April 24, 2015 – Reported by 76 Crimes – First of two articles about the challenge of breaking through emotional barriers that people erect between themselves and victims of persecution who act or look unlike them.
This article, by activist lawyer Maurice Tomlinson, focuses on affluent gay men’s barriers to understanding poor LGBT Jamaicans, Trinidadians, and themselves. The following article, by activist/commentator Scott Long, will focus on the difficulty keeping relatively affluent Westerners’ interest in non-white victims of repression, particularly in news coverage of Egypt.
When asked how many slaves she had helped to liberate, the great American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, said: “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” I often feel the same way about privileged gays, or “rich queens” in, and from, the Caribbean.
Last week I heard from one such person at a screening of “The Abominable Crime” film, which was hosted by my new employer, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. This film chronicles some aspects of homophobia in Jamaica, and the Trinidadian gentleman critiqued the documentary’s accuracy. He said that gays in the region are “thriving” and while that may very well be his reality, I challenge his assessment.
As I pointed out to him, us “rich queens” certainly aren’t exposed to the sorts of physical attacks experienced by the “scared/scary queens.” They are LGBTI people from the lower social-economic strata who either have to hide or develop a dangerous persona in order to survive. They are more vulnerable to attack because they walk in the public thoroughfares, or rely on public transportation. They also have more entry-level and insecure job-prospects. Finally, their tenancy arrangements are incredibly insecure as they can only rely on the goodwill or boredom of family, landlords and/or neighbors not to force them out unto the street…story continues below…