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The Framing of Jamaica's “Gay Menace”

Rainbow Flag in sand; photo by Capes Treasures, used under a CC license.

Rainbow Flag in sand; photo by Capes Treasures, used under a CC license.

The dismissal of Professor Brendan Bain from his post as head of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network (CHART) is an issue that still has legs in Jamaica. The Facebook group Real Change For Jamaica has been busy discussing Professor Bain's decision to take legal action against the University of the West Indies, which was responsible for the termination of his contract.

Albert Cee felt that Bain's constitutional rights had been violated:

If nothing else, the rules of natural justice dictate that a person should have a fair hearing before such drastic action is taken against them. That was not the case here, so I hope the Professor is justly rewarded both in monetary terms as well as in his Constitutional Rights being upheld.

Facebook user C. Anthony Francis suggested that the university was being controlled by the gay community: 

UWI will hold that the gay community and others who [CHART] is supposed to serve, no longer have confidence in Prof. Bain because his professional opinion does not elevate homosexuality.

 In contrast,Molly Stewart hoped that Professor Bain's lawsuit would not be successful:

I've read his article; in it the goodly doctor intimates that gays/homosexuals are to be charged with the spread of AIDS. His irresponsible writing and his homophobic beliefs continue to fuel anger and fear within the Jamaican population. The result [of] false and outdated reporting, while ignoring what other countries already know to be [the] truth – that anyone can spread the AIDS/HIV virus – shows his inability to hold a position of authority. It is injurious not only to the gay population, but to the community at large. He may be a great man to some but only because he espouses the same or similar beliefs of a people who refuse to think independently, and align themselves with how the majority feels, out of fear of being ostracized. FALLA FASHIN [Follow Fashion] I see is still very much alive and kicking in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, writer Marlon James was sceptical about a story published in the Jamaica Observer newspaper about the alleged gang rape of a male jogger in a Kingston neighborhood, implying that the story was simply widening the gap for sensible discussion of the gay rights issue: 

‘He was found by some females who were shocked and even more surprised [HAD TIME TO SURMISE THE SITUATION, OBVIOUSLY] to see that he was bleeding heavily [VICTIM IS BATTERED AND TRAUMATISED, WITNESS SAYS, BUT LOOK AT HIS RECTUM!!] from his rectum,’ [A BATTERED AND BOUND MAN, WITH HIS ASS PLOPPED DOWN ON THE GROUND, YET BLOOD WAS APPARENTLY SHOOTING ANIME STYLE FROM HIS ASS—ALSO WHO CHECKS THE ASS FIRST?] one man, who said he assisted in untying the victim, [WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FEMALES IN THE STORY? NO UNTYING SKILLS? YOU WOMEN ARE NEVER ANY HELP—NOT EVEN A CELL PHONE AMONG YOU] told the Observer.

He continued:

‘Several persons [LIKE WHO, SINCE THIS WOULD BE THE FIRST TIME THEY ARE HEARING ABOUT THE EVENT?] have told me that they were in fear and are apprehensive to go back because of what happened. It was not a pretty sight,’ the jogger said [WHICH JOGGER IS THIS NOW?].

‘We used to protect the females and tell them to walk in groups, but it now seems we, the males, are the target. This cannot be allowed to continue,’ [DAMN BATTY BOYS] the man said.

James concluded:

COME ON, PEOPLE. EITHER THIS DIDN'T HAPPEN OR THIS IS WORST REPORTING SINCE THE LAST OBSERVER ARTICLE. ‪#‎GAYAGENDA‬.

James added more thoughts in an updated Facebook post: 

More fact checking goes into an Onion story than this male jogger gang raped business. The question I have is why people, even people who should know better, even people that I've assumed took at least one English class were so quick to believe it. People, even those who saw obvious holes in the story still refused to let it go completely, resorting to ‘if it no go so, it go near so’ logic. People want to believe in the gay menace so badly that when batty boy Kristallnacht finally happens they'll simply think those perverts had it coming.

The blogger at Slouching Toward Kingston was also critical of the Jamaica Observer story

I jog there. Four days a week. Including that Monday morning, from about 4:20 in the the morning, to 5. And I didn’t see no women helping no man bleeding out his ass (excuse my double negatives). On Tuesday, i.e.: the day after the alleged incident, I had a day off from work, and when I went out, I did not hear about any such incident  from my friends in the adjoining communities of Meadowbrook Estate, Patrick City, or Duhaney Park. This is rather odd, as the last rapist in our community was easily identified and very well known, having done his campaign of rape and pillage on the poorly lit Daytona Avenue section of Patrick City. So for a man to have had been gang-raped, and no news or gossip of it for two days is rather odd in our community.

 He linked it to what he considered the newspaper's political agenda: 

I’m sure most of you have realized by now that all of the recent stories about homosexuals by the Observer are thinly disguised opinion pieces that have to do [with] them engaged in crime, banditry, corruption, or their second exploited hatred – the PNP. [The People's National Party, which, at present, sits in government].

I think it is fairly obvious that the Observer has a very serious problem with the Simpson-Miller [the leader of the party and Jamaica's current Prime Minister] administration. That is quite alright. But instead of relying upon rational arguments rooted in logic, economics, history or common sense, they have instead decided to create a ‘Gay Menace.’ It is a strategy that is working, at least in getting website hits. Just look at how the web hits rose yesterday, and how the comments just piled up.

But  what the Observer is trying its best to do is to create an instinctual association in the Jamaican people’s mind between Homosexuals, Criminals, and the PNP. They seem to be succeeding in associating criminals with gays.

Kei Miller followed up his earlier posts on the issue by examining the way that the homosexuals are being framed in the public discourse: 

It has already achieved its desired effect – to portray gay people as armed, dangerous and powerful. One poster on facebook commented, ‘At least now we have a legitimate right to our homophobia!’ It doesn’t occur to him that Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world and that no story of any other gang killing or murder or rape that is in the papers every minute of every day has ever borne a headline, ‘Heterosexual Gang kills 3 men in Portmore.’ ‘Heterosexual men gangrape woman.’

Other strategies to paint the gay community as powerful are more subtle. Consider even the term ‘gay lobby’. A Trinidadian activist, Colin Robinson, recently despaired at the phrase that I think imagines a tremendously organized group of men who probably meet under the cover of night, pulling up in their black limos, knowing each other by secret handshakes, and who evilly plot the moral destruction of the Caribbean. Colin writes  ‘What “gay lobby”? People struggling to carve out some space for humanity and dignity is a “lobby” now?’

Miller continued, by making reference to a piece of satire by one of his former students:

…The church with the law on their side, the church with the culture on their side, the church with the anthem and the pledge on their side, the church with the majority of the population on their side, the church who now insists on holding on to their disgust of homosexuality while claiming it isn’t homophobia – despite all of this, the church will continue in its bizarre demands to legislate the lives of others, to essentially hold power over them, to uphold laws that don’t affect their own lives, but the lives and freedoms of others – and the Jamaican church will be absolutely incensed that those whose lives are actually affected and limited and dissempowered by such laws should  have the audacity to protest this. Such protests or advocacy or lobbying will be labelled as bullying and the Jamaican church will claim to be the victims in this fight. For they have learnt the lesson well – the same lesson we all have learnt as children – that there is power in being the victim, or at least in being perceived as the victim. There is power in shouting out, ‘HE STARTED IT!’

In a related blog post by Miller, the writer took on the issue of paedophilia in Jamaica, which he says “is no laughing matter”, and its outrageous double standards:

In Jamaica there is much greater concern for a paedophilia that rarely occurs than there is for the kind that happens frequently. The sight of a pregnant 12 or 13 year old girl is just as likely to have people frowning at the child, slut-shaming her and outright blaming her (‘She too force ripe!’ ‘Look pon lickle she a run down big man!’ ‘ Before she study har book instead o study man!’) rather than the fully grown and supposedly responsible man who decided to have his way with her.

By contrast, if a boy of a similar age walked around showing the evidence of his buggery, it would evoke far more sympathy and outrage, and cause a witch hunt for the wicked man who had done the deed.

One of the great hurdles in confronting paedophilia in Jamaica is that it isn’t recognized for what it is – overwhelmingly a heterosexual crime. And this despite what official statistics will tell us. Now, make no mistake, the crime happens to both boys and girls, but it would seem that as a country we are far more interested in protecting our boys than protecting our girls.

Miller connected the dots by referring to an online debate he had with a friend over “the same old anxieties that many Jamaicans have about gay people gaining more rights in the society”:

She finally, and predictably, pulled for the emotionally manipulative paedophilia card. It was her little boy, she confessed. She worried about him. Would he be safe in a country where gay men had rights. Now I should tell you that my friend had a little girl as well, but clearly she was comfortable living in a society where it was this girl child who was statistically far more likely to be molested and raped. I challenged her about this and I pointed her to a fact she had obviously never considered, that the gay lobby she so despised was as much against paedophilia as she was – that this was common ground that they shared, and that those she perceived as her enemies would almost certainly stand alongside her in supporting more strident laws that targeted sexual predators in Jamaica.
Alas, my friend ended the argument right then and there. She did not want to find common ground with these gay people who repulsed her, and if gay people did not in fact support paedophilia, or were not paedophiles themselves, then how could she maintain her hatred? It was all too inconvenient – the truth.

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