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IOPC LGBT History Month blog - Remnants of Imported Homophobia in the Commonwealth

Category: testimonial, disability, LGBT, LGBT inclusion, IOPC, Independent Office for Police Conduct, Disability Awareness, bisexual, LGBT Community, LGBT History Month, Staff Testimonial, LGBTQ+, homophobia, LGBT employee, LGBT history, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, LGBTQ+ Champion, LGBTQ+ Community, Female workforce, Female talent, LGBTQ+ Culture, Mixed Race


I identify as female, mixed-race, LGBTQ+ and disabled. Most of my family are of Jamaican heritage but I also have a Nan who is white British.

Growing up, my exposure to anything related to LGBTQ+ was extremely limited. To my knowledge, me and my family didn’t associate with anyone who was gay. There was no education about LGBTQ+ issues during my time at school. The first exposure that I recall was flippant comments made by my biological Dad and the phrase “batty boy”, a derogatory term for gay men he would use towards his nephews to wind them up during play fighting. I also heard this commonly in the playground between the black and Asian boys during kick-abouts.

When I was about 12, I found out my cousin’s long-term partner had a brother. When I enquired with my Mom as to why I had never met him at any family engagements, I was told that he had been disowned by the family because he was gay. Although I felt sorry for him and couldn’t believe that this going on with my extended family, it didn’t surprise me, because despite any education, it was clear to me that being black and being gay did not co-exist easily.

At university I studied a Psychology degree, and it touched upon the history of sexuality across species and how the evidence purported that sexuality was biologically determined, and not a choice. It further frustrated me given the ostracism I had witnessed.

In my twenties, I came out as bisexual. I got a job as a caseworker for the Home Office dealing with applications for temporary leave. It was there I learned the depressing truth that Jamaica, was, then, on the unsafe list of countries because of the high levels of anti-gay violence and had been labelled by Time Magazine as “the most homophobic place on earth”. Historically, African and Caribbean cultures were quite relaxed about gay sex. It wasn’t until Britain colonised the commonwealth and buggery laws were instilled that the culture began to shift. Things on the Caribbean island are improving. The first Pride event took place in 2015 with less than 100 people and is now attended by a few thousand. But gay marriage is not legal, gay sex between men is still an offence and hate crime is a huge problem. Anti-gay lyrics in popular dance hall music demonstrates the chronic hostility that persists within the culture.  

LGBT History in Britain is barely visible, but we now live in a society with a degree of safety, freedom, and legal protections. In Jamaica, being gay is a sin and could cost you your life.

What does LGBT History mean to me?

  • looking at how certain cultures came to be
  • re-examining colonialism, slavery, Christianity and religion and discrimination in different contexts

It also means:

  • dealing with the conflict of being black and queer.
  • feeling proud of my roots, whilst accepting the flaws that exist
  • re-educating myself and exploring stories and texts that were not offered to me due   to discrimination, bias, and ignorance
  • trying to be the positive role model that was absent when I grew up
  • celebrating my intersectionality and the gifts of having different perspectives

For some reason the universe created me and gave me a platform to tell my story. Despite some religious interpretations and cultural barriers, I am who I am, and I am proud. 

- Chantel Miller, Pride LGBTQ+ Network Lead

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