My faith in your paper as a whole has been severely compromised by your staff reporter, Donna Hussey-Whyte, on account of the August 21 article, “Rowdy gays banned by J-FLAG, JASL”. Certainly the news item itself was worth telling, as poor conduct by any of our citizens is something to decry. What saddened me was her flagrantly homophobic language when she referred to one source as speaking “with the customary feminine drawl” as she smartly added the gender-bending detail that he was dressed in “women’s tights” before going on to talk about the sexual “preference” of an allegedly murdered 15-year-old gay teenager.
I thought that journalists were supposed to be above the common ebb of public discourse. I thought that journalists were supposed to remain impartial in their presentation of the news. How then can Ms Hussey-Whyte presume to take her role seriously in this charged, contentious social environment if she will stoop to use such irresponsible language in her writing? Of what “customary feminine drawl” was she speaking? I have many gay friends in at least four different countries and few have anything “customary” about their language. And what of the teenager murdered because of his sexual orientation? I suppose his “preference” brought him that outcome? That remark was particularly callous.
What Ms Hussey-Whyte has done is successfully taken the dignity of the Jamaica Observer (a paper I really liked) to a new low by abandoning the ethics that govern the field of journalism. Neutrality is the ultimate defence of any news person or body, and your reporter lost that when she decided to pander stereotypes and judgement when speaking about things of which she visibly knows nothing at all.
(1) All gay men do not have feminine drawls so there can be no such thing as “customary” in reference to millions of men around the world.
(2) All gay men do not wear feminine attire. In fact, men who do wear feminine clothing are considered to be transvestites — regardless of their sexual orientation.
(3) Sexual orientation is just that — an orientation. No one “prefers” being considered a social deviant by his or her community and family, neither does one readily “prefer” a life of ridicule, ostracism and even self-loathing here in Jamaica — listed among the most homophobic and violent countries in the world. I fail to see the “preference”.
Ms Hussey-Whyte’s article focused on marginal elements of the gay community — delinquent male prostitutes and transvestites living on the street and struggling to find their way. Rowdy or not, their stories deserve to be treated with respect and seriousness as their plight affects us all — gays and straights. No one wants to hear that HIV-positive people are roaming about engaging in commercial sex and not receiving treatment. Their clients are our brothers, fathers, bosses and friends and so transactional sex among the homeless, gay or straight, deserves real reporting. Instead, you offered us juvenile humour and bigotry. Shame on you and the Jamaica Observer for publishing such biased frivolity.