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Why It's Time For LGBTQ+ Travelers to Go Back to Jamaica

Why It's Time For LGBTQ+ Travelers to Go Back to Jamaica

Black man flies Jamaica flag at LGBT Pride event

"Queerness in the Caribbean isn’t a new phenomenon, and safety is a global issue."

"Don't go to Jamaica." That used to be the advice given queer travelers. And there were certainly reasons for LGBTQ+ travelers to take a cautious approach to visiting the Caribbean island whose colonial era "buggery" law punished same-sex relations with 10 years of hard labor.

But the island celebrated its first queer Pride in 2015 and in the eight years since, the anti-gay sentiment in Jamaica (and some other Caribbean nations) had begun to thaw. For example, last year the Barbados High Court struck down that nation's anti-LGBTQ+ law. Some of these countries are reconsidering the draconian laws enacted under the colonial rule of the British Empire because of the death of Queen Elizabeth and pending coronation of King Charles. While Queen Elizabeth was internationally beloved, some are ready for the end of the monarchy and a rejection of it's colonial legacy.

The LGBTQ+ community in Jamaica and the Caribbean diaspora is gaining more international attention, and they are using it to point out that boycotts can hurt local queers as well.

New York artist and chef DeVonn Francis is Jamaican and says, “Groups like Connek JA and Ragga NYC have taught me so much about queer Caribbean liberation. Queerness in the Caribbean isn’t a new phenomenon, and safety is a global issue."

Indeed, as the annual index of the most dangerous places for LGBT people to travel shows, dozens of countries still receive failing marks. Out of the 203 countries on the list, Jamaica comes in 161. The U.S. continues to fall (dropping to 25 this year) in light of its growing backlash to LGBTQ+ rights. Recently Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, issued travel advisory warning trans travelers that Florida is no longer a safe destination.

"The press makes it seem like Jamaica is solely homophobic, " Francis muses. "and that thought process erases the hard work that so many LGBTQ+ groups have done over many years to support our queer brothers and sisters. We’re all looking for liberation, and the more you travel — that is to say, the more you meet people where they are — the more you can see how similar your desires and frustrations might be to queer communities living outside of your region.”'

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