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LGBT History Cruise to Stop in Anti-Gay Jamaica

by Cynthia Laird

Pride of the Ocean's "Saving History" cruise takes place in February.
Pride of the Ocean's "Saving History" cruise takes place in February.  

A history cruise that San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society is participating in will make a stop in Jamaica, one of the most anti-gay countries in the world.

Pride of the Ocean's 11th "Saving History" cruise will take place in late February, departing from Fort Lauderdale with ports of call including Mexico, Jamaica, and Haiti. The cruise will feature workshops with filmmakers and include representatives from the historical society, USC's One Institute, the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, and UCLA's Legacy Special Collection, which will be showcasing rarely seen historic art and artifacts from their archives.

In emailed comments to the Bay Area Reporter, John Scagliotti, program director for Pride of the Ocean, acknowledged that the cruise is stopping in Jamaica and said the company is aware of potential security concerns.

Jamaica has its "buggery laws," for which there is a possible 10-year prison sentence for consensual homosexual sex. In recent years, the anti-gay climate has improved somewhat, according to researchers, and the country held its first Pride events in 2015. A report last year by Goldsmiths at the University of London noted that while heterosexual Jamaicans reduced their support for the country's buggery law, they became "more likely to say they do not trust or like gay people, or that they would threaten, hurt, and insult them."

Scagliotti said that cruise participants will be "well protected and informed."

"We have gone to many countries with Pride of the Ocean and we are very cognizant of the discriminatory nature of many places around the world," he wrote in the email. "We do have concerns and attempt to make sure our groups are well protected and informed."

But he defended the cruise's decision to stop in Jamaica.

"As many of us are filmmakers that cover these issues, we think it is important for our audiences to be aware of where they are going and what is happening," Scagliotti wrote. "It is part of our work to communicate those stories."

As an example, he wrote that his own 2003 film, "Dangerous Living," covered stories with Jamaicans. In his 2017 film, "Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes," he covers "the ebb and flow of oppression throughout LGBT history, from 2000 B.C. until 1900 A.D."

He said that Pride of the Ocean "doesn't shy away because of the discriminatory nature of some of our ports of call."

"In fact, we actually participated in a demonstration in one of the countries we visited, along with some local LGBT folks," he wrote, referring to a 2011 protest in Bermuda following an anti-gay rant by preacher Scott Smith.

Scagliotti also said that LGBT filmmakers from Caribbean countries have been on past cruises.

Filmmakers expected to be on the 2018 cruise include Stu Maddux and his film, "Reel in the Closet," and producers Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg, and Scagliotti, who will present the remastered classic, "Before Stonewall."

Scagliotti said that Pride of the Ocean works with the cruise lines "to make sure LGBT safety is one of their top priorities."

"It is not only the countries we have to contend with but also some of the staff that work on the ships," he wrote. "LGBT people are everywhere and discrimination is everywhere."

Terry Beswick, executive director of the historical society, told the B.A.R. that the organization "is delighted" to partner with Pride of the Ocean and that he wasn't aware of the cruise's exact itinerary, but that he doesn't have a problem with the Jamaica port of call.

"The festival actually takes up a small fraction of the huge ship," he wrote in an email. "I hope the fact that the ship stops for a day in Jamaica helps to build awareness and support for oppressed LGBTQ people there in some way."

According to Pride of the Ocean, each cabin sold on the cruise will result in direct monetary contributions to benefit the four archival institutions on board, including the historical society.

In advance of the 2018 cruise, the GLBT Historical Society will present Scagliotti's film, "Before Homosexuals," Saturday, November 11, at 4 p.m. at the Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street. The screening is a benefit for the society and sponsored by Pride of the Ocean's cruise. Scagliotti is expected to be on hand for a question and answer session with the audience.

For tickets to the Roxie screening, visit For information on the Saving History cruise, visit


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