In Jamaica, attacks, murder and rape are common occurrences against LGBTI people, with little to no retribution or justice brought against those responsible. After being forced from shacks, derelict buildings, and their own families, many homeless LGBTI Jamaicans have found refuge in the storm drainage systems of Kingston—known locally as the “gully.”
For trans girls and gay men unable or unwilling to hide their sexuality, the sense of community and relative safety the gully provides acts as a welcome sanctuary, and for many, a hope of change to come. VICE News traveled to the New Kingston area to see what LGBTI life is like in Jamaica—where just being who you are can mean living a life underground.
You are not a man. You are not a woman. You are not a neuter. You are a construct. Maintaining your gender is a constant performance. These ideas don’t seem that radical now, but before Judith Butler adapted them from Foucault and laid them out in her 1990 book Gender Trouble, they seemed alien. “What do you mean getting hammered with your pals is a culturally ingrained performance? Are you saying I’m gay? Are you saying I don’t like pounding beers at the bar and then going to the club to throw up on my best friend, Steve, whom I fucking love?” A bro might have said those very words to Judith Butler in 1990. Now, he’s read Gender Trouble, and is content as can be sitting around watching Sex and the City with his girlfriend.
It’s 2014. Russia and America are engaged in some furious military posturing and we are still being told that gendered eating is a thing. Nothing changes. If you are a man, advertisers believe that you like meat cooked on fire, or food that’s simple to eat. Or you like yogurt, crumbly chocolate that can only be enjoyed as a ‘guilty pleasure,’ and anything without calories if you’re a woman. We often like to imagine human beings skipping into a golden, gender-neutral future. However, I’d say there’s a strong argument that, along with death and taxes, patronizing ads that lump men and women into two distinct camps are a near-certainty in this life.
There’s a rich history of reinforcing the gender binary in advertising, from Mars to Hungry Man to, well, just look at this sexist smorgasbord. It’s enough to send Gloria Steinem running to the nearest liquor cabinet (probably to get a Cosmo like a typical woman!). But this kind of work is still very much alive and kicking. In some cases, it’s gotten worse. This Yorkie ad, made in the 70s, is actually far more enlightened than the series of “not for girls” slurs Yorkie has been fond of recently, the logic of which is, “Yorkie is chunky. Men like stuff that’s chunky.”
German Babies Don’t Need to Be Boys or Girls Anymore
It’s tempting to interpret legislative shifts as progress. After all, plenty of times they are. However, what looks like progress on the surface often masks a much more complicated underbelly. Think about the fight for marriage equality: if marriage is a fundamental right, then everyone certainly deserves access to it. Insofar as the fight for this access has further normalized and entrenched the institution of marriage—itself a problematic tradition with a deeply troubled past—progress becomes trickier to gauge.
This complex relationship between progress and problem is quite clear in regards to Germany’s new third gender option on birth certificates. As of November 1, it is no longer legally necessary for babies born in Germany to be registered as male or female on their birth certificates. Instead—in cases of newborns whose bodies don’t fall neatly into male or female categories physiologically—the male and female boxes on a birth certificate can be left unchecked.
Should Trans People Have to Disclose Their Birth Gender Before Sex?
It’s now against the law to suck dick if you have a dick and you don’t tell the dick you’re sucking that you have a dick. Or if you used to have a dick. Or if you have a pussy when they think you have a dick. Or a pussy. Or something.
In the UK, you see, it’s become illegal for trans people not to disclose. You can be sent to prison for it, and some people already have been. Late last week, the UK Court of Appeal made case law by rejecting the appeal of someone called McNally. McNally was born female but identifies as male in certain social settings. McNally’s crime? To meet a girl online, date her—presenting himself to her as Scott—and give her oral sex. When the girl’s mother discovered that McNally was born female, she told the police. McNally says his girlfriend consented to the sexual activity. British law disagreed.