Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Glenroy Murray | Disappointing and lazy writing

Published:Tuesday | July 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Glenroy Murray

Disappointment does not capture the sentiment that I felt reading the article in the recent Sunday Gleaner titled 'Abusive homosexuals'. Aside from the fact that the title itself is overly sensational and prob-lematic, the article itself misses several opportunities to discuss a pertinent matter that is often not featured within traditional media.

In the era of #MeToo and the roll-out of a National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender Based Violence, one would hope that media practitioners are more sensitive when writing about gender-based violence and its occurrence in under-represented and marginalised communities. But alas, we got the same overwritten and stereotypical 'gays are violent with each other' narrative.

The article itself centres around the experiences of Tony, a gay man who has experienced domestic violence at the hands of his male partner and who explains that this is a critical issue within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Tony's experience then becomes the only reference point to talk about men who take the feminine role in same-sex male relationships (and the acid that they supposedly use when being violent), as well as the preference of some of the same feminine men for overly masculine partners who beat them.

While the article points out that same-sex relationships were excluded from a recent study on intimate partner violence (IPV) and featured Tony explaining that there are parallels between IPV in same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships, it essentially tells the same story of the violent gay men who frequently beat each other in their relationships.

This stereotype only further perpetuates homophobia and anti-gay sentiment throughout the country. In the words of Jaevion Nelson, "[The media have] to learn to work with people to tell their stories" and ensure that there isn't a singular story.

The writer and editor in question had several options in helping Tony to tell his story to paint fuller picture of his experience. Tony could have been asked whether he sought support from the police, and why not. Tony could have been asked about the support systems in place for him. In fact, queries could have been made around the legal arrangements in place for persons in same-sex relationships who experience IPV.

 

Little protection

 

As it stands, a person in a same-sex relationship has little protection under the Domestic Violence Act, which defines 'spouse' to only include heterosexual relationships. Similarly, 'visiting relationship' is defined as exclusively heterosexual. If Tony does not live with his partner, but is experiencing IPV, then he does not have the benefit of this act and will have to go to the police to make a report.

Note, however, that the Developmental Cost of Homophobia: The Case of Jamaica study that was done in 2016 indicated that most LGBT persons who experienced violence did not report it to the police because of fear of harassment or that they would not be taken seriously.

Critically, though the article talks about IPV in same-sex relationships, it does not even look at the experiences of LBT women. Women generally are the primary victims of intimate partner violence, but their experiences are not featured at all within this article. They continue to be made invisible and silent.

In keeping with freedom of the press, the media have free rein to feature whatever stories they deem newsworthy and relevant, but it is critical that media practitioners understand that they are gatekeepers and they decide what narratives are dominant and which are not.

This article could have been a nuanced article that gives voice to fringe experiences, but instead, it's the same old story repackaged for a 2018 audience. How innovative!

- Glenroy Murray is associate director, programmes and advocacy, Equality for All Foundation Jamaica Ltd. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenroy.am.murray@gmail.com.