Intersectionality is the recognition that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression. By taking into account people’s overlapping identities (gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc), we can better understand the complex prejudices they face.
“There is so much that can be done to improve the lives and achieve equality for many women within their intersectional identity,” said Point Community College Scholar Akaysha Garvey.
In 2006, Time Magazine labeled Akaysha Garvey’s home country of Jamaica “the most homophobic place on earth.” Homosexuality was first outlawed in Jamaica with the 1864 Offences Against the Persons Act, which continues to be law today.
Over 40% of calls for help escaping a homophobic or transphobic country come from the Caribbean, according to Rainbow Railroad, an organization that helps LGBTQ refugees from around the world find safety in the United States and Canada. It is often difficult for LGBTQ people to find love and acceptance in the Caribbean, but in recent years more work is being done to bring equality to the region. Akaysha advocates for “establishing law that supports all women and creating a safe space for LGBT women to voice their concerns and not be silent especially in the workplace and their daily lives.”
Living as a Black, Transgender, First-generation Immigrant Student in Florida Today
For Akaysha, leaving Jamaica meant creating a new life in Florida as a Black trans refugee woman living in the United States. However, because of Florida’s discriminatory laws and policies, Akaysha is still subjected to bigotry based on her intersectional identities.
As a Point Community College Scholar, Akaysha has been inspired to share her experiences.
“Point has inspired me to tell my story and also make my voice be heard…,” Akaysha said. “By socializing with different Point Scholars, I realized how important to get my story out there as an immigrant, a woman, and a queer Black individual living in America.”
More than 80% of all Point Scholars are people of color and more than half are first-generation college students. Through the Point Community College Scholarship program, Akaysha was able to meet other LGBTQ college students working to navigate heterosexism, transphobia, and racism, while also learning how to apply for financial aid, register for classes, and create support networks on campus.
Being a Voice for Caribbean Communities
The National Women’s History Alliance 2023 theme for Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women who Tell Our Stories.” Akaysha sees telling her story as a Black immigrant woman as an essential tool. She hopes more immigrant trans women will tell “stories that will change and create a future for women in the LGBT community” to “cultivate the next generation of women in the community.”
Jamaica has come a long way from being labeled “the most homophobic place on earth” in 2006. In 2012 Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller discussed repealing the 1864 Offences Against the Persons Act and in 2013 a documentary brought worldwide attention to Jamaica’s violence against the LGBTQ community. Trans Jamaicans and their allies founded TransWave in 2015 to help combat transphobia in the country. Since then, LGBTQ Jamaicans have worked with others across the Caribbean to create change.
"We are the ones that get to be the voice for the voiceless in our community and country,” Akaysha said.
In 2021, Point hosted a panel for LGBTQ History Month featuring Trinidadian trans activist Xoë Sazzle, who was a Point BIPOC Scholar at the time. Watch Xoë share her experiences in Trinidad and Tobago. As trans women from the Caribbean living in the United States, Akaysha and Xoë are able to tell the stories of trans women from the Caribbean who remain on the margins of Jamaican and Trinidadian society.
Akaysha’s reflections on how her voice impacts her entire community in Jamaica shows the importance of refugees sharing their stories to effect positive change. This Women’s History Month, we honor Akaysha’s bravery and dedication to LGBTQ rights in the Caribbean and celebrate her telling her own story.