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Commentary: Some terrifying 'side-effects' of homophobia in Jamaica
Published on February 11, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Juleus Ghunta

Jamaicans’ revulsion for the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ has long achieved worldwide infamy. The recent constitutional clashes surrounding the buggery law is a case in point.

juleus_ghunta3.jpg
Juleus Ghunta is a youth motivational speaker, dreamrighter and poet. He is the creator of the D.R.E.A.M.R.I.G.H.T concept. Ghunta has delivered moving presentations at numerous organisations in Jamaica, across the Caribbean and in Africa. In 2013 Ghunta received the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence for his work as a youth advocate. Ghunta’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bim: Arts for the 21st Century (Barbados), Bookends (Sunday Observer) and Poetry Pacific (Canada). Email feedback to juleusghunta@gmail.com
But while the nation debates the legitimacy of homosexual unions, far more sinister occurrences than those invoked by legal scuffles and attacks on gays and lesbians, here defined as ‘the side-effects of homophobia’, are causing major sub-cultural conflicts, stigma and social strain.

‘Normal’, heterosexual Jamaicans, particularly children, are being swept up and victimised in the whirlwind of homophobic hysteria.

Seldom discussed, but no less urgent, are our now culturally entrenched and irrational ‘gay prevention rituals’; the unjustified ‘suss and labelling’ of random citizens ‘as gay’ by anti-gay crusaders; the denigration of the speakers of ‘the language of queers/English’ and, the ‘lynching of heterosexual sympathisers’ by enraged mobs.

Although I have always been secure in my identity as a ‘straight’ man, some adults needed to make sure. I’ll have the culprits know, that the ‘gay prevention rituals’ to which I was subjected as a child were immoral, illegal and indefensible.

A blasphemous number of Jamaica’s children, including infants and toddlers, are being forced through ‘gay prevention rituals’… an initiation into sex acts by frenetic adults who are determined to eradicate any ‘latent’ homosexual urges in them.

Four year olds are being instructed to ‘do it’ while adults cheer them on. Some adults go as far as to volunteer themselves while designing sexual scripts for children.

According to the Inter‐American Commission on Human Rights, of the 563 known child victims in 2009, 480 were either raped or sexually assaulted. The percentage of children who were abused as a result of homophobia is not clear.

What is clear though is that forced child to child sex acts have been, for decades, a ‘rite of passage’ into heterosexuality in many families and communities.

This ‘side-effect’ of homophobia has incinerated the innocence of thousands of children and is one major reason why so many pre-teens voluntarily participate in sexual activities way below the lawful age of consent.

Trapped in these appalling realities, distraught children, particularly boys, remain on guard, careful not to be seen in close-knitted ‘male groups’ (except ‘gangs’ or corner crews) lest they be ‘sussed and labelled’.

Consider the three who came to me crying recently. Random residents and family members have labelled them ‘gay’, defining their ‘closeness’ as ‘unnatural’ and are urging them to “get girlfriends”. None of them was more than 10 years old.

Jamaica’s homophobic outrage is causing an identity crisis among our male population.

Expressions of affection among fathers and sons, brothers and male friends are viewed, by many, with suspicion. Coarseness, emotional indifference and polygamy among males are widely esteemed and espoused.

And it gets worse. Is there a connection between homophobia and some male students’ non-mastery of English? Apparently, yes.

In some high schools, English is defined by rough talking teens as ‘the language of queers/gays’. Those who excel at English are seen as misfits with homosexual propensities.

Some male students refrain from speaking standard English for fear of being ostracised and bullied. Others are deliberately flunking English exams, including the Caribbean Secondary Education Council’s (CSEC), because of the subject’s perceived link to males’ effeminacy and queerness.

In 2011, the USAID published a report on ‘masculinity and educational performance…’ in Jamaican high schools in which it states that “…some boys believe that doing well academically is incongruent with being men.”

National Council on Education member Merris Murray, who participated in the study, remarked that “Jamaican boys have increasingly resisted schooling as ‘girlish’. This ‘hard’ image… is directly linked to the Creole language… this practice has placed the boys in a disadvantageous situation given that English is our instructional language”.

The creators of sex education texts and teachers would be wise not to circumvent comprehensive and balanced classroom discussions on homosexuality and this notorious phobia. Too much is at stake, including the further destruction of our prescriptive norms, as well as males’ proficiency in English.

And it gets much worse. Rabid lynch mobs have concluded that those who are not ‘with them’ are ‘with gays’ and, that some ‘heterosexual sympathisers’ deserve ‘the gay treatment’.

The stepfather of an alleged gay-man received ‘the gay treatment’ in Trelawny last year. He was chopped to death by a mob, for ‘harbouring’ his son.

Unsatisfied, the bloodthirsty rabble chopped his daughter, who barely escaped alive, and still unsatisfied, they set his house alight. There were no reports of arrests and media coverage was fleeting.

In some homophobic enclaves in Jamaica, heterosexuals who sympathise with gays are regularly targeted for mob ‘justice’.

I affirm as necessary, gays’ continued pursuit of their civil liberties and human rights, but no more is this pursuit ‘a right’ than ‘moralists’ right to resist. This, I think, is the ‘democratic way’. But it would appear that some Jamaicans do not want to ‘think’, they just want to kill. This, too often, is the ‘Jamaican way’.

Wherever and whenever homophobia rears its head, there is an outpouring of hate and violence draped in linens of socio-religious morality.

Against their ‘best intentions’, Jamaica’s anti-gay activists are maligning and marginalising heterosexuals.

Their actions have contributed to early sexual initiation of children, sexual abuse and violence, early pregnancies, poor socialisation of males and heightened risks of children contracting STIs.

In their discussions on human rights and the buggery law, members of the Love March Movement, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and others must widen their discourse to include the terrifying ‘side-effects’ of homophobia, and perhaps, what novelist George Lamming calls, ‘the education of feeling’.
 
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