Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Editorial | Devon Fray in an age of homophobia

Published:Wednesday | December 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

We don't know who killed Devon Fray, or why. But on the latter, we can hazard a guess.

Our conclusion, we expect, would be similar to most Jamaicans', which, if we are right, would make it a hate crime, a category that the police neither track nor record. But worse, it won't ignite moral outrage, except among the few. And their indignation is likely to be muted, lest they, too, be stigmatised.

In July of this year, a vehicle with eight passengers plunged into the Rio Cobre. Among the victims of that tragedy was Steven Ricketts, the self-styled bishop of a church in Commodore, St Catherine, as well as Mr Ricketts' two sons.

Soon after that incident, rumours surfaced about the sexuality of Mr Ricketts, forcing the dead preacher's family to defend his honour.

There was no escape for Devon Fray, 20, especially in the face of a short video that someone posted on social-media sites, which showed he and Mr Ricketts allegedly in a lovers' spat.

In homophobic Jamaica, that video, and the claims that surrounded it, were not only ruinous but potentially deadly for Mr Fray. He received death threats. The matter took a toll on Mr Fray and his family.

Mr Fray denied that he and Mr Ricketts were in any kind a relationship, but for a Christian, community-spirited older man, offer support, help and guidance to a younger one, as he did for many other people.

But Mr Fray told the Star newspaper at the time: "People are sending pure threats to me."

Those threats from some young men included murder. The situation, according to Mr Fray, was causing stress and worsening the condition of his hypertensive mother.

Devon Fray was not in the public's eye for a few months. But last Thursday, at about 1:10 a.m., he was shot dead by unknown assailants at his home in Commodore, St Catherine.




The police said they have no motive for the crime. Nor do we. But we can offer investigators a hypothesis. The same one to which we expect they arrived, unless they have information to the contrary.

The question is whether Mr Fray reported the July harassment or death threats to the police and whether they were taken seriously. We would not be surprised if he didn't, for fear of being ridiculed and stigmatised.

Such attitudes, unfortunately, are not uncommon in Jamaica, where high crime and homicides rates and overwhelmed investigators can make the police callous. But worse is usually reserved for gay men, or those presumed so to be.

We are not surprised that in July, Devon Fray believed that the best way to confront the threats was to go public in an attempt to rescue his reputation, hoping to cauterise the dangers he faced. Whether it worked, we don't know. We, however, doubt it.

But whatever the truth, the Devon Fray case reminds of the discrimination and stigma faced by gay people in Jamaica, and those accused so to be. And that can't be right - for any group of citizens.