By Shanea Johnson
Jamaica is known for many things – reggae music, rastafarians, jerk chicken and pork, and its national dish, ackee and salt fish. But, for years, and even more recently, some Jamaicans have not been afraid to express their phobia for same-sex relationships. It is a big “NO-NO” for some. Over the years, there have been reports of harassment inflicted on members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community. However, more recently it seems the tables have turned.
A maintenance worker told the Weekend Star that he was attacked, assaulted, robbed and stripped naked by roughly 10 men wearing female garments on a section of Half-Way Tree Road last Tuesday. I can only imagine the mental trauma that this man went through and is still going through as he was caught off-guard so early in the morning – around 3:00 am as he stated. He stated in his report that the men were armed with knives and machetes. The man must have been crippled with fear to not have retaliated. Now, just imagine this scenario playing out even worse than it happened. Both himself and any one or more of the attackers could have lost their lives. It is also foreseeable that the maintenance worker could have been gang raped and lost his ‘manliness’. This might just be one of the reasons some Jamaicans are hostile towards them.
On the other hand, this could also be seen as a mechanism of survival. That is, homosexuals defending themselves from the scrutiny they face from the regular man. However, I am not saying that their actions should be excused because the maintenance worker was minding his own business while traversing the route to his place of work. Unfortunately, according to him he had to miss work that day because of the pain and bruises as a result of the attack.
I would say that the maintenance worker is concerned about his mental health as am I, since he admitted that he started visiting a counselor because he was affected emotionally by this unfortunate incident. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” The WHO also noted that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
Now, let us turn our focus to the Jamaican reality. How many times have you seen a ‘mad man’ on the street? There are several men in Jamaica that suffer from mental health issues as a result of acts inflicted on them similar to that of this case. Although the maintenance worker went for counselling sessions, who knows if he will continue? He might confide in a friend or relative but also face criticisms for being considered too ‘soft’ for a man and being taunted that counseling is for women and not men, among other discriminatory insults. He also admitted that he called the New Kingston Police Station but that he has not gone to the station to make an official report for ONE reason; a reason that both men and women struggle with. Just imagine others out there suffering all because of this ONE reason… feeling ASHAMED!
I believe there are many more cases similar to this and some men are out there suffering in silence. But I use this platform to appeal to our men to seek the necessary help they need because mental issues are real and it’s not worth losing your sanity to be considered ‘a man’. Let us stand with the men in our society and declare that suffering in silence HAFFI STOP!
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