As November is Homeless Awareness Month and also the 16 day count down for International Elimination of Violence Against Women which commenced yesterday and to end on Human Rights Day December 10; here is further evidence (above photo) of some of the challenges faced by LGBT persons in Jamaica; especially our same gender loving sisters who in recent times have seen a spike in threats and indeed attacks directed at them with disastrous outcomes. I am presently housing a young man who was outed via a smart phone and social media prying by family members. July 15, 2015 will never be the same for a 35 year old woman and her two children in the Rockfort area when her rented flat for some ten years was firebombed by thugs after a tirade by another woman who effectively outed her. She lost nearly all her personal possessions to include: a 2 door fridge, deep freeze, 4 burner gas stove; microwave oven; 2 blenders; sandwich maker; clothes; bedroom furniture; living room furniture; 4 televisions; component set; sound system; desk top computer; lap top computer; 4 cellular phones.
She made her living by operating a small business for herself to support her children and she also lost a certain amount of cash in the blaze. Profiling is the trigger factor in this matter as her more masculine features/aesthetics fed the perception and hate eventually. In her own words in her report she said among other things:
“I was at home asleep with my two children at about 10:30pm, and I smelled smoke and heard a lot of noise and excitement outside my home. My daughter got up and started to cry and so I grabbed her up an then I woke up my son I told him to run outside. I went outside and started to ask people to help me to save items and no one helped. I heard them sayin’ a long time di sodomite fi gweh!
A long time shi fi liff up and lef’! I tried calling the fire brigade but I wasn’t getting through. I don’t know who called them eventually. By the time they arrived I had lost everything. I started asking around to get somewhere for my children to sleep but no one wanted to help the ‘sodomite’. Even my mother was unwilling to help. She said to me if I didn’t think it was a sign for me to leave the lesbian life.”
Thanks to the assistance of kind persons who offered shelter assistance intermittently but the disappointing part of it is that such help cannot be forever and the reality is she has to move on. Some engagement has come via Aphrodite’s PRIDE Ja but some other challenges have since come to the fore as she temporarily stayed with a family member in rural Jamaica where she was physically assaulted as the news got to their ears as to her challenges. She is also concerned for her children as any mother would be as they are elsewhere in not so comforting circumstances. One LGBT agency she approached told her they could help her to asylum if she can find $100K but how would that be possible when most of her possessions were destroyed in the fire including cash she had that was not lodged to a bank account?
The belief that Jamaica is more tolerant and that the images or aura coming from some quarters to suggest all is well is NOT so and is in fact a farce. The pre-occupation with LGBT advocate/NGO image on the eyes of international agencies and funders via social media and tweets of the privileged is a piece of effantry towards impacted persons such as this woman and bearing in mind this is the third such arson report that has come to hand in recent times.
Privileged folks especially those in advocacy all have visas and can leave at a moment’s notice, what happens to those who do not have those privileged gifts to leave indeed some have left under dubious circumstances under the guise of asylum but somehow have managed to travel in and out of Jamaica; while some are concerned about stories going out simply delivering the truth instead of a manufactured tolerance image; even as we see the full exploitation of homophobia by politicians in the election silly season and the ongoing Sexual Offences Bill review seems dead in the water. So many other unconfirmed cases are out there as well plus those who do not make reports at all and prefer to suffer in silence and keep it quiet and move on.
All who have eyes to see do see but sweeping things under the rug won’t help anyone.
Peace & tolerance