Category Archives: Jamaican culture

Funny Degrees No Joke

6a0120a669d297970c016765b2c037970b-320wiLast Sunday’s column, ‘University fi stone dog – seet deh!’, has stirred up quite an ants nest. And Baygon can’t deal with it. Incidentally, we know that nuff ants inna ants nest. So, logically, it can’t be singular. Ant nest? In English yes, but not in Jamaican. I spent quite a bit of time last week following the trail of ants.

I got a distressing email from a graduate of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI): “Your article … has renewed my concern and worry as I might just be in that same boat rowing to nowhere!” The email was published in The Gleaner on Tuesday, August 26 as a letter to editor: ‘Accreditation limbo at CMI’.

Proverbial wisdom warns, “Wat is joke to you is death to me.” And is true. I got another email from someone who is clearly not rowing in the same boat with that concerned and worried CMI graduate: “Prof, this article is great. I never laugh so before while reading an article … Blessings.” We certainly know how to tek bad tings mek joke. But this business of bogus degrees is no laughing matter.

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT?

dont-worry-be-happyI contacted both the CMI and the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) on behalf of the graduate. I discovered, much to our relief, that the degree programme in question, the BSc in logistics and supply-chain management, has, in fact, been submitted to the UCJ for review. If the programme is accredited, the graduate will have nothing to worry about. The UCJ will issue a statement of equivalence indicating that the old degree is up to the standard of the new.

Although the CMI graduate now seems to be rowing to somewhere, it may not be smooth sailing after all. The UCJ has confirmed that if any unaccredited programme turns out to be substandard, the institution issuing the degree may implement measures to have the graduate complete the new requirements for the accredited programme and provide the relevant certification.

I don’t like the sound of that ‘may’. It ought to be ‘must’. What if the institution fails to do the right thing? Who is going to ensure accountability? Graduates of the unaccredited programme would have been conned into buying a worthless piece of paper. I suppose they could put their case to the Fair Trading Commission. Or take legal action to recover their fees and seek compensation for lost time and opportunities. But at what cost? And at whose expense?

WATCHDOG WITH TEETH

The tertiary education sector simply must be regulated. But that’s not the job of the UCJ. Regulation and accreditation are distinct functions. The UCJ is an external quality-assurance agency. As stated on its website, “The mission of the University Council of Jamaica is to increase the availability of tertiary-level training in Jamaica through a robust quality-assurance system that ensures excellence, transparency, integrity and adherence to standards.”

Unknown-3Quality assurance is all very well and good. But what we desperately need is a regulatory watchdog with teeth. The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC) is supposed to be that bad dog. But it is muzzled. Last week, I asked the commissioner/CEO, Mrs Maxine Henry-Wilson, what was being done to protect naive students who don’t seem to know they must make sure their degree programme is accredited. Before they register!

In 2006, as minister of education, Mrs Henry-Wilson initiated a strategic plan for regulating tertiary education. The very first strategic objective was the establishment of a regulatory body for the sector. But the wheels of government bureaucracy turn rather slowly. It was not until 2011, under the leadership of Andrew Holness, that some movement was made towards setting the legislative framework for the regulatory body.

THE IMF’S BIG STICK

The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission was finally established in 2012. Within nine months of the appointment of Mrs Henry-Wilson, the legislative framework was completed. It has languished for two years in the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. It’s stuck in a long line of other financial proposals. And with the IMF’s big stick over our heads, only God knows if funding will be approved.

As things stand, dog and all can set up university. There is no legislation to prevent it. So-called universities don’t even have to be registered with the University Council. It’s a free-for-all. If J-TEC gets its legal mandate, all this will change. Every tertiary institution will have to be registered. And a quality audit will be done to determine the appropriate name for the enterprise.

At present, the UCJ has a policy of assessing degree programmes to determine their readiness for delivery. But in carrying out its core accreditation function, the UCJ can evaluate only programmes that have completed a full cycle and have produced the first set of graduates. Accreditation is based on evidence, not on plans or intentions.

birds-rush-owls-album-covers-alex-lifeson-geddy-lee-neil-peart-fly-by-night-1280x960-hd-wallpaper-400x250If we don’t clean up the tertiary education sector, the quality of all degrees across the board will be compromised. It won’t be just the fly-by-night operators that will have to close shop. All universities will be in trouble if Jamaica becomes known as a market for bogus degrees. Soon, none of our local degrees will be recognised internationally. And dog a go nyam wi supper.

University Fi Stone Dog – Seet Deh!

jluTwo spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING
hydel_univWhat a way time fly! Mi did write one column, ‘University fi stone dog’, weh Gleaner publish pon September 13, 2009. An nuff smaddy did bex wid mi, seh mi a tek liberty wid Hydel University College an di whole heap a odder ‘university’ dem all bout di place weh a gi out degree. See piece a weh mi did seh ya:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Story come to bump! See Gleaner big-big headline last week Wednesday: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Seet deh now! It look like seh mi turn warner woman. But a no me a talk out di tings now. A Gleaner. An truth a truth.

See one next ting mi did seh: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

DRAW BAD CARD

From what mi get fi understand, a ‘university’ put spokes inna Hydel wheel. It look like seh if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef so-so ‘college’, dem gone clear. Mi no know wa mek dem so hard-ears an nah tek telling. Old-time people seh, ‘High seat kill Miss Thomas puss.’ An it look like seh high name might-a kill Miss Bennett ‘University College’.

Ambition-Picture-3All a wi want fi step up inna life. So mi do understand wa mek Miss Bennett set up university. Hydel got nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, six form, special education centre, ketch-up reading centre, study centre an evening college. ‘University college’ a di next step. But Miss Bennett ha fi dweet right. Yu ha fi creep before yu walk

A di student dem mi sorry fa. How dem fi know seh big-big Hydel deh pon di low? When dem come a Ferry, an see how Hydel sprawl off, how dem coulda even tink seh di ‘university college’ no deh pan UCJ list? After dem pay school fee, dem cerfiticket naa no value? It can’t carry dem nowhere? Dat no right. Dem draw bad card. Mi no know how dem an Miss Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel one. Said same problem a Mico. Me want know wa UCJ a seh. Dem can’t run couple ad, laka FSC, fi warn people bout di bogus degree dem weh no register? If a no UCJ, a who response fi sort out di ‘university’ lotto scam?

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Unknown-2Wat a wie taim flai! Mi did rait wan kalom, ‘University fi stone dog’, we Gleaner poblish pan Septemba 13, 2009. An nof smadi did beks wid mi, se mi a tek libati wid Hydel University College an di uol iip a ada ‘yuunivorsiti’ dem aal bout di plies we a gi out digrii.

Si piis a we mi did se ya:  “So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Tuori kom tu bomp! Si Gleaner big-big edlain laas wiik Wenzde: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Siit de nou! It luk laik se mi ton waana uman. Bot a no mi a taak out di tingz nou. A Gleaner. An chruut a chruut.

Si wan neks ting mi did se: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

JRAA BAD KYAAD

Unknown-5

Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett

Fram wat mi get fi andastan, a ‘university’ put spuoks ina Hydel wiil. It luk laik se if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef suo-so ‘college’, dem gaan klier. Mi no nuo wa mek dem so aad-iez an naa tek telin. Uol-taim piipl se, ‘Ai siit kil Mis Tamas pus.’ An it luk laik se ai niem maita kil Mis Bennett ‘university college’.

Aal a wi waahn fi step op ina laif. So mi duu andastan wa mek Miss Bennett set op yuunivorsiti. Hydel gat norsri, prii-skuul, prep skuul, prii-fos faam, juunya ai, siinya ai, siks faam, speshal edikieshan senta, kech-up riidn senta, stodi senta an iivnin kalij. ‘University College’ a di neks step. Bot Mis Bennett a fi dwiit rait. Yu ha fi kriip bifuor yu waak.

A di styuudent dem mi sari fa. Ou dem fi nuo se big-big Hydel de pan di luo? Wen dem kom a Ferry, an si ou Hydel spraal aaf, ou dem kuda iivn tingk se di ‘university college’ no de pan UCJ lis? Aafta dem pie skuul fii, dem sorfitikit naa no valyu? It kyaahn kyari dem no-we? Dat no rait. Dem jraa bad kyaad. Mi no nuo ou dem an Mis Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel wan. Sed siem prablem a Mico. Mii waan nuo wa UCJ a se. Dem kyaa ron kopl ad, laka FSC, fi waan piipl bout di buogos digrii dem we no rigista? If a no UCJ, a uu rispans fi saat out di ‘yuunivorsiti’ lato skyam?

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Unknown-3Time certainly flies! I wrote a column, ‘University fi stone dog’, which was published in The Gleaner on September 13, 2009.  Lots of people were upset with me because they thought I was taking liberties with Hydel University College and all of those other ‘universities’ all over the place that are handing out degrees. Here’s a bit from that column:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Things have come to a head! Here’s last Wednesday’s alarming Gleaner headline: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. There you have it! It seems as if I’m  a warner woman. But I’m not the one raising the alarm now.  It’s the Gleaner. And you just have to face the truth.

Here’s what I also said: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

imagesA  BAD HAND

From what I understand, it’s the name ‘university’ that has put a spoke in Hydel’s wheel. It seems as if all they need to do is take out ‘university’ and keep  ‘college’.  And they’ll be able to get registered.  I don’t know why they’re being so stubborn and not taking advice.  Proverbial wisdom warns,  ‘high-climbing killed Miss Thomas’ cat’.  And it looks as if over-reaching might kill Miss Bennett’s ‘University College’.

All of us want to step up our game.  So I do understand why Miss Bennett has set up a university. Hydel has a  nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, sixth form, special education centre, remedial reading centre, study centre and evening college. ‘University college’ is the next step. But Miss Bennett has to do it right. You have to creep before you walk.

It’s the students I feel sorry for. How could they know that all is not well at Hydel? When they come to Ferry, and see how prosperous Hydel looks, why would it even occur to them that the ‘university college’ is not registered with the UCJ ? After paying fees, they find out that their certificate has no value? It can’t take them anywhere? That’s not right. They’ve been dealt a very bad hand. And I just don’t know how Miss Bennett is going to compensate them.

UCJAnd  Hydel isn’t the only ‘university’ in trouble. Mico University College has the very same problem. I want to know what the UCJ has to say. Can’t the Council run ads, like the  FSC does, to warn prospective students about unregistered degree programmes?  And if it’s not UCJ, who’s responsible for policing the ‘university’ lotto scam?

Gomes No Gone No Weh

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below.  The first, which I call  ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling.  The second,  ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

JamaicaforJusticeB20080815C

Carolyn Gomes

Wednesday gone, mi see big-big headline pon front page a Gleaner: ‘Gomes goes’. An mi seh to miself, “Ah weh shi gone?” Ongle fi find out seh ah no gone shi gone. A resign shi resign from di board a Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ). Cho! Whosoever write dat deh headline tek alliteration ketch mi. Dat a one a dem tapanaaris English word weh come from Latin.

Alliteration simple mean yu a mek style. Yu pick couple word weh start off wid di said same sound an join dem up. Gomes goes. Dem sound nice together. No matter if di niceness confusing. Pon top a dat, di second sound inna dem deh two word sound same way. Dat a di o. An dat a assonance. But mek mi lef di literature lesson. Back to politics. A wa mek Gomes resign?

BackdoorYu mighta tink a shame shi shame bout di back-door sex education weh Jamaicans for Justice leggo pon di pikni dem inna di six private home weh supposen fi a look after pikni weh no got nobody fi mind dem. No, sah! From wat mi get fi understan, Gomes go because shi bex wid dem odder one inna Jamaicans for Justice. Dem mek mistake go seh dem sorry seh bandooloo sex education get weh pon di poor pikni dem.

Ee ee now, Spanish Town! Unu no know wa dat mean? Unu a figet unu kolcha! Dat a wa yu seh wen smaddy get inna trouble. An yu flash finger fi show seh dem a go get beatin. ‘Spanish Town’ stand fi prison. An dat a metonymy, one next style. Mi sorry fi Jamaicans for Justice. Dem inna big trouble wid Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

NUFF BACKATIVE

Mi a wonder bout dem ‘Vulnerable Communities’. A wa ‘vulnerable’ mean fi true? Mi know seh ‘vulnerable’ a one next English word weh come from Latin. ‘Vulnus’ mean one chop or one lick fi hurt yu. An ‘vulnerable’ mean seh it easy fi people do bad sinting to yu. Lacka di poor man weh di dutty man dem rape. Mi hear seh im kill imself. Mi ongle hope a no true.

941504_532759043426665_1166567449_nCarolyn Gomes an fi har people dem weh a defend ‘Vulnerable Communities’, dem no vulnerable at all at all. Dem big an bad. An dem got nuff backative. A yard an a farin. Plenty powerful smaddy wid nuff money a defend di Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. Wat a sinting! An member seh a CVC gi JFJ money fi put fi dem sex education inna di children home dem. An yu done know seh who pay fi di sound system, ah dem run di dance.

So Jamaicans for Justice no got no chat. Who tell dem fi go seh dem sorry bout di sex education autoclaps? Carolyn Gomes seh dem chat too quick. Dem shoulda wait an tek advice. An a it mek shi wheel out. Shi gone lef JFJ. But shi a head cook an bocklewasher fi CVC. Six a one, half dozen a di odder!

grange-hanna2

Lisa Hanna and Babsy Grange

An mi no like how Babsy a point finger pon Lisa. Dis ya one a no fi Lisa fault. JFJ dis slip een di sex education undercover. Di said same ting coulda did happen wen Babsy a minister fi yute. So shi fi memba seh a no party politics wi a defend. A di pikni dem. An a dem vulnerable fi true!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Wensde gaan, mi si big-big edlain pan front piej a Gleaner: ‘Gomes goes’. An mi se tu miself, “A we shi gaan?” Ongl fi fain out se a no gaan shi gaan. A rizain shi rizain fram di buord a Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ). Cho! Uusoeva rait dat de edlain tek alliteration kech mi. Dat a wan a dem tapanaaris Inglish wod we kom fram Latin.

Alliteration simpl miin yu a mek stail. Yu pik kopl wod we staat aaf wid di sed siem soun an jain dem op. Gomes goes. Dem soun nais tugyada. No mata if di naisnis kanfyuuzin. Pan tap a dat, di sekan soun ina dem de tuu wod soun siem wie. Dat a di o. An dat a assonance. Bot mek mi lef di lichricha lesn. Bak tu palitiks. A wa mek Gomes rizain?

marka-yoneticisinin-ozellikleri-720x320Yu maita tink a shiem shi shiem bout di bakduor seks edikieshan we Jamaicans for Justice lego pan di pikni dem ina di siks praivit uom we supuozn fi a luk aafta pikni we no gat nobadi fi main dem. Nuo, sa! Fram wat mi get fi andastan, Gomes go bikaa shi beks wid dem ada wan ina Jamaicans for Justice. Dem mek mistiek go se dem sari se banduulu seks edikieshan get we pan di puor pikni dem.

Ii ii nou, Spanish Town! Unu no nuo wa dat miin? Unu a figet unu kolcha! Dat a wa yu se wen smadi get ina chrobl. An yu flash finga fi shuo se dem a go get biitn. ‘Spanish Town’ stan fi prizn. An dat a metonymy, wan neks stail. Mi sari fi Jamaicans for Justice. Dem ina big chrobl wid Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

NOF BAKATIV

Mi a wanda bout dem ‘Vulnerable Communities’. A wa ‘vulnerable’ miin fi chruu? Mi nuo se ‘vulnerable’ a wan neks Inglish wod we kom fram Latin. ‘Vulnus’ miin wan chap ar wan lik fi ort yu. An ‘vulnerable’ miin se it iizi fi pipl du bad sinting tu yu. Laka di puor man we di doti man dem riep. Mi ier seh im kil imself. Mi ongl uop a no chruu.

strengthCarolyn Gomes an fi ar piipl dem we a difen ‘Vulnerable Communities’, dem no vulnerable at aal at aal. Dem big an bad. An dem gat nof bakativ. A yard an a farin. Plenti pouwaful smadi wid nof moni a difen di Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. Wat a sinting! An memba se a CVC gi JFJ moni fi put fi dem seks edikieshan ina di chiljren uom dem. An yu don nuo se uu pie fi di soun sistim, a dem ron di daans.

So Jamaicans for Justice no gat no chat. Uu tel dem fi go se dem sari bout di seks edikieshan aataklaps? Carolyn Gomes se dem chat tuu kwik. Dem shuda wiet an tek advais. An a it mek shi wiil out. Shi gaan lef JFJ. Bot shi a ed kuk an baklwasha fi CVC. Siks a wan, aaf dozn a di ada!

An mi no laik ou Babsy a paint finga pan Lisa. Dis ya wan a no fi Lisa faalt. JFJ dis slip iin di seks edikieshan aandakova. Di sed siem ting kuda did apn wen Babsy a minista fi yuut. So shi fi memba se a no paati palitiks wi a difen. A di pikni dem. An a dem vulnerable fi chruu!

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONalliteration

Last Wednesday,  the Gleaner’s front page carried a huge headline:  ‘Gomes goes’. And I wondered, “Where has she gone?” Actually, she hadn’t gone anywhere.  She’d resigned from the board of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ). Cho! Whoever wrote that headline caught me with alliteration.  That’s one of those highfalutin English words that come from Latin.

Alliteration simply means you’re making style. You pick a couple of words that start with the same sound and join them up. Gomes goes. They sound nice together. It doesn’t matter if the niceness is confusing. And the second sound in those two words is identical. That’s the o. And that’s assonance. But let me cut the literature lesson. Back to politics. Why did Gomes resign?

back_door_open_300x200You might think she was ashamed about the back-door sex education  programme that Jamaicans for Justice let loose on the children in the six private homes that are supposed to be taking care of abandoned minors.  Not at all! As I understand it, Gomes went because she was vexed with the other members of the board of Jamaicans for Justice.  They made the mistake of apologising for the unapproved sex education programme that the children were exposed to.

Ee ee now, Spanish Town! You don’t know what that means? You’re forgetting your culture! That’s what you say when someone gets into trouble. And you flash your fingers to show that they’re going to be beaten. ‘Spanish Town’ stands for prison. And that’s metonymy, another literary device. I’m sorry for Jamaicans for Justice. They’re in big trouble with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

LOTS OF BACKING

Latin-imageI wonder about those ‘Vulnerable Communities’. What does ‘vulnerable’ really mean? ‘Vulnerable’ is another one of those English words that come from Latin. ‘Vulnus’ means ‘wound’.  And ‘vulnerable’ means it’s easy for people to abuse you. Like that poor man who was raped by those vile men. Rumour has it that he has killed himself. I only hope it’s not true.

Carolyn Gomes and her colleagues who are defending ‘Vulnerable Communities’ are not at all  vulnerable. They’re big and bad. And they’ve got lots of  backing. Locally and internationally. Many powerful people with lots of money are defending the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. What a thing! And you must remember that it’s CVC that funded the JFJ sex education programme for the children’s homes.  And, as you know, he who who pays the piper calls the tune.

images-1So Jamaicans for Justice don’t have a voice. They had no right to apologise for the sex education scandal.  Carolyn Gomes argued that they’d apologised prematurely.  They should have waited and taken advice. And that’s why she walked out. She’s left JFJ. But she’s the a head cook and bottle-washer for CVC. Six of one, half dozen of  the other!

And I don’t like the way Babsy is pointing fingers at Lisa. This one really isn’t Lisa’s fault. JFJ just slipped in the sex education programme undercover. The very same thing could have  happened when Babsy was the minister of youth. So she should remember that we’re not defending  party politics.   It’s the children. They are ones who are truly vulnerable!

 

Men Who Have Sex With Men and Women

There’s a very vulnerable group of women who don’t seem to be on the agenda of Dr Carolyn Gomes and her Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) Coalition.

LogoSmallAccording to their website, CVC focuses on “Caribbean populations who are especially vulnerable to HIV infection or often forgotten in access to treatment and health-care programmes. These groups include men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV, migrant populations, ex-prisoners, and youth in especially difficult circumstances”.

Since sexy acronyms are now fashionable, let’s call this forgotten group WSMSMW: women who have sex with men who have sex with men and women. Yes, it’s a mouthful. But it’s only words. It could be far worse. There’s a big difference between WSMSMW and MSM. Obviously, men who have sex with men know what they’re doing. By contrast, most women who have sex with men who have sex with men and women are totally ignorant of the fact that they are in a very messy situation.

doubt_diceIn this instance, ignorance is definitely not bliss. It can be deadly. These vulnerable women may suspect that they are sharing their partner with a matey. But they naively assume that the matey is a woman. There are some women who do have their doubts about their husband’s sexuality. But they are afraid to face the truth: Ah so im lie an wicked? No, sah! By the time these women discover that their matey is a man – if they’re so lucky – it’s much too late for informed consent. Their partners have robbed them of their right to choose; or, much worse, infected them with HIV!

PERFECTLY PAIRED

jack-sprat-mother-goose-nursery-rhymesMost men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) deliberately and methodically deceive women in order to pass for straight. The woman becomes a front or a beard, as it is more popularly known, protecting the MSMW from exposure. In some cases, the role play is consensual. The wife is a lesbian and the husband is gay, and they choose to be each other’s beard. Like Jack Sprat, who could eat no fat, and his wife, who could eat no lean, the gay man and the lesbian are perfectly paired. There’s no fighting over beef.

I have a lot of respect for MSM who don’t bother with the fiction of getting married to a woman. Disdaining pretence, these courageous men just brazen it out. They don’t hide under the frock tail of women. They accept themselves for who they are and just gwaan bout dem business. And they take the necessary precautions to protect their health. I do sympathise with vulnerable young men who are embarrassed about buying condoms and lubricants. As a teenager, I was quite distressed about buying sanitary pads. Everybody in the shop knew it was that time of the month.

But you grew up and just accepted the course of nature. Admittedly, this is often much harder for MSM. All the same, when you hear the propaganda spouted by Dr Gomes’ Coalition, you would think that no MSM are sensible enough to take care of their health.

This is the way the Coalition’s argument goes: The buggery law stigmatises MSM. Therefore, they are afraid to buy sexually sensitive health-care products. Furthermore, criminalised MSM are unable to get medical care because they are afraid their doctors will report their illegal sexual activities. The only solution is to repeal the buggery law.

SHOCK OF THE FIST

imagesLike many clever Jamaican higglers, Dr Gomes’ Coalition is trying to ‘marry’ goods of unequal appeal. You know the trick: If you want scarce produce, you have to also buy goods that are in plentiful supply. Everybody wants treatment for HIV/AIDS to be readily available for all. But not everybody wants the buggery law to be repealed. So the price we have to pay for HIV/AIDS care is repeal of the stigmatising law.

I have no objection to getting rid of the law. What consenting adults do in the privacy of their home is none of my business. Nor should it be the business of the State.

stop-stigmaBut the stigma associated with anal sex will not magically disappear once the buggery law is repealed. The Jamaican word for MSM vividly expresses the disgust associated with anal sex. The body part stands for the whole man. Some sexual practices are quite distasteful to the uninitiated. But that’s not a good reason for criminalising them.

The first time I heard about fisting, I was alarmed. A man makes a fist and puts it up another man’s anus, all the way to the elbow! I quickly recovered from the shock when I realised I didn’t need to empathise with the fisted anus. It wasn’t mine.

In some cultures, MSM don’t practise anal sex. They use their thighs. Remember how, as children, we would bend our elbow, squeeze and there would be a fairly good imitation of female labia! Same principle with the thighs. There’s no fooling around in the anal canal. The female partners of these MSMW do not risk HIV infection.

Having failed to acknowledge the special needs of vulnerable WSMSMW in the Caribbean, Dr Gomes and her Coalition now need to take extra lessons on inclusiveness from Professor Brendan Bain.

‘Man To Man Is So Unjust’

I recently heard an alarming interpretation of the first line of Bob Marley’s song Who the Cap Fit.

The proverbial statement, ‘man to man is so unjust’, is now being decoded as a condemnation of male homosexuals. Or, to use the politically correct term, men who have sex with men (MSM). Incidentally, the ‘homo’ in ‘homosexual’ does not mean ‘man’. It’s not Latin; it’s Greek. And it means ‘same’.

So, technically, ‘homosexual’ refers to both men and women; and, more recently, to all other genders who have sex with each other. These days, sexuality is not a straight-forward business at all. Queer sex is not always a simple case of ‘same’ sex. Some sexual combinations cross multiple lines. And new sexual positions require sophisticated acrobatic skills – both literally and psychologically.

Bob Marley knew his words could be distorted. In an interview published in Everybody’s Magazine in 1981, this is what he said about the Kaya album: “You have to play it and get your own inspiration. For every song have a different meaning to a man. Sometimes I sing a song, and when people explain it to me, I am astonished by their interpretation.”

deceptionSome inspired interpretations make absolutely no sense. There’s no evidence in Who the Cap Fit to support the ‘same-sex’ interpretation of that opening line. The song is not about sexuality. It focuses on trust, hypocrisy and deception. Admittedly, these issues do come up in sexual relationships across the board. But the song is not about condemning men who have sex with men.

IRRATIONAL HOMOPHOBIA

Jamaica is back in the news for our irrational homophobia, as evidenced in that astonishing misinterpretation of Marley’s song. UK Channel 4 has done an exposé on outcast youths who are living underground. Here’s an excerpt from the promo for the documentary which aired last Friday:

“Jamaica has a reputation for intolerance of homosexuality. Male gay sex is punishable by 10 years’ hard labour and violent hostility is entrenched in the island’s culture. Unreported World meets one group of gay and transgender people who are now living in a gully, which is usually designed to carry flood water and rubbish from the city.

“It’s hot, crowded, infested and filthy. But it’s the only place these 25 people are able to call home. There are no facilities: cooking and washing-up are done in the gutter. Water comes from a broken pipe under a road bridge. And it’s not in a poor part of town, but in the middle of New Kingston, the capital’s business district.”

outerdarknessThis is a complete disgrace. Not on the homeless who have taken refuge in the gully; but on all us who live somewhere! We cannot self-righteously keep on singing the same old Sankey from the Book of Leviticus. We have to move past the rhetoric of abomination and change our inhumane attitudes to queer people. We cannot continue to cast them into outer darkness.

UNJUST GAY-RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

We also have to challenge unjust gay-rights activists when they misuse their collective power and victimise others. The recent termination of the contract of Professor Brendan Bain, director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) initiative, is a complicated case of competing rights.

The press release issued by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies states: “The issue in question arose about two years ago in a high-profile case in Belize in which Caleb Orozco, a gay man in Belize, challenged the constitutionality of an 1861 law that criminalises men having sex with men (MSM).

“Professor Brendan Bain provided a statement on behalf of a group of churches seeking to retain the 1861 law. Many authorities familiar with the brief presented believe that Professor Bain’s testimony supported arguments for retention of the law, thereby contributing to the continued criminalisation and stigmatisation of MSM. This opinion is shared by the lesbian, gay and other groups who are served by CHART.”

I speculate that many of Professor Bain’s detractors have not read his now-infamous statement. There, he clearly affirms that he was “given no instructions by any party”. He makes no reference to the contested law. Professor Bain gives well-documented scientific evidence on public-health issues relating specifically to men who have sex with men.

53108bainprotestj20140521ng_300The UWI press release comes to a disturbing conclusion: ” … It has become increasingly evident that Professor Bain has lost the confidence and support of a significant sector of the community which the CHART programme is expected to reach, including the loss of his leadership status in PANCAP [Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV& AIDS], thereby undermining the ability of this programme to effectively deliver on its mandate.” That’s not a good reason for firing Professor Bain.

I do support repeal of the Belize law that criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal”. But I am appalled by the decision of the UWI administration to bow to belligerent gay-rights activists, bringing down disgrace on a distinguished academic who has done so much to protect the health of MSM. Man to man is so unjust. Who di cap fit, mek dem wear it.

Sexual Falsehood Top To Bottom

ninth-280I got several emails last week from angry people trying to persuade me that Dwayne Jones was responsible for his own murder.  His crime was not cross-dressing.  It was deceit. But since the whole point of cross-dressing is to deceive, this distinction really makes no sense.

Some people passionately argued that the men who were deceived into thinking that Dwayne was female were the real victims.  And they had every right to take defensive action.  One woman compared the deceit to rape.  This is how she put it:  “There is an emerging way of telling stories nowadays that lays no responsibility on the victims whatsoever and I don’t get it.

“Dwayne was Jamaican.  Why did he put himself at risk like that? AND!!!! he also put the lives of other men at risk.  If no alarm had been made, some of those other men would have been labelled gay. Some of the men who were wined upon against their will may even have been traumatised for life.   As my friend was when his schoolmates from a prominent Kingston high school raped him”.

But the men who were ‘wined upon’ were quite willing to participate.  Dwyane did not wine on them against their will.  It was not rape.  It was consensual wining.  As far as the men knew, they were not dancing with a man.  Dwayne had become the self-styled ‘Gully Queen’.  It was pure theatre.

Simone Perrotta, Christian ChivuCross-dressing men are not necessarily gay.  And dancing with a cross-dressing man doesn’t automatically put a man at risk of being labelled gay.  Full body contact between Jamaican men is not always taboo.  It’s perfectly acceptable on the sports field. Footballers passionately embrace when a goal is scored.  It’s a ritual of the game.  I know it’s not exactly the same as wining in the dancehall.  But the body language is similar.  It’s just a different dialect.

BLOODY CLOTHS

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of Jamaican men.  But I think a self-confident man could have acted far differently to the outing of Dwayne.  A real man could have made a joke of it. He could have just said, “Bombo claat! Di bwoy good!  Im ketch mi fi true!” And even though Dwyane didn’t have a bombo, the profanity would have been enough of a judgement.

a-dictionary-jamaican-english-frederic-gomes-cassidy-paperback-cover-artThe so-called ‘bad’ word, ‘bombo’ is a perfectly good word of African origin, meaning ‘vulva’.  But like many other elements of African culture in Jamaica, the word has been devalued.  The word shows up in Eric Partridge’s 1949 Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English where it’s described as “West Indian; orig[inally] a negroes’ word”.

Our own Dictionary of Jamaican English, published in 1967, notes that in the Zulu language there’s a similar word ‘bumbu’, meaning ‘pubic region’.   So a cloth for the bombo, like a cloth for blood, is simply a ‘sanitary pad’.  How a clean cloth could become a very dirty word in Jamaica is a whole other story.

And talking of cleaning cloths, I got an informative email from a Jamaican living abroad: “When I first came to Asia, I noticed that many men carried a small packet of wet wipes.  I asked what it was used for.  I learnt only Muslims did this. I learnt that they used it in the bathrooms to wipe their penises to ensure there was no dribbling after they passed urine. Urine on clothing is considered unclean and it is avoided like the plague.”  So our male cross-dressers at Caribbean Fashion Week do have a point.

LETTING THE COCK OUT

rooster-prev1230259193QKMb3gAll of the angry email-writers stopped short of saying that Dwayne should have been put to death.  They couldn’t quite go there.  But none of them laid any blame on the woman who let the cock out of the bag.  I think she should have taken a less scandalous approach.  She could have called Dwayne aside and said something like this:  “Hey bwoy!  Yu mad! Yu no know dem man wi kill yu if dem find out?  Mind yu self!”  But she didn’t.

Dwayne’s deception is an extreme version of the sexual games people play all the time.  These days, women have mastered the art of deceit.  They completely reengineer themselves:  false hair, false eyelashes, false nails, false breasts, false bottoms, false everything.  You can actually buy panties in local stores with padded bottoms.  And men have been known to stuff their briefs, especially when the contents are very brief.  A most wicked falsehood!

Picking up a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ at a dance is a very risky business. You really don’t know if you’re going to get fish or fowl.  It’s a big chance you take.  And as for online dating, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.  People just lie, out and out.  I’m amazed by the statistics you hear on American television about all the marriages that dating services have arranged.  I keep wondering about the divorce rates.

Before

I got a most intriguing email about a Chinese man, Jian Feng, whose unnamed wife gave birth to a rather ugly baby, in his opinion. The child looked like neither parent.  Feng assumed the child was a ‘jacket’ and accused his wife of adultery.  But that was not her abomination.  The rather plain woman had done extensive plastic surgery to make herself beautiful.  Genes don’t lie so the baby came out looking like the ‘real’ mother.

article-2223718-15B43F0C000005DC-575_306x423Jian Feng filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife had deceived him. He won the case and was awarded US$120,000 – more than  the US$100,000 his wife had spent on plastic surgery.  I suppose if Feng had been a certain kind of Jamaican man he would have batter-bruised his wife physically.

But divorce, in this case, is emotional abuse.  Why couldn’t Feng have lived with the fact that his wife simply wanted to be beautiful?  In much the same way, Dwyane Jones just wanted to be the gully queen.  Death is a very high price to pay for that forbidden desire.

Dressed For Murder

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Dwayne Jones

DWAYNE JONES probably thought he was dressed to kill when he stepped out to that fateful dance. He couldn’t have known he was going to be the prey. But he must have realised he was making a risky fashion statement. After all, the dance was taking place just outside ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay.

That’s the new name for Montego Bay in the twisted vocabulary of super-sensitive Jamaican males. And Mandeville is now ‘Gyal-deville’. It’s not a joke. It’s a very serious matter. Sexually insecure men are so fearful of appearing to be homosexual that they cannot go into a ‘man’ town or city. Only gyal.

images-1It’s the same ‘reason’ bad man don’t eat guinep. Dem don’t suck seed. And, despite all the bravado, they don’t succeed in hiding their weakness. If you have to go to such extremes to reassure yourself that you are a real-real man, something must be fundamentally wrong.

It’s the fear of being tainted by homosexuality that drives irrational males to commit acts of violence against so-called sexual deviants. In Jamaica, even cross-dressing is seen as a provocative sign of other crosses. But most male cross-dressers are not homosexual. And both men and women cross-dress for a variety of reasons. It should be nobody’s business but their own.

ABOMINABLE FASHION

The diabolical mob that murdered Dwayne Jones must have been made up of men and women who believe that cross-dressing is sinful behaviour. The Bible is to blame. Deuteronomy 22:5 declares: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

Portrait of a young man wearing a sarong, Hawaii, USAThe problem with applying the abomination rule to fashion is the indisputable fact that there is no universal standard of male and female dress. Gendered dress styles vary across cultures. In some parts of the world, men wear kilts and sarongs. They may look like skirts. But they are not ‘female’ dress. Many Fundamentalist Christian women don’t wear pants because that “pertaineth unto a man”. I suppose these pious women do wear underpants. Not to do so would certainly be an abomination.

The word ‘abomination’ turns up a lot in the Bible. But it’s not only homosexuality and cross-dressing that are abominations. There are lots of other sins that self-righteous fanatics conveniently forget. Adultery is an abomination. But if we were to stone adulterers to death in Jamaica, there would hardly be any of us left.

7-abominable-sinsProverbs 6:16-19 gives a long list of abominations that includes shedding innocent blood: “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren”. That primitive mob outside ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay was clearly very selective about their abominations. Their feet swiftly ran to mischief, shedding Dwyane’s innocent blood.

CARIBBEAN FASHION WEEK

CFW-CARIBBEAN-FASHION-WEEKMost of us are much more sophisticated than those anonymous murderers. Take, for instance, the patrons at Caribbean Fashion Week. For the last several years, two male cross-dressers come to the event and no one would think of attacking them. In fact, I’ve seen other patrons taking pictures with them. They are part of the fashion scene.

The only judgemental response to them I’ve gotten is from a woman who heard one of them in the women’s restroom asking for toilet paper. “Fi wipe wa?”, she wondered. We have a wicked way of getting right down to the nitty-gritty. I did laugh at the observation. But laughter is a far cry from murder.

Layout1_1_P6O22CFWcpfsDAMFashion is often about transgressing boundaries. It’s about role play. In 2009, the Trinidadian designer Claudia Pegus stirred up quite a bit of excitement at Caribbean Fashion Week. All her models wore masks. At the end of the set, one of the female models returned to the stage and unmasked. She was actually a male cross-dresser. In an article in The Gleaner, published on June 16, 2009, the reporter noted the “awe” and “in some cases disgust” that the male model’s performance of female identity had provoked.

Some Jamaicans may be uncomfortable with this kind of masquerade. But Trinidad and Tobago is the land of mas. On Carnival Monday, cross-dressing men use pillows to create big buttocks and breasts. They wear wigs and dresses. It’s all playful. It’s not about an identity crisis. Men play women and women play men. And they even play themselves.

JONKUNNU CROSS-DRESSING

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Jonkonnu Bellywoman

We don’t have to go all the way to Trinidad and Tobago to appreciate the arts of role play. We have our own forms of traditional masquerade and cross-dressing. Just think about jonkunnu. The Bellywoman character is usually a man dressed as a pregnant woman. And she gets a lot of laughs as she jiggles her fake belly while dancing.

There was a time when jonkunnu maquerades were seen as an abomination. They were vulgar and sinful. In 1841, the Mayor of Kingston banned the ‘John Canoe’ parade – as the word was then spelled. The current spelling acknowledges the African elements in the ritual. The banning of the parade caused a riot. Angry revellers clashed with the Militia and the Mayor had to run for cover. He was forced to retreat to a ship in Kingston Harbour.

hygiene-health-safetyIt’s a real tragedy that Dwayne Jones wasn’t so lucky. There was no place of safety for him in ‘Gyal-tego’ Bay. A 17-year-old child was slaughtered because he was only trying to play himself. His murderers must be brought to justice.

A mob is made up of individuals who choose to suspend responsibility for their actions. As a society, we cannot afford to follow suit. In this season, as we celebrate Emancipation and Independence, we must liberate ourselves from those biblical ‘abominations’ that threaten to turn us all into truly abominable brutes.