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Jamaica’s dangerous down-low closet
Some Jamaicans celebrate gay murders

by Rev. Irene Monroe

In happier times: Author Terry McMillan (then 44) and her then (21-year-old)
husband Jonathan Plummer, before he revealed his sexual orientation.
KINGSPORT, Jamaica— “The Interruption of Everything,” the title of Terry McMillan’s latest book, happened when the best-selling author of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” not only filed for divorce, but also sued her Jamaican boyfriend-turned-husband, Jonathan Plummer, who had inspired the blockbuster hit.

Plummer, as it turned out, is gay.

Refuting allegations that her act is a vengeful, homophobic tirade for being duped into marrying a young stud on the down low 23 years her junior, McMillan states she is suing her ex for $40 million citing deceit, extortion and leaving her exposed to HIV/AIDS. And with African-American heterosexual women being the new face of the epidemic, McMillan undoubtedly needs to be concerned.

But in a Jan. 14, 2005, letter filed with the Contra Costa County Superior Court, McMillan wrote to Plummer: “The reason you’re going to make a great fag is that most of you guys are just like dogs anyway. … You do whatever with whomever pleases you and don’t seem to care about the consequences.”

Plummer, however, swears that when he met McMillan in 1995 on a beach in Negril, he did not know he was gay.

“Nonsense. He knew he was gay,” J.L. King told the Washington Post in 2005. King became the country’s poster boy by exposing certain behaviors in his bestseller, “On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep With Men.”

“Many DL men want to stop their duplicitous behavior and seek help, but they don’t. They fear the ridicule and isolation commonly hurled their way by those who look upon them through a spirit of condemnation rather than through a spirit of compassion,” King wrote in his book.
But Plummer has sound reason for concealing his sexual orientation. Being gay in Jamaica, the most homophobic place on earth, according to Time magazine, you fear more than just ridicule and isolation, you fear for you life.

Case in point. When Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, Brian Williamson, was murdered in his home in June 2004, his body was savagely mutilated by multiple knife wounds. A Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed the crime, reporting a crowd gathered after the killing, rejoicing and saying, “Battyman [Jamaican slang for homosexual], he get killed!” Others celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “Let’s get them one at a time,”

“That’s what you get for sin,” and “Let’s kill all of them.” Some sang, “Boom bye bye,” a line from Jamaican recording artist Buju Banton’s popular song about killing and burning gay men.
Article 76 of the Jamaican Offences Against the Person Act punishes the “abominable crime of buggery” with up to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor. And Article 79 of the same act punishes any act of physical intimacy between men in public or private by a term of imprisonment up to two years with the possibility of hard labor.

Human rights advocates around the world have spoken out against the violence. British pop star Elton John, a supporter of Amnesty International, has criticized the criminalization of same-gender loving in Jamaica. “It is precisely because homosexuality is a criminal offense … that ordinary people feel it is OK to hate and exclude gay people. It does not take long for this hate to turn to violence.”

Jamaica, however, is not the only homophobic country in the Caribbean that has laws criminalizing consensual sex between adults of the same sex. And in Jamaica and other countries, criminalization and homophobic violence drive the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

But also fuelling the violence is the sex industry’s demand for gay sex. According to the 2004 “Knowledge, Attitude, Practice and Behaviour Survey,” commissioned by Jamaica’s Ministry of Health, there has been an increased demand for male sex workers. In 2000, males between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for only two percent of the sex-worker population. By 2004, the number jumped to six percent, with males ages 25-49 increasing from 1.2 percent in 2000 to 15 percent by 2004. But what the report doesn’t say is that the increase in male sex workers is due to demand for gay sex from both tourists and islanders.

With Jamaica’s increased demand for both heterosexual and homosexual sex workers, women like McMillan who meet men like Plummer working at the hotels where they stayed often don’t know the hidden lives of their suitors.

While McMillan will not be getting her groove back with Plummer, there is no need for McMillan to now pummel Plummer for disclosing he’s gay — the very thing that closeted him in the first place.

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