Last Friday, as rain began to fall, The Colour Pink Group held another training session for a group of young men, many homeless, who face regular discrimination and threats to their safety. The Colour Pink Group works with gay, bisexual, transgendered men and sex workers who have little skills or training, and thus, no way to support themselves.
Last week’s session was held at the Shirley Retreat, a small hotel just off Hope Road. Eight young men appeared around noon and a discussion was held with representatives from the government’s PATH program. Much of the discussion centred around receiving financial help and job training. Many of these young men have not finished high school, let alone pursued further education, so the Colour Pink is embarking on training and education (along with other forms of support such as counselling) for a second cohort of young men.
During last week’s session, the young men had many questions for Marlon Johnson and Sheila Kelly Morgan of PATH. They wanted to know how to access the programs available to Jamaica’s marginalized citizens, such as the Job Savvy program. It is not as easy for them as many other citizens, it became apparent, as many of them are unattached, meaning they don’t have the papers they would require, nor a legal guardian or permanent address. They seemed encouraged by the answers and several of them said they would pursue the programs. As one young man put it, “I’m going to try it out and see.”
After a hot meal of fish, vegetables, bammy, rice and peas and ice cream, the young men, led by CPG’s Jermaine Burton, embarked on some exercises meant to strengthen their confidence and ability to communicate. In remarks to me prior to this, some of them shared their thoughts on what it is like to live in Kingston as a gay (or other identities) man: “Kingston is the fastest (busiest) parish,” one said, indicating that many of them appreciate this pace, as they come from the country, where it is more homophobic. “Kingston is cool, but you have to know how to act.” Another said you have to put on a show to survive (meaning act with less stereotypically feminine traits).