'Gully Queens': Jamaica’s LGBTQ Individuals Forced To Hide In Storm Drains
Living in Fort Lauderdale, I have access to one of the largest cruise ship ports in the world. Scanning the lists of ports of call for each cruise, if Jamaica appears, I'll skip over that trip. It goes back to me not doing my homework on the state of a nation, but just going on what I hear. Many don't recommend gay travel to the island unless you are careful and remain "on-site." Frommers states:
Jamaica is the most homophobic island in the Caribbean, with harsh anti-gay laws, even though there's a large local gay population.
Many all-inclusive resorts, notably the famous Sandals of Jamaica, allow same-sex couples, although they were forced to do so to be able to advertise in Britain. As part of the EU, Britain cannot condone discrimination in advertising. Hedonism II in Negril also allows gay travelers. So does the Grand Hotel Lido in Negril. Still, avoid open displays of affection -- such as handholding on the streets -- in Jamaica: You could be assaulted for trying it. - Frommers.com
In 2014, Christo Geoghegan spent time in Jamaica’s storm drains – known locally as “gullies”. He was there to document the LGBTQ people who find shelter there, the gully representing the only place where they are free to express themselves away from the hatred and violence they face in Kingston. Attacks, murder and rape are common against people of marginalized identities, and attackers face little retribution from the justice system.
My first response to Christo Geoghegan's pictures was, I admit, very judgmental. I was expecting to see where these individuals lived, slept, and to feel sad for them. Instead, I was taken aback at how some of the pictures were a little sultry, sexual, and not what I expected. The reason Christo Geoghegan's pictures maybe not what you expected either is explained in the entire Featureshoot.com article and more pictures which you can read and see here. I've listed off all the questions asked Geoghegan and shared some of the answers below.
What originally drew you to photograph the Gully Queens?
I was developing a series of programmes for VICE about marginalised LGBTQ communities across the world, and in my many months of research, I had stumbled across an article about the Gully Queens from a Jamaican newspaper and wanted to know more about who they were as a collective and help tell their story to a wider audience.
Could you describe your photographic process?
How did you gain access to your subjects? Was it easy to begin photographing them so intimately?
Did you form relationships with your subjects over time? Are you still in contact with any of them?
Were you trying to transmit any particular message with the series or is it purely documentary?
I think I was trying to use the photographs as a means of them being able to display their sexuality and personality the way they wanted to, and not the way that society had told them that they should. The Gully Queens love to adorn themselves in glamorous makeup and clothing, an exercise that is mainly reserved for when they have to take to the dangerous night streets of Kingston to work as sex workers, so these photos gave them the opportunity to express themselves without the subtext usually associated with it for them.
What (or who) were your visual/aesthetic inspirations for the series?
I think to a small degree I was inspired by Paris is Burning, and the way it captivated the New York Vogeuing subculture of the 80s, but in reality, what inspired and shaped the aesthetic most was the individuals themselves, because as mentioned before, the process was very collaborative. I wanted to capture them they way they wanted to be, and not necessarily the way I would if I was shooting in a purely directorial process. - featureshoot.com
Thank you Christo for sharing your pictures with the world allowing us to see one side of Jamaica, one hidden away from those all-inclusive resorts we've been told in which to remain to stay safe.
All images by Christo Geoghegan.