A gay's life is not an easy road
I wish to respond to comments made by Children's Advocate Betty-Ann Blaine and Former ACP Les Green on Jamaica and homophobia.
I have been following this kind of conversation for months now. With the suggestion that Jamaica is not homophobic, I am compelled to add my voice. Being gay in Jamaica is a most difficult journey. As my high school principal once said: "Who would choose to be gay in Jamaica?"
As a gay Jamaican in my early 20s, I have seen both sides of the spectrum. I have met Jamaicans who shine in love, no matter their belief on sexuality. We share our differences in space and views. I thank them for that. I have also seen and experienced first-hand, a bitter, violent and homophobic Jamaica. I came face to face with this bitterness at or around the age of 12. I'm no football player or didn't do the things that "real boys" were supposed to do. I was labelled a sissy and was called a b....man. I was ostracised at school and was thrown out of my community. I was abused physically and verbally. I have never been in an abusive relationship. The individuals who ostracised, abused (physically and verbally) and nearly killed me were all straight community members, students and strangers whom I had never met before.
So Mrs Blaine and Mr Green say Jamaica isn't homphobic. I scoff at that in response. I will use wisdom and assume they have interacted only with the first set of Jamaicans I highlighted above. My story isn't the only one. Hundreds of young Jamaicans, gay and lesbian, are exposed daily to homophobic violence. Hundreds are forced to leave their communities. Hundreds have to sell their bodies because they are forced from the education system. Hundreds don't understand the nuances of sexuality and are exposed to various diseases. Hundreds, as Tony Rebel points out, have the potential to become lawyers and doctors, but the system has failed them.
Mrs Blaine, don't you hear the cries of these children? Are you so caught up with pushing your own agenda that you can't see or admit to what's happening? If you have your ears to the ground, as you say, then why do you keep turning a blind eye to the fact that Jamaica is homophobic? What sort of "New Nation" do you seek to live in when you have conveniently held on to draconian ideas of sexuality?
Does Mrs Blaine or Mr Green understand what it means to be gay in Jamaica? Do they know what it feels like to go to school each morning with fear of death weighing on you, gripping at your being? Do they even understand the pain of footsteps in your face? Do they even understand how it feels to rush home ahead of your parents to scrub the scars and blood from your body so no one knows? Do they even realise what homophobia does to families? Do they even understand how secrecy chokes and dismantles you so much that you can't even perform in school? Is violence the only indication of homophobia?
I am Jamaican but Jamaica is not for me. I encourage you to put on a gay's shoes and walk around in them. Then you will see that it isn't an easy road!