By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas — For years, Bahamian artist Jonathon Murray lived in fear of being ridiculed, ostracized and even physically harmed because he is gay.
Murray, 27, moved to New York City a few years ago for school and said it was the first time he realized that he did not have to live in fear.
Murray recently recounted his struggle of being gay in The Bahamas.
“It was difficult,” he said of growing up.
“You deal with a lot more stuff. I felt uncomfortable particularly later in my life.
“More recently over the years, before I moved to New York, I used to feel uncomfortable all the time, even walking around or going to the mall or going down Bay Street.
“I used to constantly get words thrown at me; it’s just a feeling of being in a police state.”
When asked if he was ever assaulted because of his sexual orientation, he said: “I’ve definitely had threats before.
“That was relatively common. I have been involved in indecencies where violence was executed upon me, but it’s hard to specify that, that was strictly an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issue.
“I think it was involved, but I think there were several factors involved in that and that was one of them.”
He added, “I think the big difference is after being here (NYC) for several months and realizing I don’t have to worry about that, I could be who I want to be,” he said.
“That’s a huge freedom that people really don’t realize may be missing.”
The issue of LGBT rights recently re-emerged after Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell told a group of students at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago that his career suffers because of his position on LGBT issues.
Bahamas MP Hubert Chipman said on Monday that he did not think Mitchell should have shared his views on LGBT issues during his trip.
Mitchell described Chipman’s statements as “homophobic”.
Another gay Bahamian man said he found it easier to be himself in England.
“There is an acceptance there for that lifestyle,” said Terron Smith, whose name has been changed for this story.
“No one cared. My mind was blown by how nonchalant people are about what you choose to do with your life.”
Smith said he believes The Bahamas has to come to terms with the fact that there are many gay and lesbian people in the country.
“I think there needs to be a social understanding of what it means to be homosexual, bisexual, transgender,” he said. “There needs to be a social effort to help people understand that it’s not something that you choose.”
Murray said he feels that he can’t have a normal life at home.
“There are so many opportunities for me personally, professionally and my family lives at home, but I can’t have partners, I can’t live a normal life, so why am I going to engage in that?” he said.
“You are kind of setting yourself up for a half-lived life.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian