We remembered Dwayne Jones, crossdressing/transgender Jamaican teen murdered simply for expressing himself and Delon Melville- found dead in a field in Mocha, with two broken legs and savage knife wounds- killed, we suspect, because others suspected him of being gay (newspaper reports cite his effeminate behavior). Sadly, in Guyana, as well as across much of the Caribbean, violence and abuse against gays is still the norm- accepted, promoted, and rarely condemned. Popular songs still rail against ‘batty men’ and advocate raping women who deny sex to men; homophobic and transphobic governments retain repressive antiquated laws criminalizing cross dressing and physical displays of affection between men; public officials (including religious leaders) continuously condemn homosexuality even while drug abuse, corruption, poverty, unemployment, and a host of other problems plague the nation. Those who defy heteronormative gender roles and identities are regularly ostracized, mocked, threatened, sometimes beaten, correctively raped, sometimes burnt with acid, fired from jobs they’re excelling at, or denied work and access to goods and services such as safe housing, respectful healthcare, justice from law enforcement authorities, etc.
But in Guyana, as well as around the Caribbean, homophobia and transphobia aren’t our only problems. Violence against women and children are at epidemic levels, police brutality rampant, animal abuse so commonplace that it doesn’t even warrant comment or condemnation, and let’s not even mention the challenges that people with disabilities face or structural issues such as low wages, uninspired teachers, the outrageous VAT tax, electricity tariff, etc that keep people poor and downpressed. From the way we buse one another at the slightest provocation, real or imagined, the fact that we think it’s funny to joke about chopping up and buggering, the indifference we show when we see/hear someone (child, animal, woman, man) being abused, to the fear we have against speaking out and standing up for our own as well as others human rights- our society is in a bad way indeed. The problem is huge, sometimes seemingly overwhelming. But this evening, by the program we’d put together, we hoped to show that it was everybody’s problem really, and so we each of us, individually and collectively, had a role to play in solving it.