A Jamaican activist reports:
Matthew Shepard’s parents to speak in Jamaica
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.
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.
- Judge rules for LGBT youths living in Jamaican sewers (76crimes.com)
- Jamaica: Why keep talking about murdered LGBT teen? (76crimes.com)
- Love in Jamaica: Christian visitors, homeless LGBT youths (76crimes.com)
- How to help shelter Jamaica’s persecuted LGBT youths (76crimes.com)
- ‘Uptown’ Jamaicans vs. homeless gays (76crimes.com)