J-FLAG RESPONDS TO LES GREEN AND BETTY-ANN BLAINE’S ANTI-GAY RHETORIC
We at AGFC are impressed that J-FLAG has now got on board like us in analysing anti- gay rhetoric and exposing the truth.
We hope this continues.
IS JAMAICA A MORE TOLERANT SOCIETY?
by Dane Lewis, Contributor
In recent days, much has been discussed about the issue of homophobia in Jamaica with the dominant theme being Jamaica is tolerant and the situation is sensationalized by the “gay lobby”, which I presume means J-FLAG and international observers.
Many Jamaicans seem to believe the killing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons over the years has been a result of domestic disputes and violence among ourselves. The most recent commentators promoting this idea include former Assistant Commissioner of Police, Les Green, and New Nation Coalition Convenor, Betty-Ann Blaine. On Sunday, July 8, 2012, ACP Green was quoted in the Sunday Observer saying murders against gay Jamaicans are perpetrated by gays. The difficulty with Green’s statement is that it is buttressed by empirical data and the respectability which his high office confers has given legitimacy to the inaccuracy of his statements. After all, as Ms. Blaine states, “…when Les Green speaks people listen.” Therein lies the problem.
Discrimination and Violence Against LGBT
When I took office as head of J-FLAG in 2008, my own perceptions were coloured by my own personal experience and those of friends and associates. I was a victim of a mob attack in 1996 when men slashed three of my car tires and stoned the vehicle as I tried to get myself and two friends to safety when we went to visit a friend, who is also gay, in an inner-city community. The greatest problem, as I saw it (at the time), wasn’t the verbal assault and destruction of property but the fear of further victimisation by the police. I was not prepared to disclose to the police, at the police station where we sought refuge, the motive for the attack. I was well aware from others who had had similar experiences, that officers were openly hostile to gay men in such situations. Thankfully, the police, in many recent instances where LGBT persons report abuses, have been professional. However, hostility as an expression of their disapproval of LGBT persons still exists.
Over the years, while the LGBT community has been well aware of and has painstakingly reported incidents of abuses perpetrated against them merely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, these crimes have not received much attention as victims are either fearful of publicity or, perhaps, the instances were not considered newsworthy, except where was some part of the story contained some salacious detail. However, in more recent times, the media has been broadcasting news stories of these senseless human rights violations. In the face of increased media attention to these instances, I find it perplexing that the veil of ignorance is being worn with pride by people who ought to know better. And had it not been that they were perhaps so invested in their own ignorance, they might have taken notice of these facts prior to making their utterances.
Jamaicans are Progressively Tolerant
Let us be clear. Jamaica has made some progress, albeit not uniformly as a society, in respecting the humanity, dignity and equality of LGBT persons. J-FLAG has highlighted this on several occasions. The fact that we are now able to have a balanced discussion around this issue and persons are openly making statements in support of anti-discrimination and legislative reform is certainly an improvement from where things were when J-FLAG had its tumultuous launch in 1998.
When Bruce Golding in 2008 declared to the world that no homosexual would be welcome to serve in his Cabinet, there was a considerable condemnation from Jamaicans for his stance on the issue. The current Prime Minister, Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, was applauded for taking a mature approach on the issue, in contrast to the confident bigotry displayed by her predecessor. However, let me be equally clear that I am certainly under no illusion that these sentiments yet represent the view of the majority. We are still comfortable, as a nation, in expressing bigoted positions towards a community that wants no more than to love those adult persons who love them in return, free from the spectre of harassment, victimisation and persecution.
Admirable public statements and pockets of increased tolerance towards the LGBT community should not negate the reality of the discrimination and violence being experienced. J-FLAG receives almost daily calls, emails and walk-in reports of persons being kicked out of their homes, physically assaulted, raped and verbally abused because of who they are. Professor Ian Boxill has found that 82% of Jamaicans are homophobic. Between 2009 and 2011, there have been 186 incidents of human rights abuses reported to us with the highest number of 84 being recorded in 2011. There were 27 incidents of physical assaults with 8 of them being assaulted with a weapon. Additionally, there is a whole host of LGBT persons we know nothing about, many of who are not victims of the virulent expression of disapproval but who suffer in silence and/or live a life of lies. This does nothing but harm their psyche and well-being.
Since January 2012, there have been approximately 20 incidents with 11 of them being physical assaults. I am grateful the media has reported some of these because it removes the discussion from the realm of conjecture and provides evidence to counter the baseless assertions by those who contend otherwise. For example, in two separate incidents CVM TV showed the crowds that descended on the person who was merely going about their business and in another newscast reported that the occupants of a house were forced to flee their community because a mob came down on the house.
We are also familiar with the incident in Half Way Tree in 2007, to which ACP Green referred, where apparently because of their style of dress, some homosexuals had to be barricaded inside a store, and eventually rescued by the police. Perhaps this and other incidents were not in ACP Green’s mind, when he made the regrettable statement: “I am not into gay-bashing, but the problem is cross-dressing and going downtown. Do they do that to create a media blitz? That just seems too contrived”. If he was quoted accurately, in ACP Les Green’s view, apparently the crowd must have been provoked because this group choose not to hide who they were, by their clothing, sense of style and presumably, body language. I am not sure whether he realises that there is very little difference between this sentiment and the school of thought that blames women who are raped for triggering the assault by dressing in a “provocative manner.” Both sentiments are unfortunate and would have been rightly condemned in his own country had he done so.
Let us also recall the story of Oshane Gordon, of New England in Lilliput, St. James, who on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, 16 year-old Oshane Gordon was chopped to death for questionable relations with a man. CVM TV news reports that he was then chopped numerous times when the men caught up with him after he attempted to escape. His mother also suffered injuries. On August 2, 2011 CVM also reported that Ricardo Morgan was chopped to death by a gang member in his community of Torrington Park.
J-FLAG’s Relationship with the Police
Mr. Green’s assertion that he worked closely with J-FLAG is worrying as thus far, during my tenure, our engagement was limited to John Terry’s murder which he said was not homophobic even when the evidence of a note stating that “this will happen to all gay men” was found at the crime scene. We attempted in mid-2010 unsuccessfully to engage with CISOCA around reporting incidents to the police. There was also email communication regarding a death threat of Maurice Tomlinson to which he did nothing more than express concerns and say that it “may be worth reporting to the police.” Given our ‘close working relationship’ I thought it unfortunate that he would reduce the discrimination being faced by the community to murders although he hinted at his own reading of what would make a change – the change in the law.
Thanks to the efforts of many persons and entities we, the LGBT community, enjoy a much better relationship with the police. They have provided security at all our public demonstrations and we have a good working relationship and allies at CISOCA and some police stations islandwide. They also provide security for some social events and deal with LGBT event coordinators professionally.
Gay on Gay Crimes
The truth is that there needs to be a deeper analysis of these murder cases of persons in “relationships and domestic situations” from the usual resignation to ‘crime of passion’ label. If a gay man is murdered in his home with no visible sign of forced entry it does not automatically mean his lover killed him. And even so, it must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrator brought to justice nonetheless. Our willingness to park in this position and move no further is most startling. I admit I am no police investigator and may not have all the evidence, but certainly if in the case of John Terry for example the perpetrator was motivated enough to stop and write this note after committing the crime, denotes clear motive. Thorough investigations may reveal that some of these murders could be transactional relationships and the fatal moment precipitated by broken promises or negotiations that broke down. The assailant, unsurprisingly, will probably not self-identify as gay or bisexual. He might, if apprehended, claim that he was the victim of an unwanted sexual advance. However, we will never know this since so many of us resign ourselves to a fallacy that gays are jealous and out to kill themselves.
In adding to the rhetoric, Betty Ann Blaine has chosen not to address the complexities, being so grateful that no less a person than Les Green has come out and defended this “One love, one heart” nation from the slings and arrows of “outrageous” international observers. The complexities do not serve her purposes. The fact that this country and its dancehall culture also produced the anthemic “Boom bye bye”, a song that is still widely played, and generally greeted with the fingers forming the shape of a gun, along with the daggering culture seems to have escaped her.
It is encouraging that we have begun to really debate in 2012 that “homophobia” still exists in Jamaica, especially when there is empirical evidence of this. But clearly, we do and all views must contend if we are to move this issue forward. Jamaica certainly has a vibrant thriving homosexual community; no one denies this but Jamaica has a far way to go in normalising its relationship with those of its citizens who find themselves being counted among the ‘other’.
As we dialogue openly and honestly, consider that one’s own reality is framed by one’s experiences and so one must be careful not to negate another person’s reality based on their own contrary perception and therefore suggest it does not exist.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC7HSlF0IzI&feature=g-all-u [at 3:15mins]
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdNiD1GhjH8 [at 23:35 mins]
 http://www.youtube.com/user/cvmtelevision#p/u/18/ZYgGDH_SgbI [at 9:50mins]