Letters to the Editor

Dear principals and boards of management

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The matter of regard for diversity in our tertiary-level institutions is still theoretical rather than lived. The matter is reaching alarming proportions in terms of the number of students who are feeling scared, hurt, despised, even as other students make innuendos, pass sotto voce comments, post graffiti, and sometimes shout naming and shaming comments to insult persons deemed to have LGBT status.

Civil society groups will not represent these concerns since victims of bullying and anti-LGBT comments and actions are understandably afraid of coming forward to speak about their suffering and pain. Civil society groups only speak to situations which are presented by victims; however, the matter of revealing one's identity with taboo concerns is anathema.

Imagine students being afraid to leave their rooms as a group is heard on the corridor speaking in anger against LGBT people. Imagine the pressure that heterosexual males face under the burden of proving that they are indeed straight. Tertiary-level students, though adults, are at a stage where they are also trying to come to terms with matters of human sexuality and their own identity.

Tertiary level reality is more than the academic. Many are also exploring relationship issues and intimate concerns. In a society that is limited concerning gender and sexual diversity, ignorance reigns supreme. It makes no sense complaining to lecturers, since they too will be concerned about advocacy in a heteronormative culture.

There are institutions at the secondary and tertiary levels which present, theoretically, a lovely face for sensitivity to diversity and respect for all.

However, the lived reality on the ground is another matter. Handbooks and websites have the right wording and may appeal to potential givers. However, the bullying and the shaming are real. All students are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Transgender students suffer immensely as they hear comments which demean, stigmatise, and shame. Sadly, the offenders are often not aware of the pain they cause. Then there are those who, though gay, must join in some of the expressions of anti-gay sentiments as a safety cover where fragile masculinity is the order of the day. They then go out to be teachers in our schools across the length and breadth of Jamaica. And the ignorance prevails. More children suffer in silence. Tertiary-level institutions will continue, though, to give lip service to making Jamaica a preferred place to live, work, and raise families, blah, blah, blah.

Let the powers that be know in our various institutions of higher learning that we continue to ignore everyone when we remain indifferent to the necessity for sensitivity to gender and sexual diversity. That famous teacher-training institution in Kingston should beware. If you listen, you may hear the silent screams within your walls.

Fr Sean Major-Campbell

Advocate for Human Rights


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