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.