It seems not a week goes by that there isn't some horrible story of anti-gay violence taking place in Jamaica. The island has earned it's reputation for being one of the most homophobic and dangerous places for black gays and lesbians. From the murder music of reggae artists Elephant Man, Sizzla, and T.O.K., homophobia is ingrained in Jamaican culture and sadly many of the islanders are unapologetic about their inhumane treatment of gays and lesbians and even towards those who they perceive to be.
So what causes this deep-seated hatred? It's a question that many people have asked but very few have gone to the source to find out. British comedian Stephen Amos does just that in a brilliant documentary titled "Batty Man" that is filmed between his home land in the U.K. and Jamaica.
Realizing the painful effect black homophobia has had in his life as a gay man Amos decides to incorporate coming out into his stand-up routine. The reaction he receives from blacks in the audience is downright chilling.
On the streets of Brixton, a borough in South London, volunteers are put to the test when they're asked to identify a gay man from a line-up of men who are all dressed differently, some preppy and others in thug drag. Their idea of what is stereotypically gay and the reality is the first step in shattering their stereotypes.
The contempt many black young people in the U.K. feel towards gays and lesbians isn't much different than it is here in the states. Sadly, many of the young people interviewed couldn't explain exactly why they held gays in lesbians in such disregard other than it's what they've been taught to believe by their parents or from scripture.
But whereas blacks openly disapproved in the U.K., Jamaicans were downright violent. Citing lyrics to popular reggae songs that called for gay men to be burned or killed with a bullet to the head, Amos found himself retreating back into the closet due to the imminent threat of danger posed by the level of homophobia in Jamaica.
Many attempts to interview gay Jamaicans failed due to the subject's fear of being identified and murdered based on his sexual orientation. One brave man does finally agree to appear on camera and his story is heartbreaking. Amos also finds an ally in Jamaica in one of the most unlikely of places and his words give life to an environment that can be deadly if you're gay or lesbian.
This documentary clearly shows how serious homophobia is in the black community and how it must be addressed with urgency. I highly recommend that you take about 55 minutes out of your day to watch "Batty Man" and to share it with your family and friends. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Watch "Batty Man" here.