Did Jamaica ignore violence against LGBTI youth on IDAHOT-B?
On Sunday, May 17, there was a public march in Kingston, Jamaica, to condemn an upsurge in violence against the nation’s children. That date was also the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT-B), and coincidentally this year, the focus was on LGBTI youth.
Regrettably, during the march there was no mention of the tragic situation facing LGBTI youth on the island, including vicious bullying, homelessness, senseless mob attacks, and unsolved murders, such as those of Dwayne Jones and Oshane Gordon.
Dwayne was a 16-year-old homeless trans* youth who was brutally killed by a mob on the night of July 22, 2013, because she dared to attend a public street dance dressed as she identified. Two years before Dwayne’s death another LGBTI youngster in Montego Bay met a savage end. Thugs invaded the home of Oshane Gordon and his mom and used a machete to execute Oshane because he had “questionable relations” with another man. Oshane was only 16.
Homeless LGBTI youth who were forced to live in the sewers of the capital were evicted by police just before Christmas in 2014, and these youngsters were subsequently ejected from a plaza where they were seeking refuge on April 15. On May 15, two days before IDAHOT-B, a local newspaper reported that a mob accosted and beat three gay teens who were lucky to escape with their lives.
None of these, or other similar incidents, were mentioned during the march on May 17. I suspect that this was because the organizers, who I know are allies of the LGBTI liberation movement, are also seeking to build bridges to the general population. The sad reality is that in a society where 91% of the people are proud to express strong anti-gay views, the issue of victimization of LGBTI youth is not very compelling. But, the march was a missed opportunity to frontally address the fact that it is homophobia, and not homosexuality, which presents the greatest threat to Jamaica’s children, and in fact ALL Jamaicans.
I repeatedly urged, and continue to urge, LGBTI allies and activists in Jamaica not to shy away from exposing the gruesome realities of homophobic assaults on our youth. Our silence just emboldens the US-backed evangelicals who wish to see the issue swept under the rug, so that they can continue with their anti-gay crusade unimpeded by inconvenient truths. Let us have no more missed opportunities. Naming the atrocities facing our LGBTI kids is the first step to putting an end to these ongoing human rights violations.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.” –– Edmund Burke
Related articles from this blog
- LGBT envoy heads to Jamaica amid plans for Pride (May 2015)
- Jamaica: LGBT youths can’t even call a gully their home (January 2015)
- Can parents of slain gay youth soften Jamaican hearts? (April 2014)
- Jamaica needs urgent action to save LGBT people’s lives (September 2013)
- Jamaica: I failed Oshane Gordon. I will not fail Dwayne Jones (August 2013)
- Video campaign pushes respect for LGBTs in Jamaica (January 2013)