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CONNEK Interview with CONNEK ambassador: Moon

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Tell me about your experience with queerness.
”My experience is continually evolving as I strive towards a deeper and fuller understanding of self and the many dimensions that encompass who I am. So far, I would say it has been a fairly equal mix of love and support (sometimes from unexpected sources) and negativity, harsh words or behaviour from loved ones, or simply the complete disappearance of individuals from my life. Over all, I would say who is still around is who’s meant to be at this time and I am grateful for the ones who continue to empower me and give me room to exist in totality by expressing all aspects of my being.”

How do you conceive of home?
”Jamaica has always been home. Though I wasn’t born here, I felt a strong connection to my ancestry from an early age and knew I would live here some day. The Jamaica my parents and grandparents grew up in and described to me is nothing like the experience I have had and I give thanks that I found the courage to take that step and discover it for myself. There is so much beauty and culture here that for me overrides the violence and corruption it’s known for. There are certainly many real issues and ways the country can and needs to evolve, but there is also an immeasurable wealth that exists in the people, the creativity, the soul of Jamaica that I feel is often omitted in the media.”

What is one of the biggest myths about Jamaica?
”I’m not sure what the current popular opinion is on Jamaica, but I know growing up it was assumed that most or all Jamaicans (at home and those who have migrated) are rasta, smoke/sell cannabis, own guns, are a part of gangs (or have a family members who are). I can even remember being asked if I stayed in a house when I came to visit relatives or if we all lived in trees and huts. I think one of the biggest, and certainly one that has affected me the most, is the perception that all Jamaicans are black. Being a minority in both countries I’ve lived, it’s often pointed out to me countless times in both places that ‘[I’m] not black, so how can you be Jamaican?’ as if I was previously unaware of the colour of my skin. Jamaica’s population may be majority of African descent, but there is mixture everywhere, and mine came out this colour nobody seems able to identify or categorize. ‘Out of many, one people’ is something even other Jamaicans seem to forget.”

Why is the CONNEK project important to you?
”Connek is important because so many Jamaicans have been limited in their life experience by laws designed to imprison us. By no fault of their own, persons born here are marginalized simply because they are born here, and are now relegated to proving their worth and value almost every time they want to leave the island. It is a degrading and draining process that forces individuals to become submissive and often manipulative just to experience life in ways that most citizens of “first world” nations will never have to. The visa application process has kept many brilliant Jamaicans captive, so making connections like these is vital for the growth of the island and its people, while also bridging the gap and ending negative stigmas of Jamaica and Jamaicans internationally. There are many like my self, first generation children born overseas who grow up only hearing stories and not knowing how much to believe and how much is being told to create a fear atmosphere and keep them from experiencing their history. There are also those without any biological ties to Jamaica who feel the country is off limits to them if they are too “different” or not a part of the country’s perceived norms. However there are safe places for lgbtq+ persons, there are venues for alternative music and parties that don’t centre around reggae or dancehall. There are Jamaicans and others who have migrated here who belong to various societal groups and endeavours, and it’s important for people outside to know these places and opportunities exist.

CONNEK JA