A Fish in a Tiny Fish Bowl – Being Gay in a Third World Country
By Sam Eloney on August 21, 2014
*Fish is a Jamaican derogatory slang for homosexuals.
They say that the world is a small place, but you don’t realize just how small until you’re gay in Jamaica and you feel like a fish – pun intended – stuck in a tiny fish bowl with everyone watching and judging you. Though it is not illegal to be gay here, there is a buggery law put in place that prevents anyone, even consulting adults, from having anal sex. The reason that is given by our government is that there are many health risks associated with anal sex and they are doing it for the protection of the people. I think the archaic law is still in place because our government is populated by homophobic bigots who want to refuse its residents and citizens the right to free love.
Being gay in Jamaica is almost a death sentence, because gays are forced to live in hiding for fear of being murdered, raped, or otherwise tortured. In 2013 there was a murder of a 16 year old transgender named Dwayne Jones. Dwayne went to a party dressed in drags and when it was found out that by sex she was actually a boy, she was beaten, stabbed, shot, and run over by a car, resulting in her death. The police, whom we all assume do not care, have not yet made any arrests. Unfortunately, Dwayne’s story is very common in Jamaica. Gay men, especially those who identify as females, suffer the most. They are threatened, beaten and murdered for simply being who they are.
There are currently 25 gay men, most of whom are transgendered, living in a gully (storm drain) in the heart of Kingston. Most were kicked out of their homes after revealing their sexuality and others were banned from their communities after they were found out. Being chased out of every home they knew, these men, known as the Gully Queens, were forced to live in the gully because they had nowhere else to go. As a source of income, they became sex workers. The government decided that it was none of their business and made no efforts to help them. That is when LGBTQ organizations stepped in to donate food, clothing and toiletries to these homeless men. However, the police who were outraged by them living in the gully began to brutalize them. They ran them out and set their things on fire and told them to go home. A judge eventually ruled that they could remain there, but this still did not sit well with the police who continued to torture them.
These are some of the situations that gays in Jamaica face on a daily basis. I have been threatened for holding my girlfriends’ hands in public and touched inappropriately by misogynistic men who cannot respect the fact that I would prefer a woman to them. Corrective rape is a known practice and has become the fear of many LGBTQ women across the island. There are common stories of butches who have been subjected to this kind of treatment because according to some men, “every woman deep down must want a dick” or “a dick is the solution to gayness”.
Cries to the government have gone unheard and many young gays either hide who they are or kill themselves because they do not want to live in a world where they have to justify their love constantly and face unending brutality. There is a movement called the “Love March” that is a protest against gays in Jamaica, which is kept every few months. They gather in the heart of St. Andrew and spew their hate and ignorance and “bun out battyman”. The sad fact is that the biggest concern for the Jamaican public is not the poor economy, child labour, rape or domestic violence, but someone’s right to love whomever they please.
We have a very long way to go as a nation before we can ever begin to discuss repealing the buggery law. Gay marriage is a conversation for maybe the next 50 years. This is what being gay in Jamaica is like; a constant fight to simply live and love in peace. As for myself, I am currently fighting for rights I know I will not see in my lifetime. However, it is my hope that through my efforts and efforts of others like me, Jamaica will someday live by its motto which says, “Out of Many, One People.”
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