In Jamaica, violence and continual death threats have put the lives of two friends at risk. This is the troubling story of those friends — a gay man and a lesbian.
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My name is Odane Bartley and I am a 21-year-old gay man living with my 25-year-old lesbian friend, Karrollee-Ann Rose, in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
We’ve lived together for seven years and we’ve had to move to and from a few places within that period. It’s been a real struggle living in Jamaica around so many homophobic people.
Karrollee-Ann and I have suffered severe stress, death threats and verbal abuse. We’ve even tried to hide our identities so that no one will assume we’re gay.
We first lived in Negril in 2012. While there, we were threatened with death by four men. When we reported the matter to the police, they said that they were unable to help us. They also discriminated against us and used homophobic slurs. The harassment continued by those same guys and other persons in the community, which forced us to move to Montego Bay.
Sadly, it was the same struggle there. Employees of the company we worked for in Montego Bay were also contributors to our fear and discomfort. The person we stayed with in Montego Bay was shot at by his own brother who accused him of allowing gay people to stay in his house. Thankfully, we were employed at a resort in Ocho Rios soon after, which enabled us to move to that town.
Our partners were living with us at our house in Ocho Rios. This was the worst experience of all. We were fed threats everyday by people in the neighbourhood and other employees at the resort we worked at. We were teased and verbally abused.
One night after I got in from work, five men broke into our apartment with knives, holding them at my throat and head. I was terrified. My boyfriend arrived in the middle of the scene. He tried to fight them off, which resulted in him being stabbed and rushed to the hospital. I was terrified. After stabbing my boyfriend and taking some of our property, they left. After about four days we moved back to Montego Bay in our very own new apartment.
Our apartment in Montego Bay has been targeted by all kinds of people. Karrollee-Ann and I had four other gay men living with us at the time. They had been evicted from their homes because they were gay. They were facing the same homophobic harassment we were.
One night a man in black sneaked around our back yard. Even school children passing by would throw rocks at our apartment and shout things like “Battyman and lesbian must dead.” [In Jamaican slang, “battyman” is the equivalent of “faggot.”]
Soon after that we moved to another apartment in another neighbourhood. Our gay roommates found somewhere else to live. Karrollee now works at Hard Rock Café and I worked at the RIU Reggae Resort in Montego Bay. My own boss discriminated against me every day, which forced me to resign. I am now currently unemployed.
There is no protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender expression in Jamaica. So LGBTI people like us face constant discrimination and harassment in housing, education and health care. There is no legal recourse open to us.
On January 22 at about 1:30 in the morning on her way from work, Karrollee asked me to meet her in town so that we could get a route taxi [a shared cab ride] to go home. While we were in the taxi waiting for other passengers to fill the seats, a man that works at RIU who assumes I’m gay started to curse at the driver. He said: “Yow driver, mi nah come inna di car until you run out deh batty bwoy deh eno” [Hey driver, I am not coming into the car until you chase out this faggot!].
The driver said to me that if I am indeed a homosexual then I have to leave his car. Karrollee then addressed the driver, telling him that we didn’t appreciate the behaviour he was displaying. He started to curse at her, telling her that she has to leave too because he does not support gay people.
We were forced to leave. Even when we evacuated the vehicle the argument continued with the man from my past work place (RIU). We tried to ignore him but he kept shouting “Batty bwoy and lesbian gal” [Faggot and lesbian].
He called other people over to join him in humiliating us. A female vendor who stopped by the scene told us: “Unuh a nasty people. Dem fi light unuh a fire like how dem bun up some fish bwoy a town wah day yah” [You are nasty people. They should burn you with fire like how they burned up a faggot the other day].
A few of the guys there also said: “Yow no come back dung yah so come wait pan no more taxi or we aguh shoot out unuh marrow, unuh tek weh unuh nasty bombochlat and gweh” [Hey, don’t come back here to take any taxis or we will shoot you. Remove your nasty expletive and go away].
Montego Bay is experiencing a record number of murders and the entire parish is under a state of emergency. So we were very afraid for our lives. We walked away as quickly as possible and returned to the taxi stand about an hour and a half later, when most of those people were gone. We got home at approximately 4:00 a.m. that morning.
We’re very exhausted with all these trials. Our lives are at great risk. We’re scared to death. We have gone through a lot here and at this point we feel that we have no option but to leave. I don’t believe we can take it any longer. Our lives have been miserable because of the homophobia we have experienced. We have not been able to sleep comfortably for years now because we fear that one of these days or nights might just be the end of us.
- Jamaican police, stop anti-LGBT pepper-spray attacks (October 2017, 76crimes.com)
- 3 shot in Jamaica: Homophobia raises its ugly head again (October 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Homophobia in Jamaica: Time to end the cowardice (March 2017, 76crimes.com)
- This must stop: Jamaican homophobia leads to 2 murders (May 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Homophobia, Marlon James, and Jamaica’s brain drain (October 2015, 76crimes)
- 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)
- 13-step plan to nudge Jamaica away from homophobia (December 2012, 76crimes.com)
- Judge rules for LGBT youths living in Jamaican sewers (March 2014, 76crimes.com)
- How to help shelter Jamaica’s persecuted LGBT youths (November 2012, 76crimes.com)