Recently, VICE News posted a short documentary called “Young and Gay: Jamaica’s Gully Queens.” The film introduces viewers to the lives of LGBT youth who, having been forced from their homes or rejected by their families, live in an underground Kingston Town storm shelter, known locally as a “gully.”
As VICE News reporter Christo Geoghegan reports, homophobic and transphobic attacks increased last year in Jamaica, with attacks even occurring in broad daylight and shared across social media. People convicted under an archaic British colonial buggery law, which criminalises anal sex, can receive a 10-year prison sentence with hard labour. “Homosexuality in Jamaica doesn’t have any hope,” says one of the self-described “Gully Queens.” It’s never going to happen, they ‘re going to kill us faster.”
Maurice Tomlinson, one of Jamaica’s best-known LGBT activists, introduced the reporter to the community at a protest he organised to draw attention to their situation. Tomlinson points out the classism that means that under-privileged people are unable to insulate themselves against the worst form of abuse. During the protest we see members of the public driving by and shouting derogative terms at the community.
One of the Gully Queens, Daggering, describes the violence that forced them from the squats they were staying at into the gully and describes the gully, and the threats they live under, saying “it’s like hell down there.”
Daggery’s partner, Andre explains that some of the community, both transwomen and manly men, perform sex work for a living, with the transwomen in particular facing violence from their straight male customers when they believe they have been “tricked.” The documentary shows the sex workers getting ready for work, showering in the water from a fire hydrant, and briefly films them working on the streets where the threat of violence is palpable.
The documentary follows efforts, led by Tomlinson, to overturn the buggery law, while acknowledging that even that may not improve the lot of the gully queens. It also explores the lack of police protection from violence and the police’s refusal to pursue hate crimes, and features a short interview with Dane Lewis, from NSWP member organisation, J-Flag.
A recent report in the Jamaica Observer says that a senior police officer has proposed a shelter for the people living in the gully.