I recently came back from a quick weekend in Jamaica, but though it was short, I learned more than I could’ve with a stay 10 times as long. This was due to the people that my buddy (Joseph) and I met, who drank and smoked with us for a whole night, regaling us with stories and insight into the traditions and culture of the Jamaican people.
However, one troubling insight that bothered me was the lack of acceptance towards the LGBT community. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement; it seems that most Jamaicans completely abhor this “alternative” lifestyle.
There is a culture of homophobia throughout the island-nation of Jamaica, and it seems to be instilled strongly down to the roots in most of the inhabitants.
One thing that I learned after talking about it with two locals was that gay men have it particularly bad. Lesbians are frowned upon, but supposedly, “Two penises should never go together. It doesn’t work. Nature made a penis and a vagina to go together like so.” The guy then illustrated with his hands.
“So I guess lesbians are also equally disgusting?” I asked.
“Not at all. Two women can still something-something-something the penis and sperm, and children can still be made. God is okay with this,” he told me.
This might seem hilarious, and when you separate just these words out, it is kinda funny, I must admit. However, when you understand the danger of potential violence to the LGBT community for travelers and locals alike, it isn’t so funny anymore.
There have been countless cases of violence against gays and lesbians. Tomlinson, of AIDS Free World, via Trust.org, said that one time, “a gang of four men raped a lesbian because they said she was ‘taking over all good looking women.'” Homophobia that has been fought politically often has preachers condemning them; death threats are also common.
Not only do citizens take up the fight against the disgusting animals that are gays and lesbians, but it is also a severely-punished crime in Jamaica. Gay men who are prosecuted can face a lengthy jail sentence and up to 10 years of forced heavy labor. What might be just as appalling is the prosecution of slander and libel forms of defamation; Jamaicans are so disgusted by this lifestyle that calling someone “gay” or worse is punishable, because it is that damaging to the image of the plaintiff. The way out? The defendant can “prove” that the victim of his/her words are indeed facts, and charges for that will be dropped.
Just like in many parts of the world, homophobia is one of the few human rights concerns that still exist in Jamaica. However, it really is more dangerous to be openly such, compared to in other places where the sentiment is merely frowned upon. Gay and lesbian travelers must really exercise extreme care if they want to safely visit this beautiful country.