Kingston, Jamaica

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

52 Years of Independence - Yet Jamaica Is Not Truly Independent

1st International Day of Action Against Jamaica's Anti-gay Laws
in Canada on August 6, 2014 at the Jamaican Consulate.
On August 6 – Independence Day, I asked my fellow Jamaicans to reflect on how independent Jamaica is.  Despite the agreements that were forged with Great Britain 52 years ago, Jamaica is not truly independent, not when most Jamaicans owe their allegiance to an antediluvian Queen.  I am not referring to Elizabeth. Rather, I am talking about Victoria and the values of the era over which she reigned.  The British Empire’s hypocrisy and overall social and political oppression characterized the 19th century for Jamaica and much of the world.  Over half a century after our purported independence is too long to wait to dismantle a legal system imposed on the island to enslave us and, after abolition, exploit us, as well as to deny us of our dignity.

Like modern Jamaicans, Britons of Victorian days had trouble being honest about sex and sexuality.  In the arrogance of their “civilizing” mission, they gave their colonies laws that reflected their absurd views, and today’s Jamaica desperately clings to the most absurd of these: the buggery law.  The retention of this odious law has empowered the most retrograde elements of Jamaican society.  These elements use the buggery law and “Christianity” to create a toxic atmosphere of hatred in which a particular group is singled out for appalling levels of discrimination and violence.  What passes for Christianity on the island is in no way reflected in the teachings of Jesus. Many who prophesizes, whether true or false, in the name of God especially Christians, have to yet to learn or accept that all judgment belongs to God alone, and discrimination is the face of human condemnation. Even Pope Francis of the conservative Roman Catholic Church, asked, “Who am I to judge a gay person?”

In their minds, some Jamaicans are not living in Victorian times but, instead, many centuries previous.  Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Dwayne Jones, a transgender teenager whose earthly life was cut short in an act of astoundingly brutal violence reminiscent of medieval torture.  As Dwayne was trying to leave a party last July, a mob of “Christians” beat, stabbed, shot, and ran over this child of God.  Reports said he slipped in and out of consciousness for two hours before another attack finally killed him.  No one lifted a finger to help him.  Dwayne’s biological family refused to identify the body.  

Almost as shocking as the perpetrators’ attitude toward Dwayne’s life was the reaction of the Jamaican public: save for a few scattered voices, an expression of outrage.  No candlelight vigils.  No mass rallies.  No outpouring of support for Dwayne and his community.

1st International Day of Action Against Jamaica's Anti-gay Laws  in London on August 6, 2014 at the Jamaican High Commission.

In dehumanizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, Jamaicans have shown how hardened their hearts are, how utterly devoid of compassion, and how eager to find a convenient scapegoat to keep us at each others’ throats ran than moving the country forward.  Our British colonial masters would be proud.

Despite the gruesome death of Dwayne and many others, the utter contempt many Jamaicans have for each other, and the inertia that touches all areas of society, I see faint glimmers of hope.  At great risk to their lives, many individuals within Jamaica, who will someday be hailed as national heroes, work to protect our LGBT brothers and sisters. Many others work from adopted countries to shed light on the crisis.  Prominent straight allies, such as, Yvonne McCalla Sobbers have recorded public service announcements calling for respect for all.  Most promising is the growing national support for repeal of the buggery law.  All of these ripples are gathering into a tidal wave of change.

As the South African anti-apartheid anthem proudly proclaims, “Freedom is coming…oh, yes I know!”  My dream, as well as, many other LGBT Jamaican refugees scattered around the world, is to return to a truly free Jamaica, free from fear, oppression, discrimination and persecution, and free to celebrate Dwayne’s life for the bold expression of love that it was.


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