Illegal to be me! Fighting for Equality, Empathy, Healing & Joy
Jason Jones (he/him), Human Rights Defender
When talking about social work and the helping professions in the context of the LGBTQ+ lived experience, we are all at different levels of understanding and engagement with these varied issues.
In my country Trinidad and Tobago, it was illegal to be Queer up until 2018 when I won a landmark High Court judgement overturning the homophobic laws.
Before that, as an example, it was forbidden to give condoms to prisoners as Gay sex was illegal, so we saw an explosion of HIV infections in the prisons.
90% of Trans Women are sex workers and 50% of them are HIV+ yet the majority of social services deny Trans people the right to present as their chosen gender at clinics. They MUST present as the gender shown on their Identity papers and T&T does not allow gender markers to be changed.
In the helping professions in T&T, we see practitioners who are homophobic, and rather than put their personal religious beliefs aside when dealing with a Queer patient/client, we see more harm being impacted by a lack of understanding and empathy for Queer people.
When we talk of intersectionality, we see this lack of empathy when delivering assistance across the spectrum of minority communities Globally.
Here in the UK for example, Black Mother’s are FOUR times more likely to die in child birth than White Mothers.
It is an issue we all must engage with.
Do we in social work and helping professions really check in all our own baggage at the door when working?
How do we deliver unbiased, non-judgemental assistance?
e.g. (Visualisation tools)
And how do we find empathy with identities that may not align with our own life and lived experiences especially in today’s world where the “war on woke” is actually a war on EMPATHY.
e.g. (Put yourself in someone’s shoes)
Finally, in this difficult work, dealing with damaged people, some with horrific back stories, how do we, and they, find our Joy?
For me as an activist, one of my central drivers has always been to seek the Joy in what I do, and to access Joy as a tool of transformation!
With this keynote, I hope to create a different vision of how we engage with minority communities and to inspire JOY in all we do!
Jason Jones is an LGBTQ+ human rights defender originally from Trinidad & Tobago who has lived and worked in Britain for over 30 years.
He refers to himself as being “Tringlish”, Queer and as a person of colour.
His activism in LGBTQ+ human rights spans 4 decades beginning as a student newly arrived to London, marching in the anti-Section 28 marches of 1988. He then returned to Trinidad in 1992, and was the cofounder of the first LGBTQ+ advocacy organisation in the Southern Caribbean, “The Lambda Group” & he also founded “I Am One” in Trinidad in 2012.
In 1996, after being homophobically abused by his family and dragged through the T&T press for performing drag publicly, he returned to London and was on the board of the Stonewall Immigration Group ( Now known as RAINBOW MIGRATION) which won the right of abode in the U.K. for the overseas partner of an LGBT+ U.K. citizen. He and his then partner also from Trinidad, were one of 40 test cases at the Home Office which brought about this landmark win for British LGBTQ+ people, which was the first pro-LGBTQ+ legislation in the U.K. post decriminalisation in 1967.
He has therefore assisted changing the laws of TWO Countries for LGBTQ+ people, the only activist in history ever to do so.
On April 12 2018, he won a landmark legal challenge at the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago which decriminalised adult consensual same sex intimacy. This win guarantees freedom for 100,000+ Caribbean LGBTQ+ people and was also cited twice in the decriminalisation victory in India in 2018.
His historic case will be heard at the Privy Council in London to answer an appeal of his victory from the Attorney General of T&T.
This will be the first time in history that the Privy Council will hear an LGBTQ+ decriminalisation case and his victory there will assist decriminalisation of over 50 Million people in at least 10 other countries across 2 Continents.