, displacement, religious bias and violent attacks and the transgender community clamoring for visibility within a transphobic gay and lesbian setting, who will really stand up and honestly, patiently and directly deal with the issues at hand without having to worry about reputations and criticisms from observers who just want to point out the right things and what else can be done? The present systems, organizations and persons involved do not seem to be getting the job done properly, we have a Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays all of whom on paper have HIV/AIDS interventions and Social Support programs directed at the mainstream, gay, lesbian and queer communities but can’t seem to get their acts together not even if they were combined into one. Without stepping on the toes of those who have tried over the years there maybe a time when a new set of persons and organizations may have to come forward with new out of the box ideas and programs to deal with the new faces of MSM out there and associated tough issues.
HIV infection rates have increased despite best efforts over the years by NGOs and the respective national programs plagued however by the alleged politics involved in the power play between private and public sector interests dealing with the controversial MSM community. On one hand the government’s health arm through the Ministry of Health wants to reach this community but cannot do so publicly because of the sensitivities involved chief among them the buggery law, public perception of male homosexuality and the real threat of political fallout for the respective ruling administrations, then there are the serious mistrust issues in the form of criticisms levied at the same Ministry basically accusing them of using the MSM community to make up testing numbers and studies with no lasting outreach efforts in place to stop or contain the HIV spread in this marginalized grouping. Private groups and NGOs want to hold on to the intervention strategies and programs they already have been carrying out for years with no obstruction or dictation from the Ministry of Health and so the vicious cycle continues while gay men suffer, most of them in silence and precious funding is jostled for behind closed doors. The NGOs themselves have their share of mistrust issues from the very MSM community they are to serve just take a look at the homeless MSM tab on here to see for yourself. Sections of the community have long doubted the intentions of some of these NGOs, some say they are money trees for those who run them or gravy trains for large funds that are available for vulnerable populations.
Why is it for example that a certain NGO designed for social support for gays having on its list of clients, men who have been abused yet they cannot get financial assistance from the said group and have to be on the streets in one instance begging while other clients seem to get preferential treatment in own their cases?
The intentions look blurred and unclear and the concerns don’t seem genuine for some folks, when one canvasses sections of the community in large part that’s the hint you get in the answers. The recent civil disobedience action taken by a group of MSM at a local NGO is proof of the distrust and how deeply entrenched it has become. One would have thought that trust ought to be a key factor in any kind of social intervention so as to connect with the target audience involved otherwise how effective can programs and activities be if the people who really need it don’t wish to be engaged simply because they don’t see one as genuine?
Could it be burn-out that is causing the problem as well? Persons could be just tired from all the years of being there that they have become immune to issues, not ready or willing to adapt to change.
That’s not to say that there has not been progress made over the years but with the recent negative activities perceived or otherwise how can we get good results with the present set of circumstances and policies still in place, are the powers that be willing to step aside and let new blood take it?
The answer is certainly not a yes, so I guess others will have to carve their own ideas and quietly do what needs to be and can be done, its not about competition to see who is better than whom but simply aiming for and getting real results thus having a meaningful impact on the lives of people. The make up of the various organizations may be a sticky issue as well as the seeming incestuous mix between them may be a debilitating factor hence a kind of rigor mortis sets in and it’s just the same ideological principles and practices that go throughout the policies and actions carried out and no new vision seems forthcoming.
The age old problem of class has reared its head again at least in one instance when one client of a certain NGO said to me recently that he doesn't feel comfortable anymore in going to them to talk about his issues as he clearly sees the unease in the faces of the front-line staff with remarks and snickering in some instances when he speaks. He named the organization clearly and said “They gone uptown now” implying the attitude of persons involved. He feels as if he is now just being given the run around with no clear action plan to help him recover from his ordeals.
There are other critics as well who are more experienced in advocacy either through volunteering over time or were contracted employees of one or more of the NGOs implied here who now say they are not interested in engaging them in any form or if they do it’s just at a casual glance out of respect. One group in particular was described by a former volunteer as a press release factory relating to the knee jerk reactions they have on issues and the lack of a more proactive approach to LGBT advocacy.
What can we do?
Do we need to let the groups/organizations know how we feel be it good or bad?
Weh unu tink eh?
Have you noticed any of the changes mentioned?
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Peace and tolerance
H and contributors
UPDATE podcast - September 7, 2011