I turned 33 this month - 33 in 06 of 09 - its gotta be magical, I hope :) June was a productive and incredibly busy month. It started for me in Kingston, Jamaica - for the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) Conference, June 1-5. I organised a roundtable panel titled "Contending Forces: Politics of Respectability and the Caribbean Sexual Imaginary" - and I presented some of my new work/ideas on issues relating to sexuality, sexual labor, and tourism in the Caribbean. This work will definitely be part of my current academic book project (based on my dissertation); and will more than likely be the starting point for a future project.
I also helped organise the first Caribbean Sexualities Gathering of the Caribbean IRN (International Resource Network) during the same week in Kingston. I'm on the Caribbean regional board of the IRN, which is a web-based project to bring researchers (from around the world) together who do work on diverse genders and sexualities. It took months to plan our gathering, and it was not only successful :) but also powerful. We brought together over 30 scholars, artists, writers, and activists from around the region (with over 10 Caribbean countries being represented). We had a panel discussion at the CSA conference; a five hour workshop; and a closing reception. During this three-part gathering, we communed, networked, and collaborated. Some of the highlights: We talked about the many issues affecting sexual minorities in the region, and shared specifics in different countries. We talked about LGBT communities in the region and how do deal with homophobia and the struggle for sexual and gender equality. We discussed the need to theorize about different forms of homophobia; and the need to recognize and discuss how vibrant LGBT communities can exist right along side intense homophobia. We talked about different kinds of closets, safety, and the privilege of visibility. We discussed allies and families. We talked about trans issues. We brainstormed about how to create safe spaces for sexual minorities and gender non-conforming people. We formulated ideas about how to use academic and creative work as forms of activism. We discussed possible collaborations among researchers, community organisers, and creative producers -- and how some of us blur the lines among these distinctions. We talked some more, shared, and made exciting plans. And this was just the beginning. So now the real work begins - those of us on the board have much to do, and we now have a fantastic group of people inside and outside the region who want to do this work with us - to develop and utilize the Caribbean IRN. (Check out the website - link above - if you are interested. You can register on the website and see what IRN is about and what all the regions are doing.)
It was surreal having our meeting in Jamaica - a place where such a meeting is thought to be impossible, yet it happened and we hosted it among & with the support of LGBT Jamaicans. It was incredible. This was the second time I had visited Jamaica - the first time was about two years ago and I spent 10 days in the country, Woodside, an hour or so outside of Kingston. This time I was in Kingston for a week - attending the conference and hosting our Caribbean Sexualities Gathering. It was very intense and busy, but I was still able to enjoy and experience the city. I found it to be full of contradictions and beauty much like where I am from in The Bahamas. I saw and felt "queerness" all around me - people out, people in closets, people expressing different ways of being men and women, people who were excited to be around fellow Caribbean lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people. There is so much to say, and I hope to share more soon. But for now, I feel blessed and honoured to have had this experience... and to meet and work with such brilliant people. I made new friends and comrades in the struggle. I will be processing for a while. More to come... as the work continues...
wit' conscious wibes,