Jamaican overseas comments on the San Fran boycott

Thanks to Fiyu Pikni for this comment on our post below, thought it was important to post it as the dialogue continues on the issue.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about this renewed effort to influence change for the better, by our international allies.

I made the following comment on an article which supports the boycott: http://www.boycottjamaica.org/blog/huffington-post-time-to-boycott-jamaica/

“As a gay Jamaican, I am heartened by the efforts of our international allies, who are trying to increase general awareness of Jamaica’s homophobia, and what it means for queer identified individuals there. I agree with your approach, in that we need to be more proactive in our advocacy, if the Jamaican government is ever to recognize queers as citizens with inalienable rights.

That said, I am perturbed by the actions taken by boycott groups thus far, for they are exceedingly insensitive to the socio-cultural reality in Jamaica. Do not misinterpret me- doing nothing is not an option, but I hope that those who desire to boycott Jamaican products, for example, are sufficiently aware of the real challenges faced. Jamaica’s most homophobic citizens are perhaps the most likely to react with belligerence to the boycott efforts. Jamaicans do not like to be told what to do, or think. Generalization, yes, but i can promise you that this is the reaction the efforts you are supporting will yield. This will in turn make people more hostile towards queer identified individuals, and less receptive to issues affecting LGBT individuals.

The task at hand should really be to have the government decry violence against people of a queer orientation, and enact legislation to guarantee protection for them. They aren’t very empathetic to our cause now, and will be even less so once these boycotting efforts are in full gear.

Unless you are working directly on the ground, and with politicians, to get support for these legislative efforts, the goal of the boycotts will not be achieved. Further, whatever lofty goals one has to change the way Jamaicans perceive queers must be reevaluated. Pushing Jamaicans further into poverty will NOT make them more sympathetic of the needs of disenfranchised queers.

So I ask. In tandem with your support for the boycotts, are you also working directly with the LGBT rights advocacy group on the island to see what else can be done on the ground, with a grassroots approach. Are you encouraging people to write letters to the various members of parliament, who will ultimately have to vote on proposed legislation?

This problem will not be solved easily, because homophobic people are not rational, and so our cries will continue to fall on deaf ears, at least for a while. Clearly then, the issue must be approached in a holistic way, lest we exacerbate the dangers faced by queers, and particularly gay men and transgender individuals, in Jamaica.”

With each passing day however, I am more supportive of the boycotts. Let’s face it- as good a job as J-flag is doing, the Jamaican populace as a whole, and the Jamaican government, are not softening up to the idea that gays have a fundamental right to life and liberty. For many, we don’t exist as an oppressed minority. They often speak of foreigners imposing their immoral beliefs on Christian Jamaicans, completely oblivious to the reality that there is a sizable queer population in Jamaica, as in every nation. People need to learn, sooner rather than later, that this is not a matter of getting them to accept homosexuality…rather, our efforts should be geared at reinforcing the ideal that all Jamaicans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, possess certain inalienable rights that the government MUST protect- after all, is that not their mandate?

If only our justice system was more efficient, I would study law just so I am able to understand better the Jamaican constitution, and consider ways I could sue the government for acting in ways towards homosexuals that are unconstitutional… anyway, I digress.

I am tired of being silenced. I am tired of being Mr. sensitive nice guy, who must always accommodate the bigotries of Jamaica’s ignorant populace. Perhaps this boycott, if successful, will have innumerable adverse impacts on Jamaica, but the harm inflicted upon queer Jamaicans, whether through verbal or physical violence, should be of equal concern. There is no greater evil…

I will reiterate that I do not believe boycotts will ever twist the arm of the Jamaican government sufficiently for it to decriminalize buggery, and decry discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation/ gender. Ultimately, our members of parliament will have to vote on the matter, and I am sure that there isn’t very much support for our cause. Perhaps in a generation or two, but until then, what do we really have to lose?

I believe Jamaica’s unapologetic stance against homosexuals is as bad as it can ever be… Surely, the boycott efforts will serve to inflame some people’s homophobia, but it is not making them any less violent or intolerant than they were already prone to be.

I am somewhat unhappy with the very firm stance J-FLAG has made on the boycotts. Yes, I agree that there are other ways to go about this, and indeed the boycotts alone wont work. And yes, targeting Red Stripe was a bad move on their part.

But seriously JFLAG, seriously, wa wi fi du now? Jamaican gays literally live in fear. I LIVE IN FEAR. Last summer I was walking through town when a man shouted out behind me, “a wan a dem dat ino.” I was on my own, briskly walking to my destination- I don’t even care to hang out in public anymore…And my heart skipped a beat, because I wasn’t sure if his next uuterance would be, “come wi brush im.”

Now I know that you are fully aware of the dangers faced, and are doing what you believe is the best approach to dealing with the situation, which happens to be a diplomatic one… It is my belief however, that your approach has some limitations. Perhaps if we had more than one Queer rights groups, which had different philosophical views about the best approach to ending active discrimination, then we could be a bit farther along in our efforts. I need not mention the influence of political and social radicalism in the queer movement which began after Stonewall, in 1969 I believe.

In the absence of another organization with a more extremist temperament, the boycott efforts in the US by the various organizations, will potentially serve us some good. I guess time will tell.

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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