Westmoreland native Al Ramsay, while reflecting on Pride Month 2020, wishes same-sex couples would be given a chance to thrive and succeed in Jamaica and not in other countries.
Ramsay, writing an op-ed for Montego Bay Pride in June—that has since gone viral on Facebook a month later—said he and his husband, Michael, would love to return and contribute to Jamaica’s development, however, the current climate towards members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community leaves them fearful.
The George’s Plain resident, who has now lived and worked in Canada for the last three decades, argued that despite loving and missing Jamaica, he could never invest in the country the way he’d liked, due to its stance against same-sex relationships.
“Our family home in George’s Plain would be an ideal base for my partner and I to spend extended time on the island vacationing and supporting schools, sports teams, and community projects. But we are simply too afraid to do so. You see, my partner, is a man. And although we are legally married, Jamaica does not recognize us as a couple,” Ramsay wrote.
“Our time, talents and funds are developing other countries instead of our homeland. That is a real shame,” he added.
Still, like a ‘true country’ boy that excelled at the Manning’s High School before migrating, Ramsay said he hopes one day to use his “resources, influence and access to contribute to Jamaica’s development, especially in recovering from the devastating economic fallout caused by COVID-19”.
Things have changed somewhat, having returned to the island in 2018 to take part in Montego Bay Pride, and being in Jamaica with his husband for the first time was a warm surprise for the associate vice president.
“I wanted to see change on the island, and so I supported Montego Bay Pride from its inception. In 2018 I decided to return home after ten years away. And this time I took my husband,” he recalled.
“We did not know what to expect when we travelled to George’s Plain and we were blown away by the loving reception from many persons in the community. Despite the curiosity about my husband, we were embraced as long-lost family,” the Jamaican continued.
Ramsay further contended that the humbling experience gave him hope, but he still felt pangs of guilt when he wanted to show affection while shopping or taking a selfie together with his husband.
“That wonderfully emotional experience gave me and my husband hope. But we also noticed the intense scrutiny when we stopped at a grocery store in Sav, and how petrified we felt sneaking a hug while we embraced for a selfie during one of Negril’s spectacular sunsets,” he said.
Ramsay remarked that even without physical attack, several moments of the trip to Jamaica were ‘psychologically traumatising’ for him and his husband and they “were happy to return to Canada”.
“I am not sure that we will visit Jamaica again anytime soon and I know of many other successful Jamaican same-sex couples in the Diaspora who feel the same way. By continuing to discriminate against loving LGBT couples like us, Jamaica is rejecting an invaluable resource,” he ended.
The op-ed in full can be read below: