The Perfume of Compassion Amidst the Stench of Homophobia

Friday-The-13Th-7 Saturday, June 14, 2014 was like a Friday the 13th for me. So many things happened that day – a day that seemed packed with a few more hours than the 24 to which I have grown accustomed. But it wasn’t all bad. Some of it was quite productive and inspiring.

For those of us who watch the nightly news and have active social media accounts, or know someone who knows someone who was in May Pen, Clarendon the afternoon of the 14th, you would have heard the teeth-gnashing, heart-piercing story of a 16-year-old who had to run for cover in a clothing store in the town.

Advertising Agencies/Grey Apparently persons were disturbed by the decision to purchase a lip stain, so they proceeded to verbally attack Candy [pseudonym] with the always lurid Jamaican derogatory terms set aside for gay and gender non-conforming persons. I don’t care about Candy’s sexual and/or gender identity, but apparently it is a critical national (well maybe local government) matter that needed the urgent attention of the citizens who busied the streets of May Pen that afternoon.

It took several Area 3 police officers to successfully, and without incident provide safe exit for Candy who was locked in the store by one of the store attendants to prevent the chanting mob from causing further harm. When I heard about the incident, I became worried and my heart swelled with anger.

human-rights2 I thought of writing about the incident because of the anguish in my heart. I thought about writing because of the pain, because of the disappointment I felt. But I decided instead to write because of the goose pimples I got when I heard the very young female store attendant Kelene (pseudonym) tell me via phone that she “couldn’t push [Candy] on the outside. I honestly couldn’t push [Candy] out. [Candy] was so afraid… [Candy] is human just the same way as I am.” She “just could not” let them hurt Candy.

In a moment when I was angry at the mob of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, human beings who were ready and willing to hunt for the ‘kill’, a child who preferred a little colour, a little gloss, a little stain on the lips, Kelene gave me more than a glitter of hope.

I don’t know her age, but her voice and stature would make me guess that she was somewhere between 18 and 20 years of age, if not younger. She didn’t know Candy. She simply felt the urge to help, and in that moment made a brave and perhaps risky decision to protect Candy from the hunters outside. I don’t know if we will truly understand how much she has risked protecting this person unknown to her. I hope the universe will reward, and not punish her…

Several minutes later, I boarded a bus to head back into Kingston. And all the hope escaped me for the entire journey from May Pen. Certainly after all that drama and the density of the population involved, I was not surprised that the incident and other ‘related’ occurrences became the topic of discussion.

151676_Gay_and_Lesbian_Protest(2) Without turning your stomach too much, let me just say that there are some Jamaicans out there who unswervingly believe it is absolutely necessary for gay men to be put to death in the most gruesome ways, and that it is the responsibility of ‘straight men’ to ‘correct’  lesbians through sexual intercourse. Why? That’s easy. Being gay is an abomination!

It got me wondering: what accounts for the diametrically opposing views of Kelene and some of the passengers on this bus? I couldn’t find the answer, I don’t even know whether there is an answer, unless we are going for the insanity plea: mens rea not found…

I am still thinking, still wondering, still hoping, and still inspired by the little voice that was on the other side of my Huawei.

I believe we need more Kelenes, and we must find a way to transform the minds of some of those passengers on the bus, otherwise, we are doomed.

Thank you Kelene for recognising as Desmond Tutu did, that “we can only be human together.” And I implore you to continue to “do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Peace.