23/08/11

Unconditional homophobia? Jamaica and Canada at the extremes?

Trawling through an old paper lying around in a hotel lobby in Jamaica, I found this pastor’s reflections on gay men. Jamaica has the dubious distinction of being a world leader in homophobia. Now a senior police officer, Fitz Bailey, had said that most of Jamaica’s booming lottery and credit card fraud businesses are run by gays. Apparently 12 of the 14 men arrested for these crimes in 2007 volunteered to the cops that they were gay. Both he and columnist-pastor Mr. Dick think this is a scientific fact worth sharing with the public. Indeed, Rev Devon Dick suggests that gays are whining about negative stereotyping.

What is therefore needed is an analysis of Bailey’s data. Why are persons in homosexual relations prone to be in illegal lottery scams? Is it because they are faced with discrimination at the workplace and cannot get or retain a legitimate job? Or are they suffering disproportionately because of the economic hardships? Is it that their lifestyle requires big bucks?

Additionally, some persons who appear to be sporting a homosexual lifestyle have been noticed to shop in groups. Is it that they are proud of the lifestyle and want to flaunt it, or are they afraid of violence and feel safe in a group? It seems to me that there needs to be more research done on persons within this community.

Not surprisingly, Jamaica’s lonely gay rights group, J-FLAG, was concerened that this would give homophobes one more reason to beat the shit out of gay men. Much more surprisingly, Jamaica’s top cop was also upset by the statement; although Bailey refused to retract it, his boss apologised on behalf of the Jamaican police.

It happens that J-FLAG has roped Miss Jamaica and her gay brother into a new campaign that aims to start chipping away at homophobia:

I’m in two minds about it. On the downside, the phrase “unconditional love” implies loving someone despite some hideous deformity in their character. I love my brother even though he’s… (sharp intake of breath, try not to hold your nose)…gay. On the more positive side, it does make sense to try and start from where the target audience is, and it’s clear that most of the target audience in Jamaica are very far from being ok with gay brothers. So far, indeed, that the national TV station has refused to carry the ad.

I’m interested that Rev Dick felt the need to point out that Jamaican political satirist Owen Blakka Ellis, who has had the gall to say that being gay isn’t so bad, was a “returnee from Canada”. Obviously he’d be pro-gay, then, Canada being a paradise for over-entitled whiny gays, seems to be the implication. It’s true that Canada’s at the other end of the gay stigma spectrum from Jamaica.

I have been accused (with some justitification) of being impatient with people who pull the stigma card when they have things so relatively easy. But this beautifully written, nuanced essay about young gay men in Canada from Michael Harris reminded me that “relatively easy” does not mean “easy”. The tornado that was AIDS has been more or less dissipated by treatment in Canada, but the wreckage it left has indeed shaped the landscape for another generation. Read it, please (pdf here).

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This post was published on 23/08/11 in Ideology and HIV.

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