As a lifelong cynic and veteran news reporter it’s rare that a story gets to me. Generally, tales of murder, mistreatment and/or abuse, whether isolated or en masse, are greeted with at best casual dismay or begrudging acknowledgment. But reading the story of 16-year-old Dwayne Jones, a Jamaican transgender boy who was beaten to death after attending a party on the island, almost brought me to tears.
It wasn’t necessarily that I was sad for Jones or his family (who have so far refused to even claim his body) or his friends or even the LGBT community. I was sad for all of us. I had to ask myself, ‘Are our children still being beaten to death for nothing more than existing?’
In 2013, are we still so un-evolved and uncivilized as human beings that a 16 year old can be literally beaten to death – stabbed, shot and run over by a car – because he’s dressed like a girl? The ineffable answer to that question seems to be yes.
A report from Human Rights Watch found Jamaica’s record on civil rights for the gay community to be “the worst any of us has ever seen.” And according to an AP article, Jamaica’s homosexual community lives so far underground that their parties and church services are held in secret locations.
The article goes on to say that Jones was kicked out of his home by his father at 14 and taunted for his sexuality so relentlessly that he dropped out of school. After living on the streets, beaches and shantytowns near the Jamaican city of Montego Bay he finally mustered the confidence to attend a party outside of the island’s LGBT community. It was at this party that reports say the teen was chased down, beaten unconscious and later “finished off.”
This shouldn’t happen to anyone, anywhere.
While the entire nation of Jamaica cannot and should not be held responsible for Jones’ death, the fact that 20 days have passed and not a single arrest has been made is unacceptable. Many have pointed to the country’s anti-sodomy law as a lynchpin to its regressive attitude on gay rights and this too must change.
Jamaica is a nation supported largely by tourism. The industry makes up around 10 percent of the country’s GDP, and services related to that tourism make up somewhere between 65 and 70 percent of GDP. A boycott on travel to Jamaica would send a clear message to the country that this kind of intolerance and bigotry will not stand.