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Haunted: Homophobia & Homelessness in Jamaica

Young, gay men have been the cause of much angst among members of residential communities in the Kingston metropolitan area. These include areas such as Trafalgar Park, New Kingston, Lady Musgrave and Cargill Road. Those gay men are raucous; violent; disorderly; public health hazards; nuisances; they engage in criminal activities such as robbery, burglary and lottery scam. These miscreants are certainly a social liability; not to mention that their behaviour is an affront to our entrenched Chrisitan morality. And, it would seem that there is just no solution, in sight, to arrest the issue.

Perhaps our challenge with finding solutions is because we have been too busy dealing with the symptoms, which I have outlined above (disorderly conduct et al). We continue to put a plaster over a putrid sore, expecting that by some miracle, it will heal. Recently, after some gays became a nuisance to residents in the Hopefield/Lady Musgrave area, Member of Parliament,Julian Robinson, Kingston & St.Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and the police came to the rescue of residents and removed those gays. MP Julian Robinson said that the gays are posing a problem to his constituents...they have been moved four times before. He further stated that "some of the homeless young men are disruptive and there is an unwillingness to house them with other homeless persons" (I am guessing he's referring to state and church owned shelters?). But we will soon hear of other residents complaining because those homeless gays are still homeless and will still capture land and they will most likely be in another residential area near you, making noise and stealing your "stuff."

I have listened to and read comments on the issue. People seemed to be very passionate about it. These DAMN battymen (derogatory name for gay men). Their behaviour is precisely why homosexuality and homosexuals, in Jamaica, cannot be afforded full rights. We have to contain and control them. Even other gays (from higher social levels) and gay rights activists have distanced themselves from these uncontrollable gay men. The comments were largely caustic and of-course those gays were the target of such causticity - and understandably so. No-one likes to feel like they are being invaded or like they are unsafe. And I guess many could identify with that. After all, if gay rights advocates/activists cannot control their own people and have moved to distant themselves from them, why should the rest of the society be understanding or compassionate? But I cannot help notice the hysteria... the picture being painted of communities being hijacked & devalued by the presence of those THINGS(whatever we see, we don't see HUMAN BEINGS. Instead, we see the issues we would prefer not to have among us).

"Unfortunately" for me, I see human beings. I see living, breathing, feeling people who are no different from I am, who have dreams and aspirations and desires and are subject to the human condition like I am. Perhaps, it is easy for many to ignore that because they are in the comfort of their homes; they are fed; they are safe; they are with family, who for the most part accept them and are not ashamed of them; they are educated and can find jobs. Those other human beings, who have none of those things I just mentioned, also have to contend with violence and homophobia on the streets that they have been abandoned to. They devise all sorts of ways to negotiate that reality; some even engaging in ILLEGAL activities like the lottery scam, sex work, robbery and bugglary. These actions will be unfathomable to most precisely because most have not had to negotiate risk, hunger, rejection much in the same way that homeless gays do. We do not consider the mental health of many of them - mental issues brought on by abandonment from families on top of the psychological pressures of violence and homophobia. Others have cracked under lighter and similar pressure and have committed suicide. Those homeless gays have managed to survive despite a fragile mind. And though some of them choose criminality to negotiate their realities - an issue that the laws are there to address - that particular narrative is not their full story. It is NOT all there is to them. How hasty we are to form opinions and judgment with incomplete stories! Something we never like for ourselves.

I know as humans, we like to pass off responsibility to others. We do not like to look at ourselves. Perhaps a fairer statement for me to make is that we cannot fully see ourselves. Johari Window is a theory that supports this with the assertion that we all have a blind spot - the inability to see certain aspects of ourselves. But perhaps as a society we need to deliberately question ourselves:

1. Why are families so afraid of supporting their gay members and would rather see them perish on the streets?

2. What if families were discouraged from being so homophobic would we have those problems on our hands?

3. Why do we hate gays so much that we do not want them to be accorded the same rights as we have; yet when they become victims to the circumstance (homelessness, joblessness, family-less etc.) to which we've relegated them, we turn around and blamed them still?

4. Could this monster, which have come back to haunt us, be the creation of our collective homophobia?

5. What would I prefer to see and what is needed to get to that vision? How may I contribute?

We have to begin to think about how we can stem the problem. How can we prevent more young gay men from becoming homeless and having to devise survival skills, some of which will affect the rest of us (even behind our high gates)? I know I may be asking us to do something hard. Judgment is so much easier! But Peter Tosh admonished us that there will be NO peace (that we seek from those homeless miscreants) until there is equal rights and justice!


  1. I am sorry to be so late in posting a comment. But just to say that the piece of land you refer to - where the MP visited - is just a stone's throw away from our house. We are acutely aware of the problem. But they are NOT a problem. They are our fellow JAMAICANS. When they pass by we speak to them as fellow human beings. They have never caused us any problems. One in particular drops by our gate regularly and we usually give him a sandwich and a drink. He doesn't ask for money and is very polite. This is the most marginalized group in society - rejects, weirdos. You only have to see how they are depicted by a cartoonist in a national newspaper, as freakish creatures. But according to church members in Jamaica as well as others (I am thinking of that nasty, spiteful column by a Roman Catholic deacon recently) gays, and especially those who are homeless and desperate, just do not have rights like the rest of us.

    1. Petchary, you brought tears to my eyes... Thank you for looking at those young wo/men and seeing humans...seeing people. With people like you, at least one moment in their "pathetic" existence would be positive and filled with loving kindness. That for me drowns out all the misanthropy that said cartoonist and deacon can ever perpetuate. Thank you!!!

      Readers, Petchary operates an insightful blog that reviews news and current affairs in Jamaica. You may go to to peruse...

  2. I don't see why their sexual orientation is such a major factor in the news, they are nothing short of young Jamaican men and should be seen and treated as such.

    We need to stop dividing ourselves into groups, arguing for gay rights is still proposing for division and as such we will forget we are the same, instead argue for human rights. We all should aim to fall under one category and as such be treated with equal and respectable regard, no matter what differences we may have, be it Sexuality, Gender, Race, Colour or Creed. "Out of Many, One People", It is so ironic that this is our motto.


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