Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Caribbean Carnage~Anti-Gay Violence Continues

It is time for Americans to reassess their relationship with islands such as Jamaica, St. Maarten and the Bahamas due to recent anti-gay events.

In flowery billboards and endearing television ads, the Jamaicans look so incredibly friendly. On the Web site, the slogan is "Home Away from Home." In another ad campaign, the residents plead with benign smiles, "Come Back to Jamaica." But it turns out that Jamaica is not home if you're a homo, and you might come back from Jamaica in a body bag. For whatever reason, the locals have gone loco and gay-bashing has replaced bobsledding as the national sport.

An article in last week's Time magazine calls Jamaica the "most homophobic place on Earth." It points out that two of the island's leading gay rights advocates, Brian Williamson and Steve Harvey, were recently ruthlessly slain. If that was not enough, a crowd essentially danced on Williamson's grave by celebrating over his mutilated body.

In 2004, a father learned his son was gay and went to his school to invite a group of peers to lynch his son. Now that's family values!

Not too long after this sickening episode, witnesses claim, police egged on a mob that stabbed and stoned a gay man to death in Montego Bay. Earlier this year, a Kingston man, Nokia Cowan, drowned after a crowd shouting "batty boy" (a Jamaican slur for queer) chased him off a dock.

"Jamaica is the worst any of us has ever seen," Rebecca Schleifer of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch explained to Time.

Despite this record, Americans continue to subsidize this slaughter by boarding ships destined for Jamaica to cruise and booze. This is unconscionable, and you can bet there would be a much greater uproar if this abuse were happening to any other minority.

Sadly, Jamaica's curious anti-gay fixation is spreading to other parts of the Caribbean. In St. Maarten, two producers for CBS News were gay-bashed last month by thugs wielding tire irons. The attack occurred outside the nightclub Bamboo Bernie's, where Richard Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were harassed for being gay earlier in the evening by the assailants. The victims were airlifted for medical treatment to Miami. Jefferson, who has been released, said Smith was being treated for brain damage.

Additionally, Jefferson told the Associated Press that local authorities had not spoken to witnesses the night of the crime, nor had they pursued leads. Instead of St. Maarten's CSI, the police were MIA.

"The people who harmed us are well-known punks," Jefferson told the AP last week. "People in the community know who these guys are. They are not talking to the police. The entire island is watching something bad happening."

Two men were finally arrested a few days ago (one has already been released), but their cowardly actions seem to have won the approval of a local newspaper, Today, that derisively referred to gay people as "faggots" and "homos."

According to the paper's unfathomable April 11 editorial:

"During and after World War II, it was considered common sport for military guys to let themselves be picked up by a faggot in a bar in Los Angeles or San Francisco. The one who was picked up would pretend to go along for the ride, only to turn around and beat up or rob the homo who picked him up, leaving him without wallet and sometimes teeth.

"All that has changed, of course, largely due to American laws that are being spread around the world. Gay bashing is now a no-no. Slurs against homos, a no-no. And beating a person over the head for flagrant public behavior that once was considered criminal misconduct is a no-no."

In a comparatively minor but no less telling cultural barometer, the Bahamas banned "Brokeback Mountain." It seems Nassau must decide if it is an island chain open to the world or a palm tree-lined prison whose pristine waters are merely a moat to drown tolerance and diversity.

Unlike in homophobic hotbeds in the Middle East, our community can exercise considerable leverage over these human rights abusers. While few Americans are going to spend a holiday in Jeddah or Tehran, we are frequently visiting the Caribbean. Many of our allies would gladly vacation elsewhere if they were aware that their gay friends and family members were being brutally attacked.

It is time for Americans to reassess their relationship with islands such as Jamaica, St. Maarten and the Bahamas. Either they welcome all of us, or none of us. But these "paradises" can no longer be playgrounds for heterosexuals and hunting grounds for homosexuals.

Here is a message that Jamaica might understand: "Aloha, mon, friend of batty boy going to Hawaii."

Wayne Besen
April 24, 2006
Planet Out


sttropezbutler said...

I am sickened by what I have learned about these islands in the last few months.

Indeed. Time to stop spending any dollars in these countries that preach hate and violence.


BostonPobble said...

Hawaii works for me. Hell, anywhere else works for me.

CrackerLilo said...

My best friend, who is also bi, is from Jamaica. We've gone to her family's property there several times, without incident. We think that there as here, there is a double standard for women and men.

L'Ailee also noticed that we naturally responded to our environment by being less affectionate and coyer about what we are to each other. It scared us that we could fit into a repressive environment.

I don't know. Everywhere there are people who want progress, everywhere there are LGBT people, everywhere there are people who fight progress.

cats said...

i have a gay friend who lived in hawaii for several years and found himself very accepted.

and i wish i knew what more to say about this or what more to do than not go to the caribbean (oh, if only i had the money to back up that statement.)

eon said...

this is so outrageous. why are they so cruel?

sometimes, i still can't get over the fact that people are driven to do these acts because of their beliefs/biases.

what an awful place to be in.

leone said...

But on the other hand, if we boycotted destinations because of such hate crimes many of us would have to leave our cities, villages and even countries. I think we need to put this into perspective and realise that these cases are 'high profile' because of the locations and tiny population. I would guess that a homophobic or racially motivated attack happens in NY or London (for example) every hour but that certainly doesn't stop you visiting NY or London does it?

As for the Jamaican 'Batty Boy' lyrics - have you listened to your home grown products lately. I'm not suggesting for a minute that any of this is acceptable but rather that we should be balanced in how we apply the condemnation or action.

I suggest we look a little closer to home where the problem is clearly more serious and because of this rather more difficult to deal with. Which is (I suspect) why we are once again pointing the finger at foreign shores rather than admitting what's happening on our own doorstep.

If you get my drift.......

dondon009 said...

I agree that hate crimes are perpetrated in every country in the world, including the United States.......

What is important, is that many countries including the United States prosecute the perpetrators whereas in Jamaica, law enforcement appears to "look the other way"!

I have a problem with that.

Hypoxic said...

Sounds like a destination to avoid.

I'm doing the Atlantis Mexican Cruise in October - and I think those ports (San Diego, Acapulco, Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas) should be pretty friendly.

Listening to Neil Young's new album "Living With War" at his site ... It's awesome and he's very clear about what he is saying - very clear. Best protest music I've heard since the 60's.