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Against Odds, Jamaica Holds First Pride Celebration

Against Odds, Jamaica Holds First Pride Celebration


What was once unthinkable has now happened in the Caribbean island nation.

Jamaica, seen as one of the most homophobic nations on earth, is in the midst of hosting its first-ever LGBT Pride celebration.

Centered around the capital of Kingston, the week-long event features art exhibits, poetry readings, dance parties, and even a flash mob in a public park; out actress Ellen Page even made an appearance. Jamaican LGBT activists say the Pride festival, endorsed by Kingston's mayor and the nation's justice minister, marks a major turning point for the country.

"I think we will look back on this and see it as a turning point because many persons thought that it would never actually happen," Latoya Nugent of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, the Pride's organizer, told the Associated Press.

While attendees noted a sea change in the nation, with acceptance on the upswing, violence against LGBT people continues. J-FLAG reported approximately 80 incidents of "discrimination, threats, physical attacks, displacement and sexual violence last year."

The island nation is a regular source for tragic stories of antigay attacks. In March, a YouTube video appeared to show the public execution of a young man stoned in the street by a crowd chanting antigay slurs. Then there's the shocking but true story of the "Gully Queens," who are LGBT youth kicked out of their homes and living underground in the storm drainage system in Kingston.

Jamaica still has a law against gay sex, and a man who challenged it in the nation's high court withdrew the case out of fear of reprisal.

Even with all the bad news, J-FLAG insists violence against gay and trans people in Jamaica is decreasing. President Obama urged more tolerance when he visited the country in April and praised lesbian activist Angeline Jackson.

"What we are seeing these days is more and more LGBT people willing to be visible, to be open, and to be public," Nugent told the AP. "It's remarkable."

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