Gay Courage

Alright, so Active Voice wasn’t such a good choice of a blog title considering it’s been more than a month since my initial posting. How active is that, right? Its one thing to celebrate being rid of editors, but what’s hard to cope with is the accompanying loss of deadlines. It’s a terrible thing to admit but I’ve discovered how abjectly dependent I am on deadlines to get the words flowing.

Anyway, this morning I’m cracking the whip on myself so let’s see how far I can get. Try as one might it’s hard to get away from the subject of the police in Jamaica and the lamentable excesses they can’t seem to help perpetrating in the course of discharging their duties (the latest is that an 11-month old infant was killed by a police bullet yesterday while in another part of the country a number of legit farmers lost their crops after a fire set by police officers in a neighbouring ganja field got out of control). Some weeks ago the nation was convulsed by the confession of Detective Constable Cary Lyn-Sue, who admitted to falsification of witnesses and evidence and on the heels of this came another cop confession—this time from Constable Michael Hayden, announcing that he was gay and proud of it and that he was suffering active discrimination and abuse from his colleagues because of this.

I had started a blog on the subject some weeks ago but then the New York Times carried a substantive article on both Hayden and the abuse and harassment of male homosexuals in Jamaica (February 24, 2008) so I thought it redundant to express my views on this vexed issue right then. Suffice it to say that far more education and honest debate on the subject needs to take place here. At the same time international gay rights organizations also need to educate themselves on the very complex reasons for what is being termed Jamaican homophobia.

What I mean by this is that just as white feminists realized gradually that they could not determine the feminist agenda for the rest of the world because of differing social, cultural and historical conditions elsewhere so must organizations such as GLAD, Outrage and others develop a more modulated and nuanced strategy when trying to intervene in the sexual politics of places such as Jamaica (in this context they could start by reading Marlon James latest blog ). A ‘one size fits all’ approach is bound to fail; in the process it also makes the terrain that much more dangerous for the most vulnerable homosexual of all, the impoverished, working-class male.

The climate of terror and violence towards homosexuals is to be condemned unequivocally. I had the opportunity to talk with both Andre and Michael Hayden, two of the principals mentioned in the NYT article on a local radio show that I was co-hosting. Andre was among a group of men in Mandeville whose home was stormed by a mob of cutlass-wielding men who proceeded to beat and ‘chop’ them for nothing more than their sexual orientation. It was hard to look at Andre, a gentle, dreamy-eyed youth sitting in front of me covered in ugly scars and bandages and not want to reach out and hug him and apologize for the barbaric treatment that he had recieved.

Likewise it was impossible not to admire the courage of young Michael Hayden who decided to come out and defend his rights both as a police officer and as a human being. According to him it was rumours spread by policemen at the station he worked at who knew that he was in the habit of visiting the house that may have incited the mob attack (According to Hayden female police officers–perhaps he reasoned, because they go through the experience of childbirth–were far more sympathetic to him and the gay cause in general). It is refreshing to see such fierce and forthright outspokenness in someone who has finally decided that he’s not willing to remain silent any more. If only more of the rich and powerful gays here could find the courage to speak out too it would make all the difference; it’s hard to see the situation here changing anytime soon unless this happens.

Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

19 thoughts on “Gay Courage”

  1. Annie – Thanks for this post. This one definitely pushed a few buttons for me. Yes, like Marlon, I’m going to get much mileage out of this one.Thanks for hosting that show. I think that you should have hugged the young man, no matter how uncomfortable it might have been for you to do so. That gesture of compassion and empathy sends a powerful message, and for him, it would have made a world of difference in that moment. The smallest things matter, and in a place where you cannot count on a kind word or gesture from so-called good folk, affirming someone’s humanity is priceless.I really take issue with your comment about rich gay men needing to come out to change the current temperature, which is boiling hot. That’s just bullshit. I feel like this has become the new way for straight people in Ja. who are otherwise critical of runnings to take the easy way out; blaming the problem on gay folks removes the responsibility from you all to create the kind of environment that would make it even worth one’s while to come out, even for a second. If I was a gay man, I don’t business what is what, I would not come out unless I was prepared to go down swinging. Why? Because it is abundantly clear that they cannot count on their so-called straight friends and other so-called decent people to defend them. When notions of decency, fairness and justice do not move people to unilaterally condemn this kind of behavior, when they are not even speaking out for others they don’t know and are less connected to; why should they speak out for someone with whom they have close, visible ties?No, we don’t need gay courage; that’s a daily thing that goes unrecognized, even while more will continue to manifest.What we need is straight courage, and lots of it. The courage of decent people like yourself to be unabashed in your condemnation of these vigilante squads, and the active neglect of the state on these matters; the courage to unilaterally denounce this faux-government for failing to speak out about this, Kern or no Kern; the courage to see and say what makes this kind of violence so completely dangerous in a society already plagued by violence; the courage to call those vile fuckers in Mandeville out, and demand that they explain themselves, show their faces for the cowards that we know they are, turn themselves in, and accept the consequences of their behavior if they feel themselves so righteous in the first place; the courage to criticize the newsmakers, politicians and talking heads for constantly inciting violence against gay people. Yes, even the courage to invent language and use it to describe the situation that we are facing. This is courage. Annie, it has been 15 years of this same debate about what to call this hatemongering and rabid violence and whether to do anything about it. 15 long years. It is not enough to complain that GLAAD and all them don’t have the right approach or the facts in place, or whatever. They have something, wrong, annoying and miscalculated as it is. What do we have, exactly, besides nationalist anxieties? It is not enough to argue that “homophobia” is not the full story. Give us an analysis that is better, rather than just the same old reactive “you don’t live here so you don’t know.” Come the fuck on now, Annie. Who created this problem in the first place? Those who have remained silent and waited for others, mostly gay folks, to do the dirty work for them, that’s who. Well, we’re dying but we’re not going anywhere. It’s time for y’all to get to work do your part. You are right that we need to have a different kind of conversation. I hope this gets it going.LivityLong

  2. Hey, Annie-get-yu-gun…I think you have said what needs to be said – we can only start by airing our views and asking others to rethink theirs, start to think and talk instead of feel and react. An interpretation I have of your blog title (since you mentioned it 🙂 is that no matter how much we ‘say’ in a forum such as this which is essentially passive, it cannot amount to the same effect as words and actions spoken and performed ‘in the moment’ (as long pointed out in his second paragraph). so i thank ‘long’ for reminding me of that – and pray we all who read this will have the courage, when next we get the opportunity – to speak honestly in the moment.Peace, Niki

  3. Wow, thanks LB and Niki, especially LB for your thought-provoking response and suggestions. well, this is how one learns isn’t it, by this kind of arguing and debating back and forth. and yes i wish i had hugged both Andre and Michael that day, part of the problem is that i’m not such an easy hugger with anyone but yes, if i’d realized it would make a difference i would have.i disagree Niki about the passiveness of this medium, it has the power to bring people together who never might have bucked up otherwise and groups of like-minded people can decide to do things together that could contribute to change.what i’ve realized is that you don’t know the power of the blogosphere until you actually enter it…annie

  4. Excellent article. Even though the rest of the English Caribbean has a way to go in terms of implementing appropriate legislation and changing mindsets Jamaica seems to be in remote category all its own. The level of hatred seems completely out of hand and must speak of some deeply rooted national neurosis. Trinidad may have its problems but there is not the sort of rabid and ostensible hatred of others based on sexual orientation. Though the laws here may be mired in the Victorian age and legislators lack the courage to change them the population seems more prone to tacit acceptance of the reality of human sexuality. Brings to mind the line from E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice when the psychiatrist counsels Maurice to move to France because “The British have always been disinclined to accept human nature”.

  5. Yes now as if Jamaica didn’t already have enough problems with the police now we have this openly gay sodomite being permitted to walk around with a GUN and the authority to search your home while wearing a g-string under his uniform.Look what what he run go tell the International Batty Media today — “Jamaica’s motto is ‘Out of Many, One People,’ and I say, ‘What about us?’ ” said the police officer, Michael Hayden.Imagine! The day come in Jamaica where a battyman police can openly say he is a gays to the International Batty Media and nobody set his house on fire?This just goes to show how NOBODY, not even Jamaica is safe from the International Gayish Movement and its homosexual desires to draw everyone into their global batty plan.This police must be prosecuted and then put to death by law in Half Way Tree for high treason and buggeries and broadcast it live on CVM with sponsorship by Appleton and Digicel.It is wrong!

  6. Gay Police seeking Batty Freedoms in CanadaSee it here now that same batty police surface in the news again. And why? Because he seeking batty freedom in Canada where he can wear his police uniform to gay foam party and do vogue dancing.He tell the International Batty Media that ‘ he’s lost 13 gay friends since 2004, yet police refuse to acknowledge there’s a problem.’Nobody never tell this faget that its not the job of the police to treat HIV pasitive?How can he say it is dangerous for gays in Jamaica when its those same gays that control the country for the last 18 years and own the newspapers and the cable stations and when you go a dance all you see is bare pencil foot pants bway a dance with one annada and trample over girl fi go stand up ina videolight?This traitorous gay must be stopped before he can leave and hung by his neck until dead under the anti-batty law.

  7. I agree that blogging is not a passive medium at all. Indeed, in this moment when our government more closely resembles a fascist rather than a democratic institution, making it possible to air diverse points of view, even in this privileged space, is downright radical.As for the anti-homosexual mania that rages on – I don’t think the existence of laws has much to do with how people feel or don’t feel. Rather, the anti-sodomy law seems to have become the tool used by all — from the prime minister to the psychologists — to legitimize the violence. In my view, there is little interest in cultivating open dialogue and diverse points of view about anything these days. And every institution — from basic school to university — is participating in this mass closing of Jamaican minds. Not just on sexuality, but on everything that bears on our existence these days. For example, we as a society can’t even get to have a decent conversation about human rights, because the “experts” step in and tell us what to think in the loftiest and most opaque language possible. Even though we have these HR organizations, we still don’t really know why HR matters dearly to us as Ja’cns. Frankly, we don’t have honest conversations as real people living together in this society; rather we engage in monologues, talking as members and representatives of categories — “Christians” vs. “homosexuals” vs. whatever — rather than as citizens and as human beings with basic, universal needs.Those men who were chopped up were persons – somebody’s children, brothers, uncles, cousins. Those who barged into their houses wielding cutlasses and knives were parents, shopkeepers, mothers, brothers, members of families. What does it mean to have compassion? To take human life seriously? To see people as valuable rather than expendable parts of community? To try to see ourselves in other people? Necessary conversations — how should we have these conversations is the question, not whether. Any idea how to start?

  8. Long Bench,thanks for this. i’ve been wanting to respond to your earlier comment re straight courage vs. gay courage. agree that the former is needed in industrial quantities. i think it’s beginning to happen, too slowly of course, but straight people are speaking out more and more, not enough yet but hopefully one the meantime what can people like us do in real time to make a difference? how to hold the necessary conversations remains something to figure out. let’s think seriously about it…tek careannie

  9. the batty-man community needs to be acknowledged as such, faggots. CAn we accept then in Jamaica, no. Is it a lifestyle that is acceptable or should be accepted as a viable alternative no. By no means i will kill because another man let another man “jump him”, however, i cannot condem the killing these faggots. ” Boom bie” for all of them. It is time for straight men to be more more productive, to be a professional is to mingle with these faggots and shake their hands in board meetings. But professional life is just that, professional life. If all straight men were more productive then there would not be so much faggots in the board rooms.What we all need to know is that, as jamaicans, we can stop all the fagoots in their tracks by being more productive and such, own the means of productions. In that regard, we can do something about the these faggots having economic clouts in our society. todays’ “fruit cakes” are by no means a problem, its what they stand for, imagine these faggots putting forward their lifestyle to the younger youths of Jamaica. that is , my issue, thats where the danger stands. In this case, they should be kept in the closet. Just like the faggot “PeterQueen”, they will kill off themselves in due time.Let us keep them in their closet. let us protect our kids.Regards

  10. Thanks for your candid comment Anon, it’s striking that you’re afraid to say these things under your own name but it’s useful nevertheless to get responses like this.Yes, something that does need to be discussed when we finally are able to do so dispassionately is the role of homosexuals who are abusive and contribute to the widespread negative perception by their actions. But surely such people constitute a minority?Homosexuals exist in all societies, should they all be purged? why and how? one of the most vocal anti-gay friends i have has now changed her position because her second son who is all of four years old wants to wear dresses, make up and jewellery and wishes ardently he were a ‘princess’ and had a ponytail. He certainly doesn’t get this from his very hetero parents!ap

  11. Urb’n skola (great name!),thanks for your query. actually i’m not sure, i was referring to the campaign to “Stop Murder Music” which started in teh UK but also spread to the US where gay rights groups would systematically lobby for Jamaican DJs to be banned from performing. i reached for some names and OUTrage and GLAD came to mind. But after your question i’ve been googling to check this and can’t come up with any instances of GLAD being linked to these protests. Do you have any info on this?ap

  12. Annie, I want to commend you for this article for, among others, capturing in many respects the complexity of this issue, especially for us here in Jamaica. Like you, I am appalled by this prejudice which allows us to feel that it is somehow okay to hate other people – whoever they are, and to move from that into beating and killing them because of our own anxieties about their difference. For certainly, this is where this leads – death and destruction of ‘the other’, as we percieve them. What I want to focus on, however, and to perhaps draw your attention to is, how in our efforts to represent the context of homophobic attitudes towards certain expressions of sexuality in Jamaica it is sometimes overlooked that issues of race and class are also intersecting dynamics in this debate and how these are treated at ‘ground zero’. In other words, in our efforts to be as ‘PC’, as we feel able, these variables are sometimes ignored. Homosexual men, especially, from ‘uptown’, in other words, who in reality may not even be considered “gay” in the sense in which that term is considered almost derogatory, do not experience the same types of prejudice as do men of the working classes, the vast majority of who are poor, black and not as well educated. I often find myself wondering, as a result, to what extent are the prejudices mobilised against working class men smeared with the unfortunate label “gay” and “batty man” in Jamaica but another aspect of the ‘crab inna barrel’ syndrome, as part of the legacy of race (ism) bequeathed to us by white, British colonialism with its super-privileging of upper-class, white elitism? We in Jamaica seem somewhat oblivious to this reality and rarely ever does it get acknowledged, in my opinion, in these types of conversations. As a result, the middle classes own complicity in this state of affairs is to also be questioned, I believe.…By the way, thanks for the comment on my page!

  13. What a load of rubbish Anon…about it is time to protect our kids…If you believe that blinding people to other forms of life is the way to create some kind of haven…you are deluding yourself of the problem at hand… What makes you afraid…is it an alternative it the idea that someone has a different perception on sexuality… have you been exploring lately and would you like to…Moreover..what are you talking about production..are you in charge of some right to reproduce that I don’t know anything about… Do you believe there is right way and wrong way to do so..Are you thinking of converting to carrying a baby in your stomach and would you like to experience the pain at childbirth…Do you feel left out in some way…Do you believe that if you train children to think in a specific order or fashion that the child will automatically think in the same manner…What about freedom and rights for children…I mean most attractions start at an early have a device that is going to curb these thoughts..have you been thinking of starting a lab of some kind…Will you be a new Frankenstein or why not Hitler while we are it…Curb the race and so on and so forth… If I follow your train of thought what should stop white supremacists from doing the same with people from other cultures..Do you believe the same confines and limitations should be allowed to other orders of thought…I mean where are we going with our logic here ..have you thought this one through?

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