Monday, December 05, 2005

Update on Murder of Jamaican AIDS Activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey

[NOTE: To do something about this, please go to end of message - Andrés Duque]

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 (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.

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.
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.

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
Mail to:
P.O. Box 1152
Kingston 8

US currency cheques or money orders can be written to: VMBS Acct. #96269071
Mail to:
P.O. Box 7247-8801
Philadelphia PA 19170-8801
Previously Posted:


Anonymous said...

Not to diminish the trials and tribulations of the struggles that Jamaicans (or other nationals) face in being "openly gay", but I just want to remind you that right here in the good ole' USA people face very similar circumstances, including the violence and oppression (just look at Matthew Shepard). That's right... life is very different outside the urban gay Mecca’s of the US. Life is not so cheery for homosexuals in places like Shamokin, PA or various locals in Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska or even upstate NY not to mention almost all of the Deep South.

I think the sad reality is that we urban homosexuals here in the US often forget that the rest of the world lives a very different existence than we do.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Negril the summer that Mr. Williamson was brutally slain. The homophobic and anti-woman culture that persists in a society that touts its "friendliness" is paradoxical to say the least. If the average tourist only knew or cared to know the bitter realities.

I had been assisting some women in terms of leaving abusive hetero relationships and had been receiving numerous death threats or taunts of "lesbian, we are gonna git you and fock you up good." I went to the police locally who did not believe that I should feel threatened so I took my complaint to the female superintendant at Savannah la Mar who did take action...that action being to light a fire under the Negril constabulary's butts forcing them to go after the individual threatening me.

The year before, just up the road from where I was staying, two expat men were slain simply because they had been sharing a home together with no women present. Machetes were the weapons of choice.

In many hotels outside of the larger compounds two men cannot share a room because of the homosexual assumptions. Just last year Sandals finally issued a statement saying that they would no longer discriminate on the basis of orientation. I wonder if that holds true.

If I rebuked a gigolo on the beach for his sexual advances I was called a "focking dyke". I sought out isolated beaches outside of Negril as I found the gigolo straight culture to be just too much for this woman.

How many times I heard Jamaican males say that they preferred "skin to skin" instead of using condoms! Yes, there was a nationwide television campaign extolling the virtues of condom use but has it made an impact?

One good thing that came out of the Williamson slaying that summer was seeing more articles in the mainstream Jamaican press that dealt positively with the LGBT community. I know this pissed off many homophobes but too damned bad sayeth I.

Sometimes I just want to scream about Jamaica in a very general way but that would be condemning those whose work is starting to make an impact. Education is the key and until that field of access is level countrywide myths will continue to prevail.

There are many things I could add based on my many years of living not only in the hot zones but in a major redneck Canadian city that would be germaine to this situation in particular. Suffice to say I will continue to do what I do no matter what.

That is all I can do and damn those who believe that my published writings should never be negative. Sorry Jamaica but the truth can hurt.