jumped' on the bandwaggon and began struggling for "Gay Liberation", as they so quaintly put it. In Europe and North America, homosexuals and lesbians who had been closeted in double-lives have stepped boldly out into the open, following a number of legislatory changes which freed them from the heavy hands oj the law. In 1967. Britain decriminalised homosexuality, and since then both the. British and the American Medical Associations have removed it from their
lists of abnormalities.
Sweden was the most recent country to drop it from its list:of diseases, and in October last year a spokesman for the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, according to a Reuters report, instructed doctors that they no longer had to report In North America, the growing homosexual community and haven of San Francisco in California scared the daylights out of its "straight" community when thousands of them rioted before the City Hall following a mere manslaughter sentence which was returned for a man who killed two prominent homosexuals in the city. In September of last year. California created history when Governor Jerry Brown
appointed the first openly homosexual judge and in Britain, Jerry Thorpe, former leader of the Liberal Party, was a known homosexual who was once voted Britain's most popular politician.
Locally, two years -ago, a short-lived public debate was sparked off in the press following the launching of a Gay Freedom Movement (G.F.M.) which a very vocal group of homosexual activists launched to raise what they called 'gay consciousness and awareness' and to protest anti-'gay' oppression, among other things. . It was the first time, in the history of this country, that homosexuals had dared to be so bold, and their talk of "gay pride and their rationalisation of gay liberation as human liberation have been seen as the heights of temerity by a society which has traditionally been very intolerant of homosexuality.
Everybody has always known that it exists in our midst, and the subject has been the basis of many juicy bits of gossip on St. Andrew verandahs where it is whispered around as to who is the latest addition to the list of "funny" or "queer" men.
Prominent members of the society, especially those in the cultural and artistic life of the country, are whispered about behind by their backs, and the less well-known and visible , homosexuals are often pounced upon on the streets and physically beaten, and or verbally ridiculed.
G.F.M. General Secretary, Larry Chang, cannot give a realistic estimate of the homosexual community in the island but he feels that if all homosexuals were to suddenly turn green, "we would have a lot of very green people walking around". According to him, one just never knows
who are homosexuals because they cannot be picked out by just looking at them. "There are a few people who are obviously 'gay' because of their effeminacy or' their masculinity, but this is a very small minority." he said, adding that most homosexuals walk around undetected and pass for 'straight'. He claims, however, that the society would be "shocked to death" to know who and .who in this country are homosexuals, .
Mr. Chang, who maintains that the socalled prejudices and -bigotry of the 'straight' community are re-inforced by myths and a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, claims that homosexuals are not sick. According to him', they are as healthy and as normal as everybody else, with the only difference being their sexual taste.
Jamaica Psychological Association (J.P.A.) chairman. Dr. Ruth Dobar, supports this view that homosexuality is not a sickness, and she says that everything that pertains to heterosexuals —* with the exception of choice of partners — goes for
The J.P.A., which is an alliance of local psychologists and psychiatrists, recently hosted a public discussion at the Priory High School on "Homosexuality in Jamaica", and this has been described as the first, open discussion on the subject. Dr. Dobar sees it as another style of behaviour, another style of life, but even this view is not shared throughout the medical profession. She admits that many medical practitioners still see homosexuality as an abnormality, but that an increasing number of her colleagues consider homosexuals "normal people who happen to
choose partners of their own sex", adding that it is a matter of choices. Psychiatrists do not usually treat homosexuality as a disease, but where a patient is worried about being homosexual, he or she is treated for neurotic symptoms.
The Church's traditional view of homosexuality,'on the other hand, is that it is sinful and. it is wrong. The Church of England, which guides some 64 million Anglicans around theworld, has traditionally taken a'hard line with homosexuals, but in October it published a controversial report on the subject which recommended that the Church should recognise that it can be justifiable for individuals to "enter into a homosexual relationship involving the physical expressionof free love". -;
The report, which was published with a statement from the Church Board for Social Responsibility saying that it had neither adopted nor endorsed the findings and also recommended that the homosexual age of consent in Britain should be reduced from 21 to 18 years; that Bishopsshould not refuse to ordain a man because he is homosexual; and that the decision to accept or reject the resignation of a homosexual priest living openly with another
man would remain solely with the Bishop. The Anglican Church is to debate the homosexuality issue at its general synod in February 1981. With -reference to the local situation,
Jamaica Council of Churches' president Archbishop Samuel Carter said that as recently re-affirmed by Pope John Paul, the traditional stand of the Roman Catholic Church is that homosexuality is sinful and wrong, he said., however, that people with this tendency should be treated with sympathy arid understanding and help offered to them wherever it is needed.
Asked to comment on the new openness of the island's homosexual community, Archbishop Carter said thai this is part of the influence; of the "outer society", especially from the United States, adding that 'anything that happens outside is bound to influence us. "We maintain the stand that it is a sin but we sympathise with people who have this tendency," he said.
The. Gay Freedom Movement was launched in August 1977, and Mr. Larry Chang describes it not as an organisation in the strict sense of; the term, but as a movement of people who have began to. mobilise to demand "their basic human rights to be able to choose "our sexual partners". This choice is no business of the State Or the Church or anybody else, in his opinion,
and if is time that people begin to change their attitudes and prejudices which he claims are based on mis-conceptions about what homosexuality really is The G.F.M. General'Secretary makes a distinction (between homosexuals and 'gays'. According to him. a large number of Jamaicans! are homosexuals but a small minority are gay. 'Gays', for him, are those homosexuals who accept their homosexuality and live their lives accordingly and he points out that they are many homosexuals who do not identify as being 'gay. Mr. Chang said that one of the main aims of the G.F.M. is to educate homosexuals about their 'gayness' and bring them some amount of self-awareness so that "they will come-to accept their homosexuality as a natural, normal and healthything."
Such an acceptance and the promotion of 'gay pride', he feels, will remove a lot of the existing psychological pressure and conflicts that members of the homosexual community have to live with. Describing the current life-style of the homosexual community, he said that it is one of deception, cover-up and the added pressure of leading a double life since themajority of 'gay' people have to hide from their families, co-workprs and friends.
Men for whom women have never held any sexual allure equate their struggles for 'gay' liberation with the struggle of the women's movement on the ground that 'gays' and women suffer from male-dominated oppression, in a macho-syndrome that keeps down women and 'gays'.
Mr. Chang claims that 'gay' men, are a threat to the majority of the heterosexual male's idea'of what a man should be and how he should behave, and as a result 'straight' men tend to react irrationally and violently to'them. . .The G.F.M. spokesman said that the movement uses the term 'gay' because homosexual' is a very clinical term that smacks of psychiatry, psychology and science, and "is just too clinical to use in everyday parlance". !
Labels such as faggots, pansy. . fairy, fruit used by the 'straight' establishment in reference to them are all derogatory. In order to build up "our own self-image"and develop a sense of pride, 'gay' became their name. The movement which has instituted a Prison Out-reach Programme, and a Gay Youth Movement, runs a Gay Community Health Clinic for the prevention and treat ment of veneral disease, and also publishes a bi-monthly news-letter called the Jamaica Gaily News, - " :
i There are also a number of 'gay' clubs in the island, and Mr. Chang stated that homosexual clubs have been around for as long as living memory goes back. Claiming that the existence of the/clubs have nothing to do with the emergence of the movement, he said the 'gay' clubs have
always been the focus of 'gay' activities, apart from private homes and small groups here and there.
Up to a year ago, there were three 'gay' clubs in Kingston, one in Spanish Town and a semi 'gay' one in'Montego Bay. Mr. Chang also said that there, are a number of other places in Kingston that 'straight' people go to, which are homosexual pickup places, but they do not know what is going oh around them. However, he declined to name these on the ground that "they do not want to blow their .cover and spoil a good thing".