Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm Never Going to Jamaica...Here's Why

I want to be like Anne Frank and be all "yeah, there's good in everyone," but when it comes to Jamaica, I want to indulge my cynical, entitled New Yorker and say that every time I hear about that island I am convinced that they are a backward, evil little nation.

And that's saying something in a world where Iraq, Iran, China and Sudan exist.

But I'm singling Jamaica out because they wouldn't matter in the world if it weren't for their obstinate view on homosexuality. They could coast along on the world scene as a sunny beach destination; instead, their popular culture, even their politicians, promote an almost comedic homophobic stance that unnecessarily hinders the country's tourism industry.

That an all-but-starving country focuses so much of its collective energy on hating a fragment of their population would be laughable were it not for the fact that many, many gay and lesbian Jamaicans have been attacked and killed by angry mobs.

In thinking about islands I've been to: Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, I see that Jamaica has a lot of work to do. Naturally, I think public relations is the answer to world's problems, but even here, the Jamaican government keeps putting its best foot in its mouth instead of forward.

Check out this opinion piece that ran in the Jamaica Observer in June of this year in response to an organization that pulled its annual convention from Jamaica because of the country's poor human rights record:

What with an overworked police force, a clogged up judicial system, a cloak of corruption and crime and cronyism, some slick-talking criminal lawyers and a tacit "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" code of conduct, there's hardly any law that is actively enforced in Jamaica. In addition to which we tend to drag things out for a very long time in the court system.

In short, Jamaica is dangerous for everyone and the wanton violence on the island isn't gay-specific, it's just a way of life.


To sweeten the pot, Out Traveler featured the following comments from the Jamaica Tourism Board's publicist in response to the country's homophobic reputation: "individual vacationers of all stripes are welcome to the English-speaking isle, but they "are encouraged to respect Jamaican laws and community standards and take common sense measures to enhance their travel experience."

That's double-speak for "GCL, leave your Gucci bag and fab physique home."

For these reasons, and for the fact that there are more Caribbean islands than I can count (though non counts more than Puerto Rico), Jamaica can stay ignorant and deprived of the pink dollar. Hmph.

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