Mizz Jinnay is a larger-than-life Caribbean woman, planning world media domination via her YouTube channel and wildly popular videos. She's premiering Real Talk at the 2013 Caribbean Tales Queer Caribbean showcase Sat, Sept 14, and Xtra got her on the ringer to ask her a few questions.
What’s it like being an LGBT voice for Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean countries?
It’s not easy being different in a country like Trinidad. People felt like they could make my life difficult because they didn’t agree with it. They felt justified telling me that I was wrong for expressing my individuality when actually, the thing that is wrong is to live in a society where people are not able to express their individuality. I wanted to give myself a voice. We keep getting more support for my web series and my live appearances. My first show we had 100 people attend, and my most recent, 300 people were there.
What are some major issues facing LGBT people in the Caribbean?
There are two big issues. One is that the Caribbean is a religion-based society, and sodomy is still illegal in Trinidad by constitution. Because of the oppression from the religious communities, so many LGBT people are closeted and resort to online interaction only, which can be dangerous and unhealthy. The second is that Caribbean men put forth an overt masculine or butch persona, and any deviation from this is considered gay. If you speak proper, dress in a non-traditional way and aren’t hyper-masculine, you are immediately called bullerman. Any non-machismo behaviour results in being ostracized socially and even professionally.
Mizz Jinnay, how do you rise above the oppression in your country?
I’ve travelled and have been exposed to a lot. Ultimately, I don’t care about your perception of me. I choose to live as me. I am as much a citizen of this country as anyone else. I will own this. I choose to be me, so don’t enforce any of your stuff on me. Boundaries are getting smaller, and people are going against the grain of society. You can do it, too.
Your YouTube web series Keep It Real tackles all sorts of issues. What was your goal for the series?
My main goal was to be a voice of social consciousness and represent all aspects of society, not just Caribbean stories. I always try to incorporate a universal message in my videos. There is a lot of political talk in the Caribbean media. But we all have a social responsibility, and I didn’t feel like this was represented. Social consciousness aside, an LGBT voice was not there. I wanted to talk about HIV/AIDS. People talk to kids about it in a fearful way, and they see it as a big green monster. We don’t talk about stigma, and that’s what we need to change in Trinidad.
Your episode of Real Talk will screen at Toronto’s Queer Caribbean short-film showcase on Sept 14. What can we expect to see?
I returned form my grandmother’s 90th birthday, and something hit me deeply. In the film, I talk about this experience and how that translates to us all. I hope you enjoy.