At first glance, this appears to be a worthy battle for LGBT activists to take on. Instead of constantly focusing on same-sex marriage legislation, why not consider those living in parts of the world where gays and lesbians are continually beaten and murdered because of their sexual orientations?
Well, there’s one significant issue with the boycott: Jamaica’s LGBT population is opposed to it.
According to a press release from Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG), the boycott would most likely hurt, rather than help, the lives of LGBT Jamaicans. From the press release:
Jamaica’s deeply ingrained antipathy towards homosexuality and homosexuals is a social phenomenon that will not be undone by boycott campaigns or government dictate. It requires the painstaking effort of confronting the society and talking to social actors who can bring change in the way society sees LGBT people….It is important that our international allies understand the nature of our struggle and engage us in a respectful way about it.
The organizers of the boycott have heard JFLAG’s perspective — and have decided to continue with the boycott anyway, arguing that LGBT Jamaicans are not in a position to support a boycott, as it would endanger their lives.
Now, personally, I’m uncomfortable with boycotts of this nature under most circumstances. While it’s certainly true that damaging a nation’s economy is a powerful way to communicate a message to a governing body, it’s also true that such significant economic interference can negatively affect the lives of innocent civilians. In this case, damaging Jamaica’s economy will affect the lives of the country’s LGBT citizens — a community already marginalized and faced with the reality of homophobic violence.
But in this case, I think the boycott is particularly inappropriate. To ignore the years of work JFLAG has tirelessly put into creating a safe environment for LGBT Jamaicans is to undermine the very people these American activists claim to support. Disrespecting a community in the name of activism is offensive and inappropriate. And given the history of queer persecution in Jamaica, there is no evidence that the boycott would diminish the homophobic violence that plagues the nation. Though the activism behind this boycott may be well-intentioned, it is certainly misguided.
Do any of you support this boycott? If not, what alternatives, if any, are there for helping the LGBT people of Jamaica in a respectful manner?