Can parents of slain gay youth soften Jamaican hearts?

A Jamaican activist reports:

Matthew Shepard’s parents to speak in Jamaica

Judy and Dennis Shepard
Judy and Dennis Shepard

Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of murdered American LGBT youngster Matthew Sheppard, are on a speaking tour of the Caribbean, courtesy of the U.S. government. On Friday, April 11, they will be sharing their story at the U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica.

Regrettably, I will not be able to meet with the Shepards (who are personal heroes of mine). I hope that Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, the Chair of Dwayne’s House, will be able to meet with the Shepards so that she can update them on the work being done to assist some homeless Jamaican LGBT youth who were evicted by their parents and forced to live in the sewers of the capital.

I think the visit by the Shepards is both timely and ethically appropriate. The fact is that for years aggressive U.S. fundamentalist evangelicals, such as Peter LaBarbera and Dennis Jernigan, have fomented anti-gay animus on the island through their homophobic crusades, as well as in meetings with influential politicians and policy makers. It is therefore right and just that the family of a U.S. teen killed by the same kind of blind bigotry being peddled by these fundamentalist at home should visit the Caribbean to warn parents of the deadly effects of these hate-mongers.

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)

We certainly have our own “Matthew Shepards” in Jamaica, including 16-year-old teens Oshane Gordon and Dwayne Jones, both of whom were savagely murdered in the last three years because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Sadly, their parents were not willing to speak up and condemn Jamaica’s homophobia which killed their children. While some parents of LGBT youth are now publicly showing their support, it is hardly enough.

LGBT kids as young as 10 years old continue to be kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Some of these youth are forced to seek refuge in sewers, sell sex to survive and are paid extra by their often married clients to have condomless intercourse. The negative public health implications, including for the spread of HIV, are tremendous. Yet, even in the face of these horrendous facts, the island’s religious right-wing persists in spewing homophobic vitriol. Ironically, they claim to be doing this to protect children!

I can only hope that the testimony of these two Americans can soften their hearts. Certainly, the state of Jamaica’s vulnerable LGBT youth has done absolutely nothing to encourage our chief homophobes, such as Wayne West, Shirley Richards, and Peter Espeut, to show love and compassion toward vulnerable LGBT citizens.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

5 Comments

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  1. I will be there and looking forward to it. They are personal heroes of mine, too. Members of J-FLAG and also Yvonne and others should be there and I hope they all have the opportunity to meet the Shepherds. I plan to blog about it afterwards.

    • I am white and I was received in Jamaica where I preached for 8-10 weeks to good crowds. I do hope Jamaicans will show the normal Caribbean hospitality to these dear people.

      I oppose homosexuality but believe in being kind and considerate to all people even when we disagree with their lifestyle. My work involves preaching the Word of God and teaching Biblical principles. This means I must tell you that same gender sexual relations are a sin.
      Homosexuality is forbidden by the Word of God. I ask you to read Romans 1:26,27 and
      1 Corinthians 6:9,10.

      But by the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross God has provided legal grounds whereby ALL our sins can be forgiven if we will believe this, and receive Christ by faith as
      our Savior.

      The Bible says “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12) God also promises “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

      My sympathy goes out to Judy and Dennis Shepard. They are loving parents and have learned much from what they have gone through. My wife and I are also parents and are now grandparents. We all face challenges even though they are different. I say to them “Thank you for sharing.”

      In the strongest language possible I say this to all our readers, to the people of Jamaica and the whole world: We are totally opposed to any form of violence against homosexuals.
      On the contrary. We want you to be polite, speak graciously to them, and show them every practical kindness.

      At times I may used strong language in my preaching and writing but it is directed against the practice not the persons.

      It I because I love them I explain over an open Bible why it is in their best interest to avoid homosexuality, and I am there for them to help them break free by counseling and prayer if they choose to go that route.

      Sincerely, Rev. Donald Hill. Evangelist.

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