A street dance. Mountain View Ave. Kingston. Jamaica. Home to many gay and lesbian Jamaicans. Over 300 people and a constant spread of extremely homophobic sentiments blaring to a group of largely marginalised members of one of the most violent communities in east kingston. It appears by our undue focus on that was Buju and ‘Boom bye bye’, a floodgate of homophobic lyrics, artists and dancehall culture swell the underground. Evidence of the fact that we constantly focus on personalities, heads and tips of icebergs ignoring nuclear issues.
What if an agitated and covertly aggressive dancehall culture has been lurking in the shadows, building/brainwashing young men, women and whole communities into systematic hate for same-sex relationships, waiting on the ripe time or opportunity to move from covert and lyrical to overt and physical? What if they are truly not just lyrics and style of dancehall, but an aggression so thick, it can no longer be penetrated, and is awaiting its fierce release? What if our undue focus on the lyrics of a song from the 1980’s and missed opportunities to encourage a general up-trend in respect for people, life as well as other good moral expressions in Jamaican music were missed?
It may not be that persons who find homophobic lyrics or harbour contempt for the homosexual lifestyle outnumber others who really don’t care. However it could be that the people who are most likely to be influenced or incensed by homophobia are more powerful in brute force and disregard for life, wrong/right and the law. Surveys have shown that over 75% of Jamaicans at some points, have no regard for private homosexual activity, whilst other studies have confirmed Jamaica to be a very homophobic nation. A most recent survey completed by Boxhill in 2012 followed up on the ‘National Survey of Attitudes and Perceptions of Jamaicans Toward Same Sex Relationship’ conducted in 2011, found that the situation had marginally gotten worse, and proved that: Jamaicans are aware of homosexuality, there is no closet, with over 50% of respondents being aware from as young as 14; agreed that homosexuality was prevalent in Jamaica and transcended social classes, highlighting the fact that poverty in urban areas was one of the main reasons for young men getting involved; the amount of people who believed that a homosexual can be changed to heterosexual rose to 53%; and over 88% and 83% of respondents believed respectively that both male and female homosexuality were immoral. Demonstrating that the false security enjoyed by lesbians, that male homosexuality is more harshly opposed than female homosexuality is not only misleading but dangerous; business persons were less likely to hire a homosexual due mainly to the concern that it would affect other staff – confirming that homosexuals may experience challenges in seeking employment; it also proved that the church and persons who listened to and was part of the dancehall culture (arguable a very large proportion of our young people) were most likely to be homophobic, whilst professionals and professional women seemed less inclined to be as riled up.
My experience with the dancehall lastnight was both heart-wrenching and eye opening. With threats of a retaliation for the acid attack on an alleged heterosexual thug in Bargain Mall, lastnight by a homosexual, the anti-gay and lesbian sentiments were palpable. As the selector spat his hate over blaring speakers, supported by the catchy and angry sounding lyrics of dancehall music, resounding gun salutes from both female and male members of the audience, I sank deeper into the ground. With the church and other groups flexing their muscles, testing and garnering their influences, no doubt propelled by some of the facts found in Boxhill’s study…I wonder banefully, have we lost the opportunity to sensitize and support Jamaica Land We Love to be one that our forefathers intended, teaching ‘true respect for all’, are our leaders’ who have been admonished to ‘stir response to duty call’ sleeping the sleep of death from potential political suicide? What does this mean for the gay community, after years of sporadic homophobic violence, but largely an appreciation in pockets of tolerance over the years, are recent activities such as the local church’s anti-homosexual agenda and the importance of homosexual issues and votes in the current Presidential campaigns in the US, a recipe for local LGBT disaster…are we even slightly prepared?