What It's Like to Be Out In Dancehall

Shuzzr
Jason McQuain

Shuzzr

As part of its 2020 Pride Issue, Billboard is spotlighting the experiences of artists and executives working in genres that are not always included in conversations about Pride in the music industry. Here, Shuzzr, a publicist and founder of Shuzzr PR, recalls getting death threats and rethinking his business after coming out.

Dancehall is from a country where the culture of homophobia is praised and embedded in its fabric. It has evolved in the past few years, but there is still violence against us. I didn’t publicly come out as bisexual until 2014, and several friends told me, “Don’t do it. You’re in a good space.” But I was like, “No, I have to find comfort within myself to move forward.”

I made the decision to write an article on my website, and it made the front page of Jamaica’s No. 1 tabloid, The Jamaica Star. I got a lot of support, but for two years after that, I had no clients. Nobody wanted to work with me, nobody wanted to touch me. There were death threats, online harassment, bullying — you name it, I got it. People still refer back to that article and say, “I’d love to work with you, but the fans I have won’t tolerate me bringing you onto the team.”

Still, being out has allowed me to find more creative ways to survive in this industry. I’ve paired myself with clients who were probably not the kind of artist I would typically work with but are more tolerant. It’s easier for us to relate to each other. And whether people in Jamaica want to accept it, there is a community of LGBTQ professionals in dancehall that support each other.

You also have people who aren’t even in the community who are allies. There are people who have shown me nothing but love. I think it’s time for them to bring out even more support — I don’t want you to just be allies for me right now; I want you to be allies for all of us, all year-round. Let’s speak on the issues. Let’s call this stuff out.

This article originally appeared in the June 13, 2020 issue of Billboard.

Pride 2020 isn't canceled. Join Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's Pride Summit & Pride Prom on Saturday (June 13) starting at 12:30 p.m. ET for performances, queer conversation, drag, artist cameos, glam sessions, DJs, dancing and more.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.