Jamaica and the gay debate

Jamaica and the gay debate

And the debate rages on. It seems like everyone has an opinion about gays in Jamaica. The newspapers, television and talk radio are now cycling the issue. This Monday night my favorite radio talk show FAME FM’s Uncensored will be talking about “staying into the closet and keep out of my cabinet” or something like that. You know how these radio people like to play on words. All this related to the BBC interview the PM did.

I want to talk about the class divide on this issue because I find it interesting how Jamaicans from different social backgrounds hold varying views with one extreme relative to a particular class. As I lamented in my previous post “Out of Many one People Except Gays” the upper class is more accepting of gays and even if they disagree with the lifestyle the approach is very different. On the other hand working class Jamaican is more strongly opposed to gays. Not to exclude some Christians and other socially conservative folks.

The working class is more prone to violence acts toward homosexuals. The inner cities, garrisons, ghetto or gully side are some of the most inhospitable to gays. The anti-gay sentiments are so strong here that the verbiage is careful among youths not to even in the slightest way appear to be pro-man hence gay. There is no MANdeville nor MONtego Bay here. Only GALdeville and GALtego Bay and that’s just the tip of the ice berg. You can be ridiculed seen drinking a “Big Jo” box drinks, eating a “Shirley “biscuit.

“The bottom line is” —-NO no no that phrase is no acceptable.

Movado said it himself, “no man cya have mi back, any man have man back fi get gunshot”

Sounds ridiculous yes but it’s the truth. The language is not just for the streets but radio disc jockey play on these words on the air also. Tight pants, pencil foot pants, bleach out face is bun out and set up on regularly. Men who dress like gyal or no have no woman are suspicious persons.

Our dancehall culture is very opposed to the gay lifestyle and in Jamaica’s most so called homophobic communities this is quite evident. Dancehall has drummed it into the national psyche that all gays must be burnt, stab, shoot, stoned and chase away. The extent our music has molded our stance is of historic portions. The great Bob Marley said “ man to man is so unjust”. Shabba face great opposition because of his opposition to gays . Shabba Ranks once said “god made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”.

I can not help but laugh at that one.

Then we have Buju Banton’s “boom bi bi inna batty bwoy head”

We have been cultured with historic proportions to hate homosexuals, hate to the extent of violence. We have generations of generations grown up to hate gays. Although I talk about the two Jamaica views of homosexuality rural Jamaica which is far away from the sporadic surge in gun battles of Kingston are just as opposed to gays. Most of the hostility can be related to our music also but what might be our most powerful driving force is religion. Jamaica being a deeply Christian nation which thinks that homosexuality is sinful in the eyes of the almighty. The most commonly used passage relates to the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I am no expert on homophobia, but from my own observations and discussion Jamaicans are afraid of several things related to homosexuality. One fear is that children will not just become exposed to homosexuality but may even become gay themselves, especially the little boys. I have heard people speak hypothetically what they would do if they discovered a family member was gay.

Some would cut them off

Run then out of their house

Disown them

Yes even beat them

Simply put the higher classes of Jamaicans are not as opposed to gays. The fact that many people who are well known so called socialites are said to be gay or lesbians. Some some may be secrets others not. Again if you look at the places in Jamaica most hostile to gays a Cherry Gardens or even Norbook is less likely to be places where you read or hear about anti-gay sentiments. For me the media both print and electronic are good indicators of what the elitists think. The tone towards to Prime Minister’s anti-gay statements are overwhelmingly condemning.

Anti-gay rhetoric coming out of Jamaica has caused some people to label us as the “most homophobic place on earth”. This is pure bullshit. Gay right advocates are using Jamaica to push their cause. We are a perfect target, a small little black country that depends heavily on tourism from their countries. Our dancehall acts has made it their own personal crusade to fight homosexuality which only brighten the target sign on Jamaica. For the most part politicians have avoided the issue until recently when Bruce Golding did his interview on the BBC.

Even former Prime Minister PJ Paterson who was rumored to be gay but denied it and pretty much had a muted stance on the issue. The current leadership of the opposition has made no statement on the issue although it was also said that there were at least two members in the government who were homosexuals. In essence Jamaican politicians have stayed far away from the issue.

So how did Jamaica become this “most homophobic place on earth”, the same Jamaica where homosexuals walk in parks making no qualms that they are gay much to the ire of some , the parties we hear about. What about the guys who look like women with the tight pants, hair, tattoos, nabble, tongue rings and such.

Regardless of all this I believe that even though many Jamaicans are against homosexuality, a similar number are fair minded reasonable people who do not believe that we should take it upon our selves to bring violence to gays or discriminate against them.


~ by RB on May 31, 2008.

10 Responses to “Jamaica and the gay debate”

  1. Dutty, as a Jamaican this is one aspect of our culture that I’m not proud of. I do understand the root of it though. Despite the way we dance and carry on, Jamaica is a very conservative country. I remember growing up and reggae wasn’t played on the radio on Sundays; stores didn’t open on Sundays; even rum bars were closed on Sundays; we didn’t do a lot of things on Sundays. Sunday was truly the Sabbath and respected. So our cultural and moral root is ultra-conservative. Hence ‘good girls’ were raised with the chastity belt mentality and the Sodom and Gomorrah complex and stigma our country still has.

    Despite being a conservatively religious country, who as a country believe in God and the resurrection of Jesus we (like so many other people) are judgemental beyond belief. God says judge not yet knowing this we are one of the most judgemental and closed societies. At the same time we are some of the nicest, warmest people on earth. We are complex but it’s time we stepped into the 21 century. Jamaica must do better. Our law making homosexuality a crime must be removed from the books. It is vile. It is inhumane.

    As in most societies the wealthy are usually more accepting of behaviors different than theirs because they are exposed, open-minded and are not isolated because of lack of education. IF the majority of Jamaicans supported, no not supported — that is too extreme — if the majority of Jamaicans tolerated homosexuals right to be who they are, then Golding could not talk the shyt he does. So education and exposure to the world and enlightenment is key to open the minds of any people on any issue. We have to rethink our cultural belief system and then reeducate oursleves on this subject. Our collective thionking about homosexuality is simply unacceptable and damn near stupid. Man caan drink “Big Jo” box juice — how uncivilized is that thinking.

    But I love my country the rest of our culture. We are a brilliant nation of people. I just wonder how we got stuck on stupid when it comes to homosexuality.

    One love,


  2. Paulette, there are alot of things that contribute to it. I think our music has a lot to do with it which basically encourages violence on all levels.

    there are other Caribbean countries that have similar laws that criminalize homosexuality and are Christian and equally if not more conservative that Jamaica yet they don’t have the same issue we have dealing with gays.

    I always find it interesting when we say that Jamaica is conservative. Our conservatism seems to be selective. A deeply Christan

    . nation like ours should not have to deal with one of the highest crime rates in the world. A conservative nation hangs murders. Liberals hung them and forgive them.

    A conservative nation does not debate and support the government decision to make abortion legal

  3. Dutty, you are correct. Jamica is filled with contradictions. The music theory is also true and is quite complicated. If there were more opportunities on JA for jobs maybe so many people wouldn’t put all their hopes and dreams on making it BIG in music and there wouldn’t be so much ‘shock’ music and lyrics. Our country’s infrastructure (social, economical, civic, etc.) needs to be revamped in a desperate way.

    Jamaica needs to do better and move into the 21 century.

  4. Beware – Long response!

    I believe that something radically different happened in the late 1980s to early 1990s that has moved us in this direction. This anti-battyman hysteria is almost a desperate reclaiming of “culture” from all those folks who think they are losing some kind of battle for the nation’s soul. There are the religious fundamentalists (a particular approach to christianity and religion in general) who have infiltrated every flippin’ corner of this place – from market to schools to parliament – cultural nationalists who think Jamaica is being too influenced by other countries; of course they claim this in between the flights to NY, consulting gigs from USAID, and big stage show a Japan, while wearing african clothing made in Switzerland and China – political conservatives who want to use law to beat the living daylights out of us while they themselves skirt the law and engage in all kinds of corruption yet unknown – men who feel like they’re on the shit end of the stick and want “respect” – women who ketching hell, dem pickney dem a ketch hell a school an yard, dem cya’an find a good man who nuh have 3 ooman or who is not a gunman – Everybody think they have something to lose and want to get it back or at least hold onto what they believe they have. Homosexuals – not Dons, not tiefing politician, not USAID – are a ready target for us to project all these fears onto.

    This is a conservative country AND those who are invested in keeping things the way they imagine they are, or used to be – as opposed to those just going along because that’s all they know until something better comes along – are making sure it remains or becomes that way. Why? Because they sense that change is happening and want to keep it bay. Well, dem 300 years too late. And, dem shoulda neva mek sattelite dish come yah, and mek we have passports and can travel. That was their mistake. Hence the abortion debate, etc.

    There are a lot of lies and half-truths that are being spread about upperclass gays and lesbians, and its important to stop repeating them. If “everybody knows” who these high-profile folks are, then we should be able to name those who walk so freely here, right? After all, nothing is going to happen to them since they ARE members of the elite, right? Why haven’t we? You don’t know what is happening in Cherry Gardens because the media does not report what happens there. You don’t know who is kicked out of their house, who is beaten senseless because dem get ketch inna house wid man, etc. You also can’t see what is happening because their lives happen behind gates and grilles and on the pajero conveyor belt, not on the street or in the government agencies. On the other hand, working class and poor jamaicans are constantly under scrutiny. If smaddy piss or fling a rockstone dung a’ Washington Gardens, a reporter have supp’m fi seh bout it, gi’it some name – di rockstone syndrome – an govament ready fi lick dung dem house. Everything “bad” about Jamaica, even when we agree with the badness, is projected onto the ghettoes. The ones at the bottom of the social ladder are always made into the scapegoats because they can’t defend themselves.

    Inner city communities are war zones in every way. The war is against them, as well as takes place within them. These communities reflect a much more intensified version of what’s happening around the rest of the country. But inside that war zone is not as simple as what you describe, dutty bwoy.

    Dem bwoy wha deh walk round and gwa’an bout galdeville and other creative but idiotic tests, they can only say that because there is something to defend against, and because it makes them feel powerful. In practice, dem cannot run out gays and lesbians out of their neighborhoods. Why? Because it is simply impossible to do so, by virtue of how complex the lives of gays and lesbians are. And some gay man mus’ have a machete fi chop smaddy baxide; some lesbian will cuss dem and bet dem fi come up pon har verandah. When one run out, two run een. A jus’ so it go.

    That’s not to understimate the violence and hostility, but that’s to say, if the homophobia was a done-deal the way jamaicans AND foreigners want to claim, well, we wouldn’t be having these clashes. And as long as you have the clashes, the debates, you know – at least I do – that the anti-gay purge mentality is on the losing side. Common sense and history is on the side of change.

    Meantime, this place will not be a mecca, but it is OUR home, and me know seh me n’ah run lef yah go nowhe’ cau’se some jackass unhedicated bwoy a come tell me seh mi cya’an seh dis and dat. Yuh mussi mad!! My bookshelf is stocked, my computer is up and running, and my machete well sharp an lean up inna corner. Sen’ dem come; if one ting nuh work, we can try something else. Selah.

  5. long post fi true, long bench but very interesting. couldn’t stop reading until the end. Seriously yu fi have yu own colum ina one a di major newspaper. Seriously

  6. I found this by accident after googling Shabba Ranks. I find it highly ironic when -some- Blacks use passages from the Bible to support their hatred and violence towards gays, when that same book contains multiple verses approving of Slavery:

    Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:2-6, Exodus 21:7-11,
    Exodus 21:20-21, Luke 12:47-48 – Look ’em up its in there.

    Then there’s Deut. 13:13-19 which commands the destruction of an ENTIRE town if so much as ONE person in it worships another diety. Exodus 31:12-15 which demands the stoning of anyone working on the Sabbath (hence why your business are all closed on Sunday) Deut. 22:20-21 which calls for the stoning to death of women who aren’t virgins on their wedding night. Leviticus. 11:9-12 says you cannot eat SHELLFISH (how many of you guys eat clams lobster or shrimp?) Leviticus 19:19 Says no clothing made of MIXED FIBERS (no underwear with elastic bands, no polyestor cotton blends) the same verse also says no breeding different cattle together or planting mixed seeds in a field. Timothy 2:12 says women can’t be allowed to teach, good luck enforcing that one in today’s day and age…

    I’m an American. My Youtube channel is Death2Bigots.
    (bigot meaning “hate-monger,” not gays as some assume).

  7. interesting, I must say that I am not as knowledgeable as you about these particular parts of the bible. We all know that everyone will take whatever is supporting their point from the good book and obviously some of the guidance given by th bible is impractical in today’s world.

    I will check the youtube channel.

  8. trust me, dem nuh wa’a ear whe mi affi seh. If dem cya’a put wud inna mi mout, dem cya’a trus’ wha go come outa fi mi head. But I do think we need a weekly periodical that comments on the news and current issues, even if its online. In a way, that’s what these blogs are doing right now.

  9. @ longbench :
    I remember when I went to jamaica ( 2 years ago, to bury my grandma) and I have to agree, religion is EVERYWHERE! On the cars ( cars paise god), on the radio(ppl give shout outs to their pastors), in the daily life( a common greeting is simply “praise god”), and ppl it doesn’t matter ! So I can see where innocent GLBT ( gays ,lesbians, bisexuals, trans) would be oppressed and mercilessly killed. I remember thinking what an alternative world it was ( compared to the USA). I can see why my mom would have such deeply held spiritual beliefs. SHE is also quite homophobic and will not support pepsi because they supported another gay rights group awhile ago.

    @ Kitsune_Baka :
    “Even the devil can quote scripture for his cause” -Shakespear

  10. Much of this discussion about GLBT can should be avoided if we stay true to ourselves; if we really live in the love and harmony that God desires. The sexuality and other matters of a persons rest with him/her and God. We get really too caught up interfering in the affairs of some others who could not care less.

    As I know, many gay persons are not interested in the ordinary heterosexual person. Are we seeing how persons are disrespecting each other on the roads as we drive each day? are we taking time to observe the faces of many Jamaicans? they have many lines and wrinkles from the everyday stresses of just trying to live from hand to mouth.

    There are a number of things we are not being observed as this discussion about gays etc… go on; it will not go away, never. It was always ans so it will be. I urge us to stop or at least slow down. A lot of persons (men and woman) are hurting each other by entering into relationship and even getting married because this is what society is asking them to do. The list of things that are happening as a result of this bashing continues.

    Gay persons are really not looking for anyone to “love them up.” all that is required is respect. Face it, there are many gay person who are contributing in many more ways than heterosexual persons in this country. This country requires the input of everyone to make us better.

    I bet some person would not think gay persons are responsible just as anyone else? I continue to say until we clean up our education system and allow persons in this country the ability to better reason, we all face the risk of going down the drain with warps minds. Why do you we are facing much of the ills in the little country? the reality is that the majority of the population remains unable to function at the BASIC level of literacy.

    I could go no but I will not. It hurts to see how with tear each other apart. Who ever thought that if we tried to respect each other this country would be WORLD CLASS in many more respect.

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