Last night after a screening of "The Abominable Crime" at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, an older Jamaican gentleman declared that the recent attacks against Jamaican LGBT are a result of the new generation of gays "flaunting" their sexuality. Basically, he intimated that we should be more like (in his words) the 4 current gay Ministers of government in Portia's cabinet, as well as the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Rex Nettelford whom he claims to have known personally and whose homosexuality was universally known. If homosexual Jamaicans were "good gays" like these people, we would be fine! This naive statement ignores the anti-gay hostility being whipped up by the churches in response to the legal challenges to the anti-sodomy law. This year we have seen island-wide anti-gay religious marches, church petitions calling for the retention of the anti-buggery law, and a pastor used a public platform to trumpet that religious leaders are willing to die rather than "allow" human rights for gays being recognized in the country.
Perhaps the most troubling statement this man made was that because Jamaica is a hyper-masculine society which celebrates "cocksmen" or male heterosexual prowess, gays who transgress this cultural norm should not be surprised at the backlash.
I tried to explain that gay Jamaicans have the SAME CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS to freedom of expression as all citizens and therefore it is unreasonable to demand that we should be invisible, just to make heterosexuals comfortable. Certainly 16 -ear-old Dwayne Jones did not deserve the horrible mob-execution simply for wearing a dress to a street-dance. I also asked this gentleman if he would attack gays in Florida who "flaunted" (whatever that means) their homosexuality, to which he declared that he certainly would not, solely because he has been in the US for 46 years. I guess its ok to demand gay invisibility in Jamaica but not overseas.
This senior gentleman also fails to realize that many gays are attacked IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR HOMES, where they are certainly NOT visible. And many gays who think they are not "flaunting" are attacked. This was my reality.
Finally, this individual declared that I was like our former Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Michael Manley, who tried to SHOCK Jamaicans into going leftist too quickly, hence his policies were rejected. I hardly think that advocating for a 1864 British colonially imposed law to be "read-down" to simply allow for private acts of intimacy between consenting adults is being particularly radical! At least, not when all over the world gays are getting the right to marry!
Although I doubt I made much of an impact on this gentleman, I was happy he came to the event.
An question from the audience was whether a boycott would be useful to force the Jamaican government to take gay rights seriously. There were some strong opinions on either side. One gentleman reminded the audience that Florida had the tragic Trayvon Martin situation which could also warrant a boycott of that state. While I hear his point, I disagree that Florida and Jamaica are similar. At least in Florida there is the possibility of justice (though sometimes delayed/denied) for marginalized groups. On the other hand, homeless Jamaican MSM are having a very difficult time getting justice as police refuse to investigate their attacks unless they can provide the NAMES and ADDRESSES of their attackers!
I am still wrestling with the idea of a boycott, but I did remind persons that if they find it unethical to spend their tourist dollars in Jamaica because of the recent upsurge in homophobic assaults, then they should LET THE GOVERNMENT KNOW. They should look online for the official email addresses of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Justice and send them a message! It is far more helpful to SPEAK UP and condemn the abuse rather than to reman silent and simply go elsewhere for a vacation.
Congratulations to the Faculty of Law at Nova Southeastern University, Sunshine Cathedral MCC, and all the other sponsors and supporters who facilitated this screening. It was yet another invaluable teaching opportunity.
The class issues in Jamaica even affects the way advocacy is done and my criticisms of some spoke persons over the years including that of Tomlinson is quite open however it is refreshing to see some redemption taking place, it is left to be seen whether it is genuine or just for show.
also see: The toss up between MSM homelessness & public order makes news again