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Crisis of Leadership: Homophobia & Citizenship in Jamaica

The YouTube video above captures moving images of a baying mob outside a security post at the University of Technology (UTech), Jamaica, hurling inflammatory remarks at/and about a young man on the inside, being beaten by two security guards for allegedly being caught in a "compromising" position with another man. So far, no "eyewitness" has come forward to define what the "compromising" position is that this young man was found in with his "partner' who, thankfully escaped - so, it remains a rumour - an unproved incident that people were willing to spill blood for because the abominable homosexuality is alleged. I have been silent for days on the savage beating of that HUMAN BEING on the University of Technology (Utech) campus and I have deliberately avoided commenting on facebook, while I read the blogs, status updates and comments. While some were outraged about the beating of this "gay" boy; others were not sympathetic because this "gay" boy transgressed (biblical orthodoxy) by being "gay" and for having been engaged in "homosexual activity" on said campus (albeit that there has been nothing, apart from the accusations of the baying mob who wanted blood & life/death of the "gay" boy, to confirm that, that is so). I watched and yet, there has been NO reference to the HUMANITY of that "boy" (that I have seen). I have seen the use of all sorts of labels in support of arguments for or against the beatings; NONE so far that regards to his HUMANITY. I will go back in hibernation as I wait patiently on investigations to reveal if that boy is/was HUMAN or if he's just a "gay". I have heard commentary on the security; baying mob.. I have seen nothing that acknowledges the young man who survived (rather not assign "victimhood" to him) this ordeal. Is it that we have become used to overt and tacit silencing and "invisiblizing" of the "gay" voice and "identities" (since gayness is alleged)? Is it that we would rather not confront the homophobia that we have been denying exists? Or is it that somewhere in the back/front/corner of our minds, this young man might have brought this upon himself, if in fact he was carousing in a "public" bathroom with another man? Where is the concern for him (and the other who escaped)?
Leading up to the December 2011 elections, here in Jamaica, then Opposition Leader and now Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, participated in a leadership debate, where she emphatically stated, while then Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, danced around the issue, that she will have a cabinet that included members of the LGBTQI community and that she will look at reviewing the buggery laws that are often used to prosecute consenting gay men.When Simpson-Miller made the bold statement, she was lauded for her bravery especially since the statement was made in the context of a homophobic society, where a former prime minister, Bruce Golding, had said the now infamous words, "NOT IN MY CABINET!!!" Even Time Magazine recognised her as one of the world's 100 most influential persons
Just as she distanced herself from Prime Minister Golding at the 2011 leadership debate, since elections, she has also distanced herself from both her statement to be inclusive and review buggery law as well as the said LGBTQ persons who would have presumably faired better under her more progressive and tolerant leadership. It would seem that gays would have been safer in her cabinet than in the wide open nation, which she governs. Yes, Simpson-Miller has remained silent on the beating but the greater exception I take with the prime minister's silence is that it has now become characteristic of her to remain silent, especially in the face barbaric violence (Kayann [and many others] shot down by police officer; rape of 5 female bodies, including that of an eight year old and now the UTech beating). The Prime Minister is either clueless, incompetent or a nincompoop. Either way, she cannot be allowed to continue as she is. The country needs decisive leadership; someone who will not only inspire hope by reaffirming government's commitment to protect ALL its citizens but one who will state categorically that government will not give tacit support to violence against minority groups including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queer & questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) persons. This commitment from government, of-course, will be buttressed in the type of legislative decisions it takes to protect from and give recourse in the case of discrimination.
Many look to the church for leadership on morality. I have given up because of the terrible inconsistencies and partiality that the church has demonstrated. So, many waited for days for the church to break its silence on the "UTech" incident. After days of perhaps praying and consulting with God and each other for wisdom, the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches(JUGC)broke its silence. On the surface, the response of the group seems reasonable. But there is something in that response that created pause and unease for me and for others.
"Even though I might not agree with their behaviour, I have to respect their choice and not impose my choice on anyone," Reece said.
To that, Clive Forrester, Jamaican lecturer at York University and a Facebook friend, responds, "I wonder what he means here. Who is the "they" he is referring to, and what is the "behaviour" of which he speaks? The details of this incident are so incomplete it's a little surprising the reverend is making assumptions about the other, and the other's behaviour. The only thing which is known as a fact, is what was caught on the video. And, truly, THAT is the only thing that matters."
We must understand that once there are allegations of "gayness", the church and her moral vanguards must FIRST distance themselves from the gayness (real, apparent or imagined). This accounts for the "Us" and "They" divide that Clive recognised. Following which, any other business (such as condemning the violence against THOSE sub-humans) will be dealt with. I, for one, much preferred the church's silence than such back-handed condemnation. "Yes the violence is wrong but those gay boys are also wrong for CHOOSING to be gay and exploring that gayness in public." One does not need to suggest that the THEY are moral transgressors before offering a condemnation of VIOLENCE if violence goes against the tenets of one's faith. The church's position, therefore, is just as hypocritical, complicit and pernicious as the silence I hoped they would not have broken.
Another Facebook Friend, Danielle Roper, comments, "To acknowledge the behaviour as just hearsay would force them to face the potentially ugly fact about Jamaica. The mere fact that an accusation of gayness alone is enough to elicit such a response or to even draw the presence of a bloodthirsty mob is what is so egregious. For just the mere suspicion of gayness to cause such violence shows how deeply entrenched our hostility is towards LGBT people in this country.
As much as we wish to deny it there is homophobia (a range of negative attitudes and actions against homosexuality and homosexuals) in Jamaica. And, perhaps homophobia exists because there is a crisis in leadership. Our politicians would much rather secure another term to warm benches, or whatever they sit on, in parliament, while the country is in free-fall, rather than take unpopular decisions that will preserve the rights of all. And, that the church offers such hostility, tacit and sometimes even outright consent is even more egregious. But that is of-course if one places any premium on the integrity of "the church".
No-one, for ANY reason should have harm come to his/her person or property. Only the most malevolent will suggest that violence can ever be justified. What this comes down to is citizenship. Are gays and others who are part of the LGBTQI community in Jamaica, actually citizens of Jamaica? Are they deserving of space here or we still "nuh waant dem bout yaa"?
Now that I have broken my silence, I await the usual venom and threats.


  1. I find this article interesting. I don't believe it rests solely on the PM. Homophobia is a deep rooted social issue in Jamaica. Issues like these have to be handled carefully and we simply allow time to do the rest. I'm not giving an excuse for our leaders' unresponsiveness; of course they can aid the process, but i don't think it's fair to blame them alone. Albeit, the church has it's role to play also they too are crippled by the conservative view of their congregation and the society. In terms of the alleged "recklessness"...that's just what it was (he took an unjustifiable risk which led him where he was)I do not support the beating...I find it atrocious! but we all need to be careful when we tread through shark infested waters.

  2. Hello, Objective Nico! :) Thanks for dropping by and for engaging my thoughts here. It means a lot whenever someone takes the time to read and then comment. I do not take this for granted. That said, i am not to sure you interpreted my position in this post accurately. At no point did I lay responsibility "solely" at the feet of the PM. However, as you acknowledged, "Homophobia is a deep rooted social issue in Jamaica." To effectively deal with this, it would take decisive leadership (from political directorate & church). Leadership exists to influence. And, if our leadership is unable to influence change towards a more progressive and civil society then we do, in fact, have a crisis of leadership. We must never seek to make excuses for our limitations but identify them and find ways of transcending them.

    Unfortunately, we are not in shark infested waters (metaphor not lost); we are among other HUMANS like ourselves. Sad that sub-human metaphor seems apt to describe our behaviour.


  3. Hi! I can notice the fact that you undoubtedly understand what you are telling about over here. Do you own a degree or an education which is somehow linked with the theme of your blog article? Many thanks in advance for your reply.


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