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  • Meet the Gully Queens, the Transgender Women Defying Jamaica’s Culture of Homophobia

    The up-and-coming British R&B singer RAY BLK’s new single, “Chill Out,” is a sexy, mellow exhortation to an overzealous suitor to slow his roll. But the accompanying music video, premiering today on Vogue.com, begins in a manner that’s anything but chill. Director Philippa Price spliced together a 20-second montage of Jamaican news clips, a whirlwind of footage depicting braggadocious men, some menacingly wielding baseball bats, spewing hate and fear at homosexuals. “We don’t want no one, none of them in this town here,” one man rants. “This is our town.”

    Cut to the hem of a gauzy white frock rustling in the breeze. A beat kicks in. Pan out to the woman wearing the dress: Tall, muscular, blonde, and sultry, she stands in a grassy yard, cigarette dangling from her lips, silently hanging laundry on a clothesline.

    The video doesn’t tell you her name, Shadiamond, or her age, only 21, though she seems older. If you look closely, you’ll see a slash of scar tissue across her left cheek, an artifact from an encounter with a knife-brandishing hooligan. But you can’t tell that she’s been shot eight times, nor can you discern that the dreamy, sun-dappled scene she’s acting out for the camera is just the sort of domestic simple pleasure she’s been denied in real life.

    Shadiamond is one of four transgender women—Mindy, Beyonka, and Sasha are the others—who appear in the “Chill Out” video. They were chosen by a Jamaican producer to travel from the gritty capital city of Kingston, where they live, to the northeastern coastal parish of Portland for the two-day shoot. All four women are part of a population known in Jamaica as the Gully Queens, a small band of trans and gay young people who live embattled lives at the outermost margins of a country that Time magazine once called “the most homophobic place on earth.” They are visibly, openly living the truth of their gender and sexual identity in a nation where many choose to stay closeted, and they pay for it with complete alienation and constant abuse.

    That Time quote dates back to 2006, and though strides have been made in the past decade to advance LGBTQ rights (here’s a recent Slate piece chronicling progress), Jamaica remains a place with a strong undercurrent of bigotry: a devoutly Christian nation with sodomy laws still on the books, where influential dancehall stars peddle antigay sentiment, major newspaper cartoonists mock homosexuals, and the national refrain of “One Love” blithely ignores those whose identity exists outside of the heteronormative/cisgender framework. As a 2014 Human Rights Watch report asserted, “Physical and sexual violence, including severe beatings and even murder, are part of the lived reality of many LGBT people in Jamaica. The level of brutality leads many to fear what could happen if their sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed.”

    In the U.S., the LGBTQ community represents the population most likely to experience hate crimes, but it’s specifically transgender women of color who endure the highest rates of violence, suicide, and poverty. In Jamaica, trans people, particularly those of low socioeconomic status, also count as the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. The Gully Queens—named for the sewers where they find shelter and refuge from police harassment and marauding thugs alike—are unwilling or unable to live in the closet. Both Mindy and Shadiamond, the two women with whom I spoke by phone, were outed against their will as teenagers. They separately told very similar stories of attending a party in drag, and then later discovering that they’d been photographed and those pictures had been disseminated within their communities. “I want to be comfortable and not hide in my life story, but be the person that I am,” Mindy, who is 24 and has been on the streets since she was in her late teens, told me. “I think I have the right to lead a life that I love.”

    Doing so costs them dearly: They live in exile from their families and communities, unable to find work or landlords willing to rent them apartments. It’s likely that some make money through prostitution (HIV infection rates, I’m told, are high); others steal or beg. Homeless, isolated, and faced with the constant threat of violence, they are without recourse to better their circumstances. When I spoke to Mindy, she said of life in the gully: “It’s like being in hell.”

     

     

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  • Tony Matterhorn is now Married to his long time girlfriend

     Dancehall selector and recording artiste Tony Matterhorn has tied the knot with his long time girlfriend.

    The artiste whose real name is, Dufton Taylor, took to Instagram to share  photos of his wedding on Sunday sharing a photo of the beautiful couple on their big day.

    Blessed Sunday from the #TAYLORS,” He worte. “ when ur blessed by God it’s a beautiful thing when they go low we go real high #heartattacks #headaches for some we say it’s #Taylorsforlife.”

     

     

     

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  • Babsy expresses regret after Spice performance, urges against ‘rush to judgement’

    Entertainment Minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has expressed regret at what she described as “shortcomings” at Saturday’s event to celebrate Jamaican athletes, held at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

    Organisers have been criticised after dancehall entertainer Spice delivered a performance that many consider too raunchy for an audience that included Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Governor General Sir Patrick Allen among other dignitaries.

    “I note some of the comments directed at Spice for her performance on Saturday night.  I do not offer a defence for Spice who is a talented and bright performer, fully capable of producing lyrics in celebration of our athletic heroes.  I would however, caution against the issue of vitriolic comment and a rush to judgement in this matter,” Grange said in a statement.

     

    The entertainment minister said the shortcomings “overshadowed what was otherwise seen as a well-produced event”.

    “Most things went well but a few very important things did not on this occasion.  Like our athletes we will review, improve and keep pushing ourselves to higher levels of performance,” Grange said.

    She added: “As the Minister, I express sincerest regrets for these shortcomings and going forward, to ensure the highest levels of planning and execution of these national events, I have asked for a review of our procedures and agreements and a review team is being put in place”.

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  • We didn't cut Spice's set - Organisers claim innocence after artiste's shocking outburst

    The organisers of the Rio Sports Gala and Awards ceremony have denied interrupting the set of dancehall artiste Spice last Saturday night.

    The deejay prematurely ended her performance at the National Indoor Sports Centre, and blasted organisers on Sunday hinting that they had cut her set. But Lenford Salmon, the producer of the event, denied this, saying the artiste's DJ is to be blamed.

    "We did not cut Spice's performance. The incident that occurred was from her side! We asked all the acts scheduled to perform to come to a technical rehearsal the day before and every performing artiste showed up, except Spice. We even asked them to bring their own disc jocks because we know how technical this issue could get. Spice and her people came when the show had started and her DJ was in a tizzy! He was even saying to our technical operator that he isn't even sure that the CD would work and that was even before Spice went on the stage. He took over the console, played the music, and so said so done!" explained Salmon.

     

    DISCUSSION

     

    Salmon revealed that during the planning of the event, there was a discussion as to which artiste the athletes would want to see perform and Spice was mentioned. "Spice's name came up as one of the artistes the athletes would have liked to see and we discussed it with Headline Entertainment. But we knew that her dress, lyrics, and dancers may not have been appropriate for the event, and her team assured us that she would dress appropriately and adjust her lyrics, so we would have nothing to worry about. She, however, did not stick to that agreement," he said.

    Salmon has shunned speculations of prejudice saying that the organisers have worked with other controversial artistes successfully because they followed instructions. "We have had other controversial acts such as Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, and even Mavado conformed to occasions as family oriented as Grand Gala. All we had to do was speak to their management and every single one of them conformed. We try to integrate these artistes because we don't want persons thinking only negatively of dancehall as it is our culture," he said.

    Carlette DeLeon, a representative from Headline Entertainment, confirmed that it was an error on the part of Spice's DJ which caused her performance to be cut. DeLeon also pointed out that it was Spice's technical team which was asked to attend the rehearsal and not the artiste.

    Spice walked off stage on Saturday after asking for the rhythm for her song, Indicator, and it was not forthcoming. But after she exited a group entered and began dancing to the very same song.

     

    ORGANISERS BLASTED

     

    On Sunday, Spice blasted the show's organisers, via social media, saying there was no technical difficulty. "I'm not bashing these lovely dancers who I love dearly, but they were dressed in short shorts and bra top on stage wining and a skin out. Girls wining on man back it up and all, but I wore a dress and it was inappropriate," she posted on Instagram. "Or is it because I'm not from 'uptown', it wasn't OK for me to sing my own song but they could dance to it? I wonder what they expected me to sing ..." Efforts to speak to Spice yesterday proved futile.

    Salmon said the dance group which performed after Spice had brought their own CD and again pointed out that there was no interference during the artiste's set.

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  • SPICE: NO Sex For One Year! Romping Shop Closed Till Further Notice!

    Dancehall Entertainer Spice is a single woman and she has confirmed this status a few times since then. Adding to enjoying her newly single status, Spice took to her social media account a few moments ago, to declare that she will be going CELIBATE for one entire year! Yes guys,   NO BEDROOM ROMPINGS OF ANY SORTS. Her romping shop is closed! You know what, sometimes a woman has to do just that and focus on finding and renewing herself! GO Spice! Take a look at the very provocative picture she used for her announcement.

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