I have not been able to stop thinking about the senseless murder of Jamaican AIDS activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey all weekend long since wrote about it on Friday. So let me share this message I just received from Thomas Glave, founding member of Jamaican Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG); current Assistant Professor of the Department of English, General Literature and Rhetoric at my own alma-mater Binghamton University, and author (most recently of "Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent"). I think he makes some important points particularly about the reporting in spaces such as the US-based gay.com (though he does not mention any of them by name). To wit:
Some listservs, articles, and individuals have claimed that Lanford "Steve" Harvey, whom I knew, was "openly" gay. This is not quite true, and is a misrepresentation of Jamaican LGBT people's complex realities. Who is, or can be, truly "openly" gay today in Jamaica? In my definition, "openly gay" means self-defined as such, having "come out" formally to family and friends and perhaps colleagues, and not feeling concern about who does or doesn't know one's sexual orientation. To me, being "openly gay" suggests that one feels the sort of security and support that would permit one to live as an "open" or "out" person. This sort of reality is simply not possible for just about everyone in Jamaica at this time, and should not be put forth, in articles or otherwise, as fact. Brian Williamson, another Jamaican gay man whom I knew from my J-FLAG days and who was also a friend, *was* openly gay -- but Brian was murdered in 2004. Brian was also intensely aware of the risks he took as an openly gay man living in Jamaica. I know of only one other person who lived as an openly gay man in Jamaica, and who was also a J-FLAG founding member -- someone who has, incidentally, received political asylum, in another country, as a gay man.Our hearts go to Steve's friends and family and we hope that media takes notice of the disservice that they are doing by misrepresenting the facts of the case.
Steve Harvey was known to many of his friends and colleagues as a gay man, and in that sense might have been "openly" gay; but again, I would like to stress that Jamaican LGBT realities are not at all the same as North American or European LGBT realities. Being "openly" gay in Jamaica can mean death -- and few lgbt Jamaicans, at least among those whom I know, are willing to risk death in a society whose violence they understand only too well.
UPDATE: At times like these, the only LGBT organization in Jamaica - J-FLAG - needs our uttermost support. This is why I urge anyone who reads this post to take a coulple of minutes and write a check for $5, $10, $50 or $500 dollars:
Jamaican and Canadian dollar cheques or money orders can be made out to:
FCIB Acct. #1000351328
P.O. Box 1152
US currency cheques or money orders can be written to: VMBS Acct. #96269071
P.O. Box 7247-8801
Philadelphia PA 19170-8801
- Jamaican AIDS Activist Murdered on Eve of World AIDS Day (December 2, 2005)
- Agencies Condemn Senseless Murder of Jamaican AIDS Activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey (December 8, 2005)
- International Outrage at Murder of AIDS Activist in Jamaica is Having Some Effect (December 9, 2005)
- Four charged in murder of Jamaican gay man (March 9, 2006)