A small group of protesters gathered outside the Jamaican consulate in Toronto on Aug 2 to condemn the murder of a gender-nonconforming teenager in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and to call on the Jamaican government to promote LGBT rights.
On July 22, 16-year-old Dwayne Jones, also known as Gully Queen, attended a street party dressed in women’s clothing. Jones was dancing with a man when a woman identified Jones as male, precipitating a mob attack. Police later found Jones’s body on the roadway, shot and stabbed multiple times, according to The Gleaner.
According to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (J-FLAG), Jones was the “life of the party” and had won the LGBT Dancehall Queen title multiple times.
A week following the attack, Jamaican Justice Minister Mark Golding made a plea for tolerance and urged police to “spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice,” but most officials have remained silent. Prominent Jamaican activist and attorney Maurice Tomlinson says the government must do more. “They not only need to condemn these acts; they also need to aggressively support tolerance and respect for the rights of gays in Jamaica.”
Homophobia is widespread in Jamaica — where, according to a 2011 survey, 82 percent of people believe homosexuality is “morally wrong” — and violence against LGBT people is not uncommon. Tomlinson points to two separate mob attacks that occurred a week after Jones’s murder.
Tomlinson, who married Reverend Tom Decker in Toronto in 2011 and divides his time between Canada, Jamaica and the United States, has received several death threats but continues to work for LGBT rights. He is currently challenging Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, an effort fiercely opposed by religious groups. Pastors from various churches rallied an estimated 1,500 people in support of the law, two days prior to the first court hearing.
“The reality is these homophobic attacks are a result of decades of anti-gay rhetoric being stirred up by the churches, politicians, et cetera,” Tomlinson says. It’s now up to these groups, he argues, to promote tolerance with the same vigour with which they have promoted bigotry.
Asked what Canadians can do, Tomlinson notes that most fundamentalist organizations in the Caribbean receive funding from North American religious-right groups. He advises Canadians to ensure that their money is not used to support homophobia in Jamaica.
At the time of publication, no arrests have been reported in connection with Jones’s murder. The Jamaican consulate could not be reached for comment by press time.