Yesterday (May 26) Jamaica’s major newspaper, the Jamaica Gleaner, selected another anti-LGBTI piece written by a notorious evangelical Christian as its “Letter of the Day.” Today, the same newspaper reported on the gruesome results of this homophobic crusade.
Marsha Thomas is a member of the oddly named “Love March Movement,” which campaigns against human rights for gay Jamaicans. In her blatantly hateful letter, she claimed that a school manual to teach tolerance for homosexuals is part of a fictitious agenda to ultimately silence all religious opposition to same-gender love. She also falsely declared that allowing transgender people to use the appropriate restrooms “is already creating havoc in the USA as perverts, peeping Toms and mentally disturbed individuals have had to be chased from female bathrooms.”
This is just a sample of the blatantly homophobic and transphobic lies that I am accustomed to hearing from Jamaican fundamentalists. Recently in my court challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law, a senior attorney declared that if my right to private intimacy with my husband was recognized then it would lead to the sexual exploitation of children!
These repeated falsehoods lead to a predictably deadly outcome. And that was made evident yesterday. There was yet another barbaric murder of gay men in the tourist city of Montego Bay, where I grew up. And, as in all the other cases, community complicity and sympathy with the perpetrators’ cause will likely result in no arrest or justice for the victims.
A derogatory term for gays in Jamaica is “fish” and the Gleaner reported about a barbaric “fish-kill” that occurred on Tuesday, May 24:
“There was yet another double murder in St James on Tuesday, but this one is somewhat mysterious as according to sources in the Providence Heights area of Flanker, where the killing took place, the victims were labelled gay lovers, who had earned the wrath of thugs in the community.
“While the police did not confirm any gay links to the incident, they did say that the men, one identified as 40-year-old carpenter Orville Lorne and the other, who remains unidentified, were shot and killed by persons who attacked the house in which they were staying.
” ‘Yes, we can confirm that there was a double murder in Providence Heights, but we have only ascertained the identity of one of the victims,’ said Assistant Commissioner of Police Winchroy Budhoo, the commanding officer for Area One. ‘Outside of the fact that the house was shot up, we have no other details.’
“According to residents of the community, shortly after 5:50 a.m., men armed with guns attacked the house in which the men were staying, firing a barrage of shots. When the shooting subsided and the shooters had left, the bodies of Lorne and the other man were found.
” ‘We don’t know nothing about it … a just two fish get fry over there,” a young woman told The Gleaner mockingly. ‘We really not into the fish thing around here … you don’t see seh nobody not crying about it.’ ”
“It would appear that there was a general lack of sympathy for the men as most residents seemed to support the view that they were gay and were not welcome in the community.
” ‘This is going to be one of those unsolved murders because the police will not get any information from anybody,’ another man said. ‘Gleaner, you must write that is a fish kill, but we don’t know what cause it.’
“Since the start of the year, St James has recorded close to 80 murders, making it the bloodiest police division islandwide. Last year, the parish also had a record 212 murders. “
In recent times government officials have joined right-wing evangelical Christians in feeding this anti-gay frenzy. In the last parliament, an MP referred to another member as a “fish” and gave only a half-hearted apology when pressed to do so. During the just-concluded election campaign, the Prime Minster declared that he is not a “fish” while speaking at a heated political campaign. He has also come out in defence of the “traditional family” and attended a massive anti-gay protest organized by the religious right in 2015.
Montego Bay is no stranger to homophobic murders. In 2011, 16-year-old Oshane Gordon was slaughtered by machete-wielding thugs who invaded his home while he slept. The teenager was allegedly killed because of “questionable relations with another man.”
In 2013, 16-year-old trans* youth Dwayne Jones was stabbed, shot, run over with a car and then dumped in nearby bushes for daring to dress as she identified at a public street dance. Dwayne had been outed to the blood-thirsty mob by a female member of her church.
When I visited the Freeport police station to report my own death threats as a result of my LGBTI activism, the recording officer said that he hates gays and they make him sick.
All these murders cause very real harm to our society. For example, our vital tourism industry is being threatened because of our reputation as an incredibly violent society. These relentless attacks also contribute to our HIV epidemic by driving men who have sex with men (MSM) underground away from effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions.
As a result, our country has the highest HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world (33%). The destruction of life is devastating but at least one government official that I spoke to was unmoved by incidents of anti-gay murders because, to her, “we kill straight people too.” Sadly, she is correct; Jamaica does have one of the highest murder rates in the world. However, LGBTI citizens have an increased vulnerability to murder because, let’s face it, we do not kill straight people simply BECAUSE they are straight. At the same time, we kill gays only because of who they dare to love.
Despite all the well-documented homophobic atrocities and challenges, Jamaican fundamentalists and their lackey politicians are more concerned about some fabricated attack on religious freedom than saving people’s lives. To them, their right to hate trumps my right to life.
The world and I are watching how the Jamaican government responds to these latest homophobic murders in Montego Bay. I would urge/expect the Ministers of Justice and National Security to roundly condemn this senseless loss of life. Further, I would encourage the good Ministers to invest the same energy that was recently used to find the murderers of two American missionaries to bring the killers of the Montego Bay gays to justice.
One final note: The homicides on Tuesday will not deter the remounting of Montego Bay Pride in October. However, like last year we have once again contracted our own heavy private security. While we proudly stand in solidarity with LGBTI Jamaicans in western Jamaica, we have no delusions that our religiously brainwashed society is welcoming of gays, or would protect us if we came under attack.
- Jamaica: Pride is personal, so come join us (May 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Deliriously happy after Jamaica’s first Montego Bay Pride (October 2015, 76crimes.com)
- How Jamaican dad supports gay son’s activism (September 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Lawyers, activists target anti-LGBT bias in Caribbean (September 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Montego Bay Pride – here’s why (August 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Death threats won’t stop Jamaican LGBT advocate (April 2015, 76crimes.com)