Funny Gyal: My Fight Against Homophobia in Jamaica
Angeline Jackson and Susan McClelland
Published June 7, 2022
About Funny Gyal
“Instead of remaining silent, she chose to speak out…that’s the power of one person.” — Barack Obama
The inspiring story of Angeline Jackson, who stood up to Jamaica’s oppression of queer youth to demand recognition and justice.
When Angeline Jackson was a child, she wondered if there was something wrong with her for wanting to kiss the other girls. But as her sexuality blossomed in her teens, she knew she wouldn’t “grow out of it” and that her attraction to girls wasn’t against God. In fact, she discovered that same-sex relationships were depicted in the Bible, which she read devoutly, even if the tight-knit evangelical Christian community she grew up in believed any sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and woman was a sin, and her society, Jamaica, criminalized homosexual sex.
Angeline’s story begins with her traumatic experience of “corrective rape” when she is lured by an online predator, then traces her childhood through her sexual and spiritual awakening as a teen — falling in love, breaking up, coming out, and then being forced into conversion therapy.
Sometimes dark, always threadbare and honest, FUNNY GYAL chronicles how Angeline’s faith deepens as a teenager, despite her parents’ conservative values and the strict Christian Jamaican society in which she lives, giving her the courage to challenge gender violence, rape culture, and oppression.
This book blew me away. I kind of expected that, to be honest. I was interested in reading more about Angeline Jackson for her activism and her experiences, but I’ve also read EVERY FALLING STAR by Sunju Lee and Susan McClelland. It’s been years since I read that book, but I still think about it, so I had high expectations for another memoir with Susan McClelland assisting in putting it together.
FUNNY GYAL drew me in from its early pages and didn’t let me go until the end of the book. I loved reading a queer, faith-positive story that continually challenged the idea that a person much choose between different aspects of who they are: faith or identity. Over and over Angeline Jackson returns to the idea that she can be, and is, both a person of faith and a lesbian, and that those two ideas aren’t in competition with one another.
I won’t lie– some parts of the book are hard to read. She describes some encounters with homophobic people. She also describes the trauma of rape, and the fears and doubts about the police taking the case seriously. Through her shared experiences, though, she reveals how the prejudices against LGBTQIA people leave them vulnerable as victims of violent crime. She shows incredible resilience and love, not only for herself, but for her country and her people.
She speaks frankly about the continual pain that it causes her for her family to choose a “love the sinner, hate the sin” kind of relationship with her. And how that makes her feel as though she can never fully be herself with them.
All in all, FUNNY GYAL is a rich, bold and vulnerable memoir about courage and resilience and finding your people. I loved this book. If you’re still looking for a good memoir to add to your Pride TBR this month, definitely check out this book!
Content warning for rape, homophobia, and abuse.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Angeline and her family are Jamaican. Angeline is a lesbian.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.
Two men rape Angeline and her friend at gunpoint. The event itself isn’t graphically described, but her trauma is.
Two girls kissing. Mentions of sex between two girls. Mention of oral sex between a boy and girl. At one point, Angeline (a teenager) enters into a sexual relationship with an adult who has had a position of authority over her.
Angeline is raised in a devout Christian home and church where she’s taught that same sex attraction or relationships are a sin. She points out that other Christian churches believe differently, and some are LGBTQ+ affirming. Angeline herself remains a Christian.
See sexual content. At times people say homophobic things to Angeline or others.
References to drinking alcohol. Reference to drugs slipped into a person’s drink. Angeline also attends a party and drinks alcohol.
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