Rejected and abused, a young gay man searches for acceptance
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
John is on the run. He has been running for the past five years, since he was 15, moving from home to home, community to community, in fear for his life, because he is gay.
Five years with no permanent place of rest has left John's family constantly worried for his safety, as menacing men and women have refused to tolerate him because of his sexual orientation.
"I pray every day, worry every day, and fear every day for his life. It's not a nice feeling as a mother," lamented Joan, who gave birth to the young man she said was nurtured in the church.
John eventually left Jamaica, but still fearful for his safety after the many nightmarish years, his mother will not divulge where he has relocated to.
"I miss him so much, but he is much safer where he is," Joan told The Sunday Gleaner with the glimmer of a smile soothing her expression.
Joan shared how her son, for much of his teenage life, was treated like a pariah and a fugitive after community members discovered he was gay, at the tender age of 15.
She said it was not until he turned to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbian, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) that he was able to stop fleeing.
"Thank God for J-FLAG. They saved his life," declared the 39-year-old mother of four, the emotions threatening to gush to the surface.
It all started when members of a central Jamaica community, where she and her children lived, began to suspect that John had homosexual tendencies.
Joan said John never flaunted his sexuality.
"But they said he was never seen with a girl. He only had guys for friends … . He also bleached his skin," she shared.
Before she could come to terms with the reality that John was gay, Joan was confronted by another rude awakening.
Joan, struggling to fend for her children in the hope of seeing them past the worst, was confronted by unrelenting threats of violence to her eldest son's life.
She readily admits that her firstborn is her heartbeat, and lamented that she has to love her boy from a distance.
"It's terrifying knowing that you love your child and you are fearing for his life. I don't know if he is alive until I take up the cell phone and call him," she told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
The soft-spoken mother shared how she received the shock of her life when she discovered that her beloved child was gay.
Suddenly, she found her family under attack from persons afflicted with violent anti-gay sentiments or homophobic maladies.
Even her daughter, John's only sister, who was just a little more than a toddler, now 10, was subject to verbal assaults.
She recalled how the people of the community hurled not only verbal abuse, but missiles, at her oldest son.
"Stone, bottles or whatever," said Joan, her voice a notch above a whisper.
The terrified mother said she relocated her son to the house of a family member in another community, but his ordeal - and, by extension, his family's - was far from over.
"The same thing happened again and he had to leave," recalled Joan, as sticks stones and other forms of weapons became the order of the day in the life of her homosexual son.
"The people in the community became suspicious and some guys threatened to burn down the house of the family member," added Joan.
The intimidatory tactics saw the family sending John packing. He scurried from the haven-turned-hell in search of another abode.
Like a fugitive, Joan said John went to yet another community.
This time, his life-threatening secret came to light when his cellular phone was lost.
Telltale pictures on the phone resulted in his secret not being so secret anymore, as the person who found the phone posted the pictures all over the Internet.
"It was displayed on Facebook and he had to be running and hiding from place to place," she lamented.
But John's story is not unique.
In November, eight youngsters chased from their homes because of their sexual orientation had to seek the assistance of J-FLAG.
However, this is believed to be a fraction of the number of persons who were displaced because they were allegedly gay.
According to Tonya, an intervention officer at J-FLAG, another 40 displaced individuals have come to the organisation seeking support, while 18 displaced young men have been seen on the streets of downtown Kingston since September.
These youngsters in downtown Kingston - one just entering his teenage years - and several others have not yet sought the assistance of J-FLAG.
Names changed on request.