In 2009, during a period of intense debate surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Jamaica, Staceyann Chin published the first memoir of growing up lesbian in Jamaica. While Chin's lesbian identity is a major theme of the text, also important is documenting the child abuse and homophobic violence she suffered. This essay makes visible the connections between physical punishments during slavery (with particular reference to “The History of Mary Prince”), practices of child abuse and homophobic violence in Jamaica, and contemporary modes of recognizing legitimate subjects by the state. In contrast to research focused on homophobia in the Caribbean as largely a product of religious teachings or a relic of the Victorian era, this essay instead suggests that powerful histories of physical control and discipline influence contemporary beliefs about the “threat” LGBT individuals present to the nation. Chin's identity as a woman of Chinese and African descent calls into question a unitary identity or origin story for Caribbean subjects and asks which bodies are allowed to be legitimate citizens of the postindependence Caribbean. Chin's personal experiences are put into the context of larger debates within Jamaica about sovereignty in the wake of US and UK announcements linking budgetary aid to compliance with international LGBT rights norms.

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