Yes, I’m going there. I admit I only thought about writing about gay people traveling to Jamaica once in the past and that blog post would have had more negative connotations to it than anything. It would have been more of a warning post than anything. UNTIL recently when I received an email from one of my readers who happens to be gay and was looking for a great tour guide in Jamaica. He was going on a cruise for his partner’s 40th birthday and they would be stopping in Ocho Rios for a day.
The tour guide I recommended to them ended up not getting back to them until last minute so James had taken it upon himself to find his own tour guide in the meantime. I was so entertained by my email correspondence with James before his trip that I asked him to definitely follow up with me afterwards and let me know how they enjoyed themselves. His sense of humor is killer and his personality is real – my kind of people!
For anyone reading who doesn’t know, homosexuality in Jamaica is very taboo – and sometimes even dangerous if you’re Jamaican. I can’t say for sure if it’s as dangerous for tourists but I can say for sure that gay Jamaicans often must live on the down-low for fear of physical violence towards them by other Jamaicans…..and sometimes even death at the hands of homophobes. It’s a very real situation on the island, although in the very recent past it seems Jamaican gays are coming out more now and even doing pride marches in Kingston. But it’s still no where near an “open lifestyle” situation by any means.
Here are a few interview questions I had for James upon his return. I love his answers.
Q: You obviously did your homework before contacting me about your vacation in Jamaica, since you were aware of how gays are perceived there. What made you decide to be open about it? You could have omitted that and no one would have known the difference.
A: I fear it’s worse than how gays are perceived in Jamaica. It’s how they’re marginalized and persecuted and hunted and literally murdered. At least that’s what the internet shows me. I’m not sure I understand your question, “What made you decide to be open about it?” Do you mean why did I feel comfortable identifying as gay when calling potential tour guides? If that’s what you’re asking, it’s because I refuse to shame myself by pretending. I feel that when you hide behind things, you cultivate the shame and diminish yourself. Plus, it was a cruise for hubby’s 40th, and I wouldn’t want us to get into a van and have some dude weirded out by us.
Q: When you finally got in contact with the tour guide you found, were you up front about being gay?
A: Absolutely. I contacted Patrice because I found out *somewhere* on the internet that she was gay-friendly. I don’t know how I found the one tour guide in Jamaica who loves the gays.
Q: In your short time on the island did you notice or feel any negative treatment from locals?
A: We did not experience any negativity on account of us being gay. But I think that’s because of two things: 1. We mostly present as straight and, 2. Patrice is a very well-connected local who’s brought many, many tourists to these businesses. Other gay couples presenting as more effeminate I think would run into trouble. A couple of years ago, we traveled to Maui. We pulled off the road to grab some lunch at a shrimp truck and I got to talking to women whom I knew were lesbians. One of them told me the harrowing story of how she had traveled to Jamaica before. She said that their first day on the island, they went to the post office. Some guy with one arm approached and shouted and harassed and threatened them and no one in the room blinked an eye or said a thing. They stayed in their hotel room the rest of the week. How sad.
Q: You obviously had a fabulous time with your tour guide judging by the email you sent me when you returned home. Would you go back to Jamaica and do it all over again for a longer period of time? Or would you save it for a location where you don’t have to worry about what people think?
A: Of course yes, I’d return. But I’m kind of fearless. I’d give my left nut to spend a long week at Time ‘N’ Place, relaxing. Unfortunately, Eric’s not so into rustic. The bastard. Let me be honest: I think our day in Jamaica was atypical. I did my due diligence, found a rare friendly woman. Check the message boards. This is not a usual experience for gay people.
I would like to thank James and Eric first of all for reading my blog and contacting me in the first place. And second of all for being so open, honest and candid. The world needs more people like you. And congrats on your recent nuptials!
I also contacted Patrice, the tour guide they used and asked her if I could include her business information in this blog post and she said ABSOLUTELY! This is what she had to say at my request to mention her service:
My Team and I personally offer a service without discrimination of any sort, form or fashion. Discrimination based on race, sex, sexuality, orientation or class is not a part of the ethos of the service that we offer, there is no hostility to any client and we seek to showcase the best of Jamaican Culture to them.
Thanks so much for the review and confidence placed in the service that I offer. I have no reservation to be mention in your article since the service which i offer is one free from discrimination of any nature.”
So if you’re looking for a gay-friendly tour guide in Jamaica or know someone who is, you can EMAIL Patrice.