In my last post I spoke about wanting to see the needs of the transgender community – from sociopolitical issues to health care requirements – addressed here in Jamaica. However transforming Jamaica from a nation which is not appreciative of gender non-conformists, to a society in which trans people feel safe and have access to all the resources they need, is undoubtedly a gargantuan task. Nonetheless, despite it’s monumental stature, I believe that such a task is possible.
Enter “advocacy”. My preferred definition of advocacy is “A set of organized actions aimed at influencing public policies, social attitudes and socio-political process that enable and empower the marginalized to speak for themselves”; and it is through advocacy, through civic engagement, that I believe the changes the LGBT community so desperately wishes to see, will be actualized.
My involvement with advocacy work began only a few years ago. In April of 2013, my father passed away suddenly; rendering what was to be a joyous period in my life, one of the most melancholic times I have ever endured. I was in my final semester at university, looking towards the future with utmost positivism and the grandest of dreams and in a matter of hours, I didn’t even want to finish my studies anymore.
What followed was months of self-isolation. I confined myself to my bedroom, slept all day and played video games all night because I did not feel comfortable sleeping unless the sun was up. It was around this time that my friend, Angeline, asked if I would be interested in volunteering for her newly formed organization Quality of Citizenship Jamaica; an organization whose primary focus would be advancing the rights of lesbian and bisexual women in our local context. I had nothing else doing and it would aid in occupying my time, so I said yes.
In the subsequent months I got my first taste of advocacy work; inclusive of policy and recommendation writing and sensitization training. Though the days were long and the work arduous, I gradually began to realize the significance of advocacy and how one could use it to change the society in which they live. Since then, I have been seeking opportunities to contribute to the advancement of human rights in Jamaica; with a focus on the rights of women, members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community, but even more so, transgender rights.
To this end, I have participated in several workshops to build my capacity as an advocate and even hosted one on gender-based violence with several colleagues. I volunteer for various causes whenever I can, and frequently engage persons on social media about human rights issues; particularly those affecting the transgender community. These are all good things in my opinion, but I desire to do so much MORE.
Last year I came across the website for the Black Trans Advocacy Conference (BTAC) being held in Dallas, Texas of April this year. This will be the 5th installment of said conference and I would relish the opportunity to attend as it will be a learning experience of immeasurable worth. As I was reading more about the event, I discovered that they have a scholarship program that could help to offset the cost of my attendance; so I applied and was successful. My friend Neish (co-founder of TransWave), also applied and was successful. Now we are tasked with raising funds to help with the costs associated with our participation in the conference.
I have no doubt that taking part in the workshops being offered by the conference would strengthen my capacity as an advocate and contribute to my own personal development. There exists a plethora of things left for me to learn about advocacy, and how to lend my voice to the movement in a more effective manner. The recognition and protection of LGBT rights is something I am quite passionate about; seconded by my desire to see the implementation of the necessary services needed by trans individuals in order for us to safely lead full lives here in Jamaica free from discrimination.
We are the generation which will shape the future of our nation and I would like to play my part as a citizen, in the creation of that future. A future in which all Jamaicans are equal and are truly, out of many, one people. But the work starts now; will you assist me in contributing positively to our nation? I am asking that if you can, please contribute to my scholarship fund here. Donations of any amount are more than welcome. Contributions to Neish’s fund may be done here. Thank you for any assistance you may provide, and thank you for reading.
International Centre for Human Rights Education. (2009). International Human Rights Training Program Resource Manual. 317.