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Jamaica: I failed Oshane Gordon. I will not fail Dwayne Jones.

This commentary appeared previously in Dadland Shut Up.

Dwayne Jones in his casket
Dwayne Jones in his casket

In the early morning on August 18, 2011, armed thugs barged into the small home that 16 year-old Oshane Gordon shared with his mother in the resort town of Montego Bay, Jamaica. As Oshane tried to flee through a window, the men chopped on his foot.

When they caught him, they finished him off with several more blows from their machetes. The men then went back for Oshane’s mom and chopped her up as well. But thankfully she survived. The reason given for this brutal assault was Oshane’s “questionable relations with another man.”

In 2011, I swore in Oshane’s memory that no other Jamaican child would pay the price for Jamaica’s savage homophobia. I naïvely thought that by alerting Jamaicans to the senseless loss of life caused by irrational fear of gays that our innate sense of humanity would kick in and we would rise up in one voice and call for a halt to this brutality.

I was wrong. I failed Oshane’s memory.

Another Jamaican teenager was gruesomely killed by a mob as a result. Below is the August 24, 2013 funeral photo of Dwayne Jones, a 16 year-old teenager who was also from Montego Bay.

Dwayne was buried on the same day that homophobic Jamaican reggae singer, Queen Ifrica, was prevented from performing at a concert in Toronto that was partially funded by Canadian taxpayers, some of whom are gay.  Ifrica thinks her freedom of speech was unjustly curtailed.

I look at Dwayne’s lifeless body and I fail to see how she has been harmed. She lost some money; Dwayne lost her life.

Like Oshane Gordon, Dwayne Jones was killed for being different. Dwayne was biologically male but identified as female. Dwayne is seen here lying in her casket wearing a masculine suit because that is how society would like to remember her in death. But, her last words were “I am a girl!”

That was before a mob set-upon Dwayne at a street-dance and shot and stabbed her to death after a female member of Dwayne’s church pointed out her biological gender to the bloodthirsty mob. When the savages completed their gruesome act of murder, they dumped Dwayne’s body in nearby bushes and went right on dancing. The police discovered her body the next morning.

Appeal To International Community: Tourist Dollars & Investments

Jamaican mob barricades five allegedly gay men in their house. (Photo from video)
Jamaican mob barricades five allegedly gay men in their house. (Photo from video)

This time around, I will be taking a more strident approach to ensure that this type of murder of innocent persons ceases. Appeals to the Jamaican government to aggressively promote and protect the human rights of LGBT citizens have largely fallen on deaf ears. And on August 22, just two days before Dwayne’s funeral, we saw the sixth anti-gay mob attack in a month where police had to rescue five gay men who had been barricaded in their home by a community intent on getting rid of them. The government just will not challenge the powerful fundamentalist churches whose members include the woman who outed Dwayne to his killers.

Arguments based on human rights and public health issues are simply irrelevant as the government is more concerned about votes. And the churches promise a lot of them. However, economic arguments resonate with this government.

I will be appealing to the international community to consider if they should continue rewarding Jamaica with financial support (whether through tourist dollars or investments) while vulnerable members of the LGBT community are brutalized on an almost daily basis. In the meantime, the Jamaican government does precious little.

No more Oshanes and Dwaynes

My platform will now be: NO MORE OSHANES AND DWAYNES. Jamaica either halts the senseless attacks on the rights of LGBT, or I will use my international profile to call on the global community to take action. In this regard, I will even more aggressively highlight the attacks on LGBT Jamaicans since other LGBT groups on the island seem to think that downplaying these attacks will get the government to actually engage in fruitful dialogue. We saw that policy fail miserably with Oshane. We must not do the same for Dwayne.

I. WILL. NOT. FAIL. DWAYNE.

 

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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