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Jamaica: Why keep talking about murdered LGBT teen?

WHY KEEP TALKING ABOUT DWAYNE JONES?

Dwayne Jones, also known as "Gully Queen." (Photo courtesy of Minority-Insight)
Dwayne Jones, also known as “Gully Queen.” (Photo courtesy of Minority-Insight)

Some persons (incredibly, this includes members of the Jamaican LGBT community) have suggested that we should stop talking about the barbaric murder of 17-year-old cross-dressing teen, Dwayne Jones. Many reasons have been given for this position, including a claim that Dwayne was killed on July 22, nearly 2 weeks ago, and since then we have had no more gay murders(!) Also, the suggestion was made that since many straight Jamaicans have been killed since the date of Dwayne’s death basically, his killing was nothing extraordinary. Other persons insist that Dwayne “deserved” his death because he “tempted fate” by going to a straight street-party in a homophobic society while dressed in traditional female attire. Another argument I have heard is that speaking about the brutal mob-killing of Dwayne is an attempt to defame Jamaica’s good name. Still another argument is that speaking about Dwayne’s death is painful for his family and friends.

I will attempt to respond to each of these allegations in turn.

First, the fact that Dwayne was the last KNOWN Jamaican to have been killed because of his gender non-conformity is no reason to think that we have somehow become less barbaric. The FACT is, in 2011 when gay 16 year-old Oshane Gordon was slain by a mob who invaded his home in the early hours of the morning, there was a temporary outcry and certainly NO condemnation by the Jamaican government. Nothing was done to ensure that there were no more Oshanes. And, as a result, we have what happened to Dwayne. So, we MUST keep talking about Dwayne, so that he will not have died in vain like Oshane.

Matthew Shepard, who was killed in 1998, apparently because he was gay. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Matthew Shepard, who was killed in 1998, apparently because he was gay. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

In any event one gay murder is enough to warrant a sustained outcry until SOMETHING is done to prevent a repeat. The savage killing of 22 year-old gay American Matthew Shepard led to the enactment of hate-crime legislation in the USA. The murder of 24 year-old gay Chilean, Daniel Zamudio led to the enactment of a sweeping anti-discrimination legislation that had been stuck in that country’s legislature for 7 years. Oshane and Dwayne were only teenagers when they were brutally killed. Surely, we cannot let their names simply vanish from history as so many murdered LGBT Jamaicans have done before? The death of these talented teens should prompt a demand that, at the very least, the Jamaican government provides legislative protection for vulnerable LGBT citizens. This includes repealing the archaic anti-sodomy law. It also includes enacting far-reaching anti-discrimination legislation mentioned by the Minister of Justice earlier this year in response to a damning report on Jamaica’s human rights situation published by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in February.

Second, it is a false choice to say that caring about the murders of gay Jamaicans is somehow less important than the murder of heterosexuals. ALL Jamaicans face the reality of living in a violent society. HOWEVER, straight Jamaicans are never killed simply BECAUSE of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. However, this is the reality of Jamaican LGBT, whose vulnerability is multiplied simply because of who they are.

Third, blaming Dwayne for his death is as twisted as blaming a rape victim. The savage way in which Dwayne was killed was totally unjustified. Period. If you think otherwise, I pity you. In any event, Dwayne was NOT dancing with a straight man when he was betrayed. He went to the public street-dance with gay and lesbian friends and was dancing with a gay friend when he was pointed out to the blood-thirsty mob by a CHURCH-SISTER. This says more about the perverted nature of Jamaican fundamentalist Christianity than it does about Dwayne’s choice to freely express himself.

Queen Ifrica (Photo courtesy of Urban Islandz)
Queen Ifrica (Photo courtesy of Urban Islandz)

Further, truth is a complete defence to a charge of defamation. It is therefore important to remember that Dwayne’s murder in Montego Bay on July 22 was followed by a mob attack against a suspected gay police officer in Kingston on Aug. 1, a near-fatal mob invasion of the homes of 2 suspected gay men in St. Catherine on Aug. 1, and a vitriolic anti-gay performance by reggae singer Queen Ifrica at the taxpayer-funded independence celebrations on Aug. 6. Does Jamaica deserve to be called homophobic? You be the judge.

Finally, to claim that Dwayne’s family, which disowned him long ago, is now suffering because of the continued mentioning of his murder is really sick. Did these people care about how Dwayne suffered when they threw him out? I grieve more for Dwayne’s friends who dearly cared for him. I believe that, through their pain, they will understand that by keeping their friend’s memory alive, he will not have died in vain.

Let there be NO MORE OSHANES AND DWAYNES!

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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