17 December 2005

Re: Outraged


We have not spoken since your own ordeal. I'm happy you were released relatively unscathed. It must have been a harrowing experience.

This must be a very trying time for you again. In addition to the grief at Steve's death, there is this anger. I'm not sure exactly how your sensibilities have been offended or your expectations not met, but i'll make a few observations, even from a distance, if i may.

To date, i have not seen any release from JAS, the organization with which Steve is associated and with whose work he has been identified. Was there any attempt at media management to influence what was published? To whom did the press and stake-holders speak? If there was no communications oversight, then the press could have had open-season on this. As it was, i have not seen any press reports or releases from NGOs or anyone which describe him as a "Gay man," except from the Guyana National Aids Committee, much less as a gay activist.

Invariably, the issues of homosexuality and AIDS are conflated in the average Jamaican mind. People are killed in Jamaica every day, unfortunately, but if a well-known HIV/AIDS prevention worker is the victim, then the question of gay murder/hate crime inevitably will arise; "proof" is unnecessary, as the general perception/conjecture will prevail even in the wider society. If Steve was not out while alive, he has been outed in death, perhaps adding another dimension, as you project, to his family's grief. Beyond the "newly and freshly growing relationship with his family," he chose his lifestyle, companions, involvement, commitment and public role. He was part of the community and his gay family is going to claim him. I daresay he is seen by them as a model, on which were projected many hopes, now transformed into yet another gruesome materialization of their fears.

JAS is not a "Gay" organization despite the fact that it was conceived and is run by gay men, and many of its programs are MSM-oriented, even to the spawning and harboring of J-FLAG. In the social and political climate of Jamaica, it has to maintain distance, perhaps even to dissemble at times. This is the default survival mode of the majority of LGBTs and PWAs in Jamaica, leading to ambivalence, conflicting feelings and a grave sense of dis-ease. It's all an open secret, propped up with hypocrisy, deception and denial of self. When story come to bump, as it has here, how we would like to appear bucks up into the reality of how we are perceived.

Your support of and contribution to the AIDS prevention effort, and by extension to the gay community, is noble and highly appreciated. We need all the allies we can get. We respect differences of opinion and approach both within and without the gay community, but to lash out blindly at "members of the GLB," local and foreign-based, and to attribute a "selfish response on the part of activists" does not honour the struggle that Steve and countless others must endure just to survive on a daily basis, and to hopefully arrive at self-acceptance. I hope that the quibbling by some over the method and class of crime is not an attempt to sanitize Steve's life and death to ameliorate anyone's discomfort with how he lived and died. His death should be an occasion for us to comfort and support each other, honour and celebrate who he was, and to draw renewed courage and resolve to resist the continued demonization of sexual minorities and PWAs. Your anger would be more constructively directed at the ignorance and brutality of a society that forces us into hiding, self-denial and self-destructive behaviour of the type reported at Steve's memorial.

I would ask that you state your case directly, not by implicating nameless and faceless GLB and activists; in particular, i ask you to clarify the selfish response that has upset you so. If i have misinterpreted anything you said, or if you have information on any self-serving agendas of activists, referred to as well by Ingrid, i would appreciate hearing, as i am not aware of any discussion beyond this list.

With Love and Support,


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