One of the things about being a morally upright adult is that we, as humans, must do everything we can to ensure that we are not contributing to making other people’s lives worse by our words and deeds. If we find that there is something in our belief system or ideology that is harming other people, even if we believe that we’re helping, we must change in order to line up with reality.
Peter LaBarbera, better known as Porno Pete, went to Jamaica recently to encourage allegedly “pro-family” people in that nation to keep gay sex illegal and punishable by prison. While his entire career tends to contradict the notion that Porno Pete actually desires in his heart to help even one person, it’s important to understand how things are in Jamaica, historically one of the most violent and dangerous places in the world for LGBT people, and to acknowledge the already brutal climate into which Porno Pete has injected his anti-gay hatred. He’s viewed as a joke in the United States, but unfortunately, people like him are often viewed as experts in the developing world.
Lester Feder has a report in Buzzfeed today about the LGBT youth in Jamaica who are being forced out of their homes and into the sewers by vigilantes who share Porno Pete’s beliefs, and about how the police are now working to drive them out of even the sewers:
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Around 11 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1, police officers led by Cmdr. Christopher Murdock lowered a ladder into an open sewer in New Kingston, the Jamaican capital’s financial district. The sewer, damp and strewn with trash, flowed out of the business district housing several banks, large hotels, and shopping arcades. And it was home to a group of youths Murdock wanted gone.
Their alleged crime: stealing. Murdock said he had received more than 30 reports of theft and robbery since the group, ranging in age from teens to early twenties, had moved into the sewer several months before, and he was becoming concerned that the stretch of Trafalgar Road that runs over their makeshift home was becoming unsafe for people to walk.
But Murdock’s televised remarks following the Sunday raid left the impression the kids were unwanted for an entirely different reason: “The aim of this operation was to remove men of diverse sexual orientation who continue to plague the New Kingston area.”
Lester points out that, over the last several months, violence against LGBT people has become ever more brutal, and that a likely cause is the very debate that Porno Pete has injected himself into:
Jamaica has long been one of the most hostile countries in the Americas for LGBT people. But in recent months, the murders of LGBT people and mob attacks — including fire bombings — on the houses where they live have made headlines with increasing frequency. Activists are not entirely sure what’s caused the surge in violence, though it may be due in part to the debate over possibly repealing the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, an idea that Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller floated during her 2011 campaign. Her government has not yet taken any action on the proposal, but pro-family groups have mounted a campaign to ensure it never does.
The article acknowledges that some of the teens have indeed ended up participating in criminal activity, but society already views them as criminals simply because of who they are. Having been pushed out of their homes and into abject poverty, one is not all that surprised that they’ve resorted to theft and prostitution as a means of survival. How’s your Christmas season going, Porno Pete? Everything comfy in Naperville?
“They are trying to pin something on us,” said one, who gave his name as Michael. (To protect their safety, BuzzFeed is referring to them by aliases they chose themselves.) The police and the press, Michael said, were going after the group for the same reasons the group took shelter in the sewer in the first place: Homosexual conduct is against the law, and Jamaicans are willing to take enforcement into their own hands.
“Because I am gay and it’s not legalized in the country, they want to get rid of us,” he said.
The situation for LGBT people in Jamaica has been deteriorating since July, when a 16-year-old named Dwayne Jones was hacked to death by a mob in the northern city of Montego Bay after he was outed while dancing with a man who did not know Jones had been born male. Since then, there have been multiple incidents when mobs descended on the houses of people perceived to be gay, including a firebomb attack in October, also in the area of Montego Bay.
I want to emphasize that these are kids we’re talking about. The murder victim in the last quote was sixteen. Here’s part of the story of Davel, a fifteen year-old living in the sewers in Jamaica:
He was the youngest of the group — 15 — when his siblings forced him out of his mother’s house five years ago.
Davel now speaks with a kind of appreciation about the daily beatings his brother used to administer hoping to scare him straight: “He wasn’t really beating me to damage me. He was saying, ‘[This] is Jamaica’ … and he [was] showing me that when I get older and other guys come at me, they won’t have any mercy.”
Davel’s story spoke to the difficulty many gay and trans teens have in finding a home in Jamaica. First he went to a “capture house,” an abandoned building taken over by gay and trans squatters. Community uproar got the squatters evicted from that house, and from the next house he went to, and the next.
For a time, he had a boyfriend who took him in. But when their relationship faltered, Davel wound up on the streets. In August, he met some of the New Kingston group on Half Way Tree Road, a busy commercial district a short distance away that serves as a gathering spot for LGBT youths in the area.
They took him to the sewer, where he had to climb over a guardrail and lower himself down a 10-foot drop. The “bedroom” was the fetid tunnel running under the busy road. His first night there, he said, was “kind of horrifying.”
Please tell us more about your trip to Jamaica, Porno Pete. How do you feel about the fact that you’re contributing to a climate wherein sixteen year-olds are being hacked to death and fifteen year-olds are getting beaten, kicked out and eventually sleeping in shit-filled sewers as an unsafe, unsanitary last resort in a nation that has declared war on them? Does it make you sleep well at night? Moreover, do your own children understand what Daddy does for a living? Perhaps you ought to show them pictures of Davel and Dwayne. Surely they’ll be even prouder of Daddy than they were when his career was limited to missing Easter to take pictures of leather-sex in San Francisco.
TWO readers, please read Lester’s entire article. I’ve excerpted a lot of it, but it’s worth reading in toto.
In the United States, the next few years of the fight for LGBT equality will be focused on the Religious Right’s fight for a sort of “religious freedom” that exempts them from having to play by the same rules as everyone else. In the Third World, though, American Religious Right figures, from the bigwigs all the way down to the little guys like Porno Pete, are seizing upon the opportunity to use the poverty, misery and manipulation of suffering people to inject their ideology, and it’s only going to get worse from here. The bodycount will pile up, and as it gets better and better for LGBT people in developed nations, it will get worse and worse for those who already are suffering more than the average American could ever imagine.
Yesterday, Porno Pete tweeted this, in one of his regular (and never responded to, because really, we have better things to do) Twitter-Whines about Truth Wins Out:
Are we being mean by being brutally honest? If so, we are just getting started.
Merry Christmas, Porno Pete.