“…the creation of our collective homophobia?”

Homeless gay youth live on the streets of Kingston and terrorize passers by…what is the solution? Could this problem be a “creation of our collective homophobia?”

Today the Gleaner carried a headline and article which has dominated the talk shows all morning. “Gays Wreak Havoc – Cops Say Homosexuals Too Much To Handle In South East St Andrew“. The first paragraph says it all:

Police personnel assigned to the St Andrew Central Division are admitting they are at their wits’ end in their bid to apprehend members of an ever-increasing group of self-proclaimed homosexuals who are allegedly wreaking havoc in the Golden Triangle and New Kingston communities of South East St Andrew.

Jamaicans have only themselves to blame for this problem of homeless gay street youth. This isn’t the first time we’re hearing about this. Several times last year we heard about the problems police were having with aggressive homeless homosexuals in New Kingston (see above video). JFLAG (the local gay rights lobby group) attempted to mediate but finally threw up their arms in frustration as it seemed there was little they could do to help. The young gay street youth wouldn’t listen to them. People calling up the radio stations are demanding swift punitive action but the Police have nowhere to put the young men if they arrest them and therefore  are ‘at their wits’ end’ as the article startlingly says.

Well this is clearly a case of the chickens coming home to roost. In December I read a blogpost that asked a very pertinent, self-evident  question: “Could this monster, which has come back to haunt us, be the creation of our collective homophobia?”

The writer goes on to point out that if Jamaican attitudes to homosexuality force families to evict members who are gay and if society in general then denies the young men decent jobs and the social wherewithal to make lives for themselves the outcasts will then do what outcasts everywhere do for survival: beg, borrow, steal, harrass, attack and generally ‘get on bad’.

It’s a predictable outcome. Why are we so surprised? Here is a homegrown case for a drastic revision of the counter-productive but widespread local bias against gays. This pressure isn’t coming from the international gay community, there is no foreign hand we can point to accusingly, this is a case of putting our house in order by ensuring that we don’t stigmatize those who are different from us, casting them out of society till they have no choice but to prey on the rest of us. There is not much the police can do about this problem. The solution to this one lies fairly and squarely in the hands of all Jamaicans. Let’s deal with it post-haste by dismantling the atmosphere of hysteria and denial surrounding homosexuality.

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

28 thoughts on ““…the creation of our collective homophobia?””

  1. JFLAG is partly responsible for this problem escalating to where it is now, the anti social behaviours also is an issue coupled with the bizarre group dynamics, they (JFLAG) sat back and watched a previous Safe House pilot shelter set up and ran by JASL closed in Dec 2009 for the same supposed rowdy behaviour this was without the necessary timely stabilization work with the population to unlearn those attitudes and adapt new proper social skills.

    Only peer educator training was done for the most part which is more HIV prevention focused and not psycho-socially or psycho sexually directed or for personal development or self esteem growth hence the challenges from then till today. In fact the very space that is their office now was the shelter which makes many speculate that their office space was more important to address than the lives of some of the least among the MSM community thinking that the men would have remain in the underground but they came to the front instead as this new population is not introverted as their predecessors.

  2. The headline this morning reminded me of the need for gay Jamaicans to come out. “GAYS WREAK HAVOK”. It’s a narrative we know well. It’s the dominant narrative that the media propagates and which is lodged in the minds of most. The attitudes and actions of this small group of gay and transgender men is used to justify the homophobia (or “homo-negativity” as some prefer) of those who fear that normalizing homosexuality will result in (more) social upheaval.

    Annie, I agree with your sentiments above, but I believe that without diversifying the narratives told about gay Jamaican lives the actions of these men will harden homophobic hearts rather than soften them.

  3. As Javed mentioned, this is a very small minority – some 20 – 30 people. We have lived in the “Golden Triangle” area where gays are supposed to be “wreaking havoc” for 25 years, and frankly, they have never been a problem for us. We have homeless people knocking on our gate quite regularly (some of them we know by name), and we try to help them, give them food or a little money (much to the horror of our neighbors, who think we “encourage” them). But they have never disturbed any of us so far as I know. But you are SO right – Jamaicans have brought in on themselves. You cannot push one group to the extreme edges of society and expect them to be nice little well-behaved citizens. Of course law and order must be maintained. But so must human rights and justice for all Jamaicans.

  4. A part of me wonders if this would be such a big issue if it wasn’t an uptown neighborhood being affected. There is much more to this than is being shared.

  5. I would not have problem with the gay folks only if they could explain to my knowledge feeling, By being it, do they deny on the real cause and reason of their existence! Personally, as long as I exist, the indeed part of mine shall be between a MAN and WOMAN. So, through the distance and awareness I am deeply confident of my conception.

  6. Annie, you are so right on all counts. Now, will the politicans listen? In the meantime, I fully endorse Javed’s argument that we gays must “flip the script.” In this regard I note how little local media attention was paid to J-FLAG’s excellent “We are Jamaicans,” even though it was well received internationally. It seems, we are a population that likes to complain but have little time for actual solutions.

  7. I will confess to being quite confused after reading the Gleaner article. I wondered about their speculating that these ‘gangs’ were gay, if that was some kind of assumption based in someone’s own perception. The idea of homeless groups of gay young people seemed to be implausible to me, until I read this. Of course. How entirely naive of me. There is of course no going ‘back’ to sanity, we have never been there when it comes to this subject and to the way that women are treated by our society. Our quest must be to finally get to a sane place, at last.

  8. I think we are all avoiding another part of this issue. The issue of class, Its obvious that gays
    in general are not the problem but rather, gays from the nations poorest communities. We have all been aware of the “thriving gay communities” in upper St. Andrew for decades, no issues there. But the hypocrisy comes when we now pretend that there is an issue with gays……Homophobia in Jamaica is really an economical issue rather than an issue of some make-belief moral. Lets face it our collective unconscious hate for the poor of this country trumps any ill feelings we have for a minority sexual class.

    1. Yes Phillip, can’t deny that at all, the poor are the most discriminated against in many ways but there isn’t really the kind of sustained rhetoric against them that you hear against gays. Yes poor gays face a double jeopardy but middle class, upper class gays also can never openly admit to being gay. Rex Nettleford never did, though everyone KNEW he was gay or suspected it but he couldn’t openly walk around with his partner and that situation prevails today with many others. and rich or poor you can’t serve in a JLP cabinet…so it’s a matter of degrees….

      1. I am unsure of the fact that upper income Jamaican homosexuals has been wanting to present themselves with PDF “public displays of affection”, in the same sense that Jamaican heterosexuals are not in any hurry to engage in public bouts of affection. This is more or less due to our provincial social structures. For this same reason the common argument of dance-hall seclusion vs carnivals’ public frolic has always been a hot button debate.. These ways of thinking about public behavior vs private behavior has always been apart of the fabric of our social construct. I think these constructs does present themselves within our sexuality weather gay or strait. No one for a second could believe that Prof. Rex would have been in any danger admitting that he was gay even though we use the word “admitting” in the same sense as a “confession” of guilt, we have very little proof to think that he was reluctant for fare of his life. As for politics, we all know that gays make up both political parties in our country, the issue of “Not in my cabinet” is really a matter of condescending to the masses to secure votes, Which both parties are certainly guilty of “Don’t draw my tongue”. In the end, we must give the masses some credit of civility, after all “shibada” does not seem to be hesitant in his flamboyancy and it is certain that his target audience is not the bourgeoisie.

      2. Listen i wasn’t talking about public displays of affection. I specifically mentioned a situation where someone like Rex N was never free to appear in public with his partner…just APPEAR in Public. Neither are any of the other upper class gays you speak of, the one rare one who was pretty open was murdered–Peter King.

      3. I have a whole paper on Shebada but that isn’t good enough either…yes Shebada shows that Jamaica is more tolerant than people think but even Shebada insists that he is only ACTING–he’s not free to come ‘out’ as a gay, if indeed he is gay…

      4. Yes I agree Ambassador Peter King was VERY forward. But to insist that he was killed for that specific reason is a little misleading–I would suspect that if he was killed for that reason then it would be a safe guess that his murderer was heterosexual\homophobic and I am unsure that we have the privilege of such information —I think.. The circumstances of Kings’ death to this day is very very suspicious to say the least, it is very difficult for me to imagine that a group of “homophobes” decide to “find” ambassador kings place of residence to go make an example of him is a little far reaching for me, Lets be honest, the manner in which Mr King was killed has all the tell tale signs of something more than a killing of intolerance. Our country has for many years reserved a sort of social pocket for the idea of “flamboyance” regardless of the various roots plays in question or in our traditional rituals as well as merely
        the guys selling women’s underwear in down town, who will go as far as wearing the garments to attract customers. These acceptable pockets of gender-neutrality has not been confusing to our people for as long as they have been around. But the idea of Prof Rex not being able to “visit” the public space with his life partner is again a little confusing for me. Again, I suspect that everyone in our country and perhaps the region suspect and or know that the Prof. was gay. I don’t recall pitchfork wielding mods lay-waiting Rex up at the campus or at any other suspected venues or “sightings”. Please dont get me wrong I do understand that our reputation precedes us, and as an individual who has studied outside of our country and has been prejudged for my mere accent I know what you mean about intolerance. But when will we be able to say with all honesty that our entertainment industry has set the expectancy for our nations tolerance? we are no wear near the likes of Afghanistan or north Korea etc yet our national image on the subject far overlaps those nations. I do appreciate the conversation from all, but I suspect that there are a few gray areas that still exist and as far as I can tell are not being looked at. I must apologies for my lengthy texts I am very new at blogging….

      5. I didn’t say he was killed for that reason. I said unfortunately he was murdered and he was one rare example of someone who was out and very much about…i havent read any more of what you’ve written yet….it looks quite long, so not sure when i’ll get around to it but you should really consider starting a blog yourself. Because you clearly have a lot to say 🙂

  9. Annie, do you think you could possibly send your blog piece to the Gleaner? A woman wrote today about the situation and totally misrepresented it.

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