Many gay American and European friends ask me, “Will I be killed if I visit Jamaica?” I oftentimes find the question offensive and would like to answer saying that Jamaica isn’t a jungle ruled by wild beasts. But from the way its rulers and citizens have long been encouraging violence against the gay population there, it is hard to make the case to my friends that the majority of Jamaicans are civilized.
Of course, most Jamaicans are civilized but I’m just saying it’s hard to prove it. So today, I’m going to talk a little about homophobia in Jamaica. But I must warn my American friends not to feel too overly righteous because it’s also hard to make the case that the majority of you are civilized given your love affair with drones, terrorism, and murdering of people who aren’t Americans. And I must also put it out there that Europeans are in no position either considering your continent’s crime that we now politely call, “colonialism.”
Isn’t it a fancy word, with multi-syllables, long, smart sounding? Rarely do any of us think of what the word connotes as we speak it. We don’t think of histories of beheadings that Europe supervised. This fancy word, “colonialism,” doesn’t remind us of the European terrorists who invaded the Americas, pillaged, raped, and infected populations with terminal diseases.
All this was done by your men in the name of your brand of Christianity. And today, rather than educating the world about the fullness of your crimes—Europe, you have been in bed having sex with America, replaying history—and this new violence is called the war on terror.
Nevertheless, there is a difference between the terrorism perpetrated by Europe and America compared to that of Jamaica. Where Europe and America are concerned, the citizens aren’t informed fully about the modes, and nature of the daily crimes, because everything is now buried in a secrecy methodology called classified information.
When the rulers say something is “classified,” the American and European public have been trained to firstly assume the secrecy is for their own security, and secondly to assume that the rulers alone know what is best. When watchdogs organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union try to use legal means to unveil the violent secrets, they have to invest a lot of money and professionals. And so many terrorist behaviors by political leaders will never ever come to light of day.
However when things do come to light, the people of Europe and America have in the past revealed that they have a conscience. And they take a stand against certain wars and they have now seriously been allotting more freedoms to LGBT peoples. And even in places where LGBT peoples are still prosecuted by homophobes, laws are at least in place to prevent that.
Looking at Jamaica, however, there is wide scale terrorism against gay people. The difference is that whenever Jamaican mothers and fathers become aware that their sons and daughters are gay, they often kick them out of the house with threats, and they expect that the homophobic violence of the culture will take care of their own children.
When I was around 17 years old, my aunt suspected that I was gay. Truth be told—I was in the church at the time, and I had never slept with a man or dated a man but I had gay feelings. I had an argument with my aunt about some church issue because she didn’t like the church I was attending and she thought I was acting as though I knew Jesus Christ more than she did. She thought she was holier than I. And I was like, Hell No, I have more Jesus than you, and I pray more often and way longer than you, and I fast more than you do.
And so the argument got loud, and strangers in the community gathered in front of our home to witness the drama in this rural community. That was when my Christian aunt shocked me when she shouted, “Battyman, get out of my house!”
Listeners began laughing at me loudly on the street. Men began mocking me. And at the time, I had a loose tongue that didn’t put up with anybody’s attack, so I did put my Christianity on hold and curse her off.
Not able to match my sassy tongue—because as far as I was concerned then, we were too women in the house when it comes to arguing; she was an old woman; I was young teenage girl—not able to keep up with me, my aunt shouted, “Come and get the battyman out of my house!” Yes, my aunt was telling these men to come inside the house and do whatever violence they wanted with my body.
Another day, I will finish the story because I have to get back to the point I’m making here—which is—while deep awareness of human crimes will awaken America’s and Europe’s conscience, it hardens the conscience of Jamaicans even more. If that is what family members will do to their own, kick them out of the house, invite strangers to hurt them, refuse to bury them when they die, can you imagine what homophobic strangers will do to gay Jamaicans? So the question of “Will I be killed if I visit Jamaica?” is one I won’t attempt to answer with a “Yes” or “No.” For how can I promise civil behavior from a population that has been acting like savages for years?
In the past, I wrote an article for the Jamaica Gleaner telling activists that they must speak nicely of Jamaica, not only about the savage part. But my views on that have changed because it dawned on me that everybody is already talking about the nice white sandy beaches and the beautiful sunshine and the great homophobic reggae dancehall music. So there have to be those of us who talk about the other real side of Jamaica that you won’t see in the tourist brochures.
Of course, I will expect many Jamaicans to say, “Oh you are speaking negative about the country. And oh—we don’t want to be governed by foreign values or the gay American lobby. We need to handle our own business in our time using the ways of our own culture.”
Now that kind of talking point, which is repeated by many intellectuals as well, irritates me. It sounds so naïve and dishonest. But even the most well known gay lobby in Jamaica now, JFLAG, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays is saying things along that same line too. And so, I would tell people to be very suspicious of the advice you get from the current leadership of JFLAG. If JFLAG tells you it is safe to go to Jamaica and spend your vacation, I would say, stay right where you are and spend your money on McDonald’s French fries!
Truth is, many people including myself have been asking—who now writes the public relations talking points for JFLAG—is it the Jamaican government? Gone are the days when LGBT Jamaicans had a real organization to represent advocacy issues there.
It’s naïve to say foreigners shouldn’t intrude and provide intellectual and activist counsel about how to solve the homophobic terrorism in Jamaica when Jamaica has long been looking to Europe and America for loans for this-and-that bailout, and for foreign professionals to train and staff the police force, educational organizations, university systems, and for foreign cultural fashions to be the daily fashions of Jamaica.
Yet after submitting to all that foreign “bullying” or accepting the well-intentioned foreign aid, Jamaicans only choose to single out the one that provokes their moral conscience, the one that says, “Stop killing your LGBT brothers and sisters! Stop acting like some of those places in Africa and Russia! Don’t be like those backward countries in the Middle East where Muslim practices fancy terrorism of gay people!”
Many Jamaicans will even stare you straight in the face without blinking and say, “We aren’t killing anyone. Homosexuals are safe here as long as they keep their lifestyle to themselves!”
Even some of the gay ones will say the same thing. And when I hear them I feel sorry for them because Harriet Tubman reminded us that she freed a thousand slaves and she could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.
These gay Jamaicans have no clue what it is to be free. To them, being gay is a lifestyle that plays out in dark bedrooms, between tall clusters of banana trees, in midnight canefields or beside deep moonlight rivers.
But are Jamaicans really safe there? How do we explain the article written by lawyer and Caribbean gay activist Maurice Tomlinson on my blog DadlandShutUP? It was titled Jump in Reported Gay Attacks Across Jamaica. Referring to this year alone, Maurice Tomlinson says:
On July 22, 17-year-old cross-dresser Dwayne Jones was stabbed and shot to death and thrown into nearby bushes at a public street-dance.
On August 1, a suspected gay police officer was mobbed.
Also on August 1, the home of 2 gay men was surrounded by an angry mob.
On August 6, reggae artiste Queen Ifrica used her performance at a taxpayer funded independence celebration to condemn gays and demand that they be removed.
On August 10, a cross-dresser in St. Catherine was attacked by a mob and had to be rescued by police.
On August 22, the home of 5 gay men was attacked by community members
On August 26 , two gay men fled he scene of an accident when onlookers realized they were gay.
Since Maurice Tomlinson’s article, many other crimes have been perpetrated against gay Jamaicans. So will you be killed if you visit Jamaica? I would say, send a letter to the prime minster there and tell me what she says.
If you didn’t read transcipt above, watch the video: