AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Jason Jones and I’m happy my name will always be associated with human rights.
Two years ago, on April 12, 2018, Justice Devindra Rampersad declared the laws banning consensual adult same-sex intimacy “unconstitutional, null and void.”
As an LGBTQ+ activist, I brought the case against the State of TT!
I am very proud to be flying the red, white & black for LGBTQ+ EQUALITY around the world!
After my father, Mervyn Telfer, and my mum, Monica Jones, separated, my mother married Rex Lassalle. And took my brother and me from Petit Valley to Marabella.
So I feel I’m from all over Trinidad but I identify with Petit Valley most. .
Unfortunately, Trinidad is not very welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. I suffered a lot of verbal homophobic abuse when I was younger.
So I now live in London.
I have received awards and accolades, but I’ve also received death threats.
My father, from a family of staunch Catholics, had 15 children! I’m number eight in the lineup!
All 14 of my siblings live in Trinidad, one in Tobago. I’m the only one living “outside.”
We lost Daddy in 2017. Mum passed very young, 57, in 1996.
I miss them both a great deal, especially with all I am achieving. They were both journalists and would have loved all the drama, (because) drama was their business!
My mother’s family were Cockneys. She was born in Leyton in London’s East End.
Her father, Jack Gooch, from Cork in Ireland, fell in love with my grandmother, Marie, who was Church of England. The union of an Irish Catholic and an English Anglican, at the turn of the 20th century, led to their both being ostracised from their families.
My mum would go on to marry a black man, which was also scandalous at the time.
I didn’t so much come out to my parents as I was outed by them when I was 14.
I was being very seriously bullied because I was a “soft” young man, interested in arts and fashion, etc.
Monica and Mervyn sat me down and explained the pink elephant in the room. I had always understood I was “different” but I had no idea what gay sex was.
This is why full and inclusive sex education in schools is so important.
I was probably ten or 11 when I realised I was gay.
Neighbourhood kids played “doctors and nurses” but I was mainly interested in the doctors.
Although I have been known to enjoy a nurse or two. Under a more liberal culture, I would probably identify as pansexual.
I am single. My very hectic LGBTQ+ activism schedule demands my full attention. So it’s almost impossible to maintain relationships, friendships or lovers.
But I’ve always been a bit of a loner, comfortable in my own company.
Also, with the death threats, I wouldn’t want to put anyone else in danger.
I trained in theatre with Helen Camps and the Trinidad Tent Theatre, and loved performing!
I spent Carnival 1984 with the legendary (singer) Nina Simone, Helen Camps’s houseguest. Nina, who came from a small place, too, encouraged me to leave.
I dropped out of the University of London before finishing my degree so I could pursue performing on London’s West End stages.
I loved performing but it was hard to cast a mixed-race boy with a thick Trini accent in London. I wasn’t white, I wasn’t black. In the 80s, that was too extreme for agents.
So I went into real-estate sales and property development.
My childhood friend John Cooper tells an amazing, beautiful story I don’t actually remember, but he swears it happened.
I was representing, my primary school, Newtown Boys’ RC, in the Music Festival, my grandmother Ivy accompanying me on the piano. The morning of the final, at assembly, the principal made me sing before the whole school. John says that at some point, a pigeon landed on my shoulder and just sat there, listening to me sing.
I didn’t win the competition.
I’m very lucky that I have the privileges I have. And I know I achieved what I have because of doors that opened because of my privileges.
In Port of Spain, I frequented the secret gay bars back then. Lotes in Edward Street. The Iron Pot in Abercromby Street. And of course the infamous Bullerman’s Corner in the Pelican Inn.
So I was not too shocked by the gay scene in London.
What did surprise me was the activism for LGBTQ+ equal rights. I was so used to accepting homophobic hatred that it never occurred to me that I could fight back against it.
That was a big learning curve: confronting my own internalised homophobia!
I’m very partial to the colour yellow. I got a yellow chopper bicycle when I passed the Common Entrance with a scholarship.
And people would stop me to take pictures of my canary-yellow Morris Minor when I lived in Brighton. I adored that car.
I work alone and everything I have achieved, I did on my own!
So every fibre of my existence is focused on my work.
When I have final victory in the decriminalisation of LGBTQ+ Trinbagonians, I’ll sling my hammock between two coconut trees on a beach somewhere sipping Black Label rum and coconut water!
I’m currently reading Lord Michael Cashman’s autobiography, One of Them.
He’s best known for the first onscreen gay kiss on Eastenders, the most popular soap opera on BBC TV in the 80s.
I remember thinking, “Wow! We are on mainstream TV! This changes everything!” That night, there were emotional celebrations in gay bars across the UK.
I’m very proud to be able to call Michael Cashman a friend. He assisted me with the legal challenge.
Of course, I adore Barbara Streisand!
The genius Stanley Kubrick is my favourite director.
Going to the cinema used to be a great joy. But audiences have grown so rude and unable to give themselves over to the medium since the advent of mobile phones. I hope someone starts a cinema where phones must be left at the door!
The societal inability to disconnect fully from the web is worrying. It’s changing the way our brains work and creating a very negative impact on how we engage with one another.
To me, Trinis are a nice, loving people who do whatever they want.
But they are a nice loving people.
Trinidad and Tobago is home. Anywhere you go, we are happy. Everything is a party, a celebration. We could have absolutely nothing and still celebrate. I love it.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com