The First Lesbian Wedding in Jamaica
My girlfriend relayed this story to me yesterday about one of her high school friends (Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn) who had a wedding recently. Her friend and her partner were officially wed in NY, but wanted to celebrate the wedding in Jamaica, where she grew up.
The problem; Jamaica isn’t exactly known for being LGBT friendly. In fact, there is a pervasive homophobia that exists that often results in beatings and killings. If you are a reggae/dancehall fan, you’ve probably heard Buju Banton’s Boom Bye Bye; you may or may not realize that it’s literally about shooting gay men in the head (chorus: boom bye bye in a batty boy head). There are countless of examples like that in the common culture.
During planning, they encountered some issues, once people found out. Some told them that they would need to have the ceremony inside, others just showed their own quiet contempt once they realized this wasn’t a “regular” wedding.
As you would expect from a wedding in the tropics, it was a beautiful affair (PHOTOS). Upon returning though, they found out that the event was apparently becoming a story in the media. The less than glowing story below appeared in The Gleaner (one of Jamaica’s main newspapers) shortly after.
…”I am wondering which registrar they are going to register ‘this thing’ because, based on the law here, it can’t happen in Jamaica,” said the church leader. “As I said before, that type of arrangement is illegal in Jamaica.”
“They can call it whatever they want but under Jamaican law, no marriage officer could validate because in our jurisdiction, a marriage is a union between a man and a woman,” said Robb.
While some residents of Duncans seemed quite prepared to accept the ‘strange’ wedding and move on, Rastafarian painter Jah Billy was livid, arguing that a serious moral breach was committed.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard of it … those things belong to England and Rome not Jah-mek-ya (Jamaica),” the Rastafarian said. “We have lost our moral compass as a nation, that is why so much suffering is on the land … . We blaming politics but politics is not the problem; the problem is the disrespect for Jah (God) and his commandments.”
This started a huge stir in-country. Not exactly the way you want your big day memorialized.
Fortunately, the Gleaner contacted her directly and allowed her to relay the event in her own words a few days later.
This has now led to larger media attention and a platform to talk about what is happening in Jamaica. The full story is now a four page article in Ebony (READ IT)
Is this a start to a more open and accepting Jamaica? I think that’s asking a lot; it’s going to take time and effort for attitudes on homosexuality to change in Jamaica. As someone that really does love Jamaica, I hope that this is the start. Nicole said it best:
…More promising to me as a Jamaican was the plethora of positive reactions on my blog and some on the Jamaica Gleaner’s comment section from strangers back home—people who felt trapped in silence because of their sexuality. Or strangers showing support in general. Their individual voices joined the chorus of support my wife and I have been getting, expressing their pride and joy. Other gays and lesbians have acknowledged us as an inspiration. Had it not been for this highly publicized wedding, I would never have felt the true pulse of the gay community in my country, and the nation as a whole. For the first time in their lives they were not invisible. The unbiased publication also allowed people to look pass gender and see the rawness and truth in love. That we’re not sexualized vultures or heathens, but two women in love. Most importantly, I observed men and women removing their cloaks of shame and guilt to step forward, beautifully naked in the eyes of freedom. Gay and lesbian Jamaicans are tired of hiding; tired of camouflaging who they are with decorations of societal norms. They’re tired of pretending to be okay with the bigotry they are exposed to at work, in school, or in the church. Tired of forcing those half smiles and weak nods of acquiescence. Tired of being invisible.
For this reason too, my wife and I jumped the broom as a part of our wedding ceremony. Jumping over the broom symbolizes various things depending on the culture. But in our ceremony, uniting us as two beautiful, Black women, jumping the broom symbolized the hurdle gay and lesbians had overcome for same sex marriage to be possible. When the bill was passed in New York State last year, followed by a historical public acknowledgement of same-sex marriage by President Obama, we knew our wedding became bigger than us. Therefore, jumping the broom on our wedding day symbolized not only the ancestors who were not allowed to get married as Blacks on plantations and who died to make our dreams possible; but that our union and our love for each other as Black Women will be recognized by everyone.
Thanks for reading…