Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A few months ago, I was privy to view a public service advertisement (PSA) dealing with tolerance of homosexuality before it was to be broadcast locally. After it was played, I noted to the other persons in the room that it was indeed bold, especially the personalities involved in it. It has since aired in the media, without much fanfare or controversy and I had all but forgotten about it.

That was until however this recent brouhaha over another PSA, featuring a former beauty queen and her brother. Christine and Matthew Straw are the only two persons in it and it barely lasts a minute but the deafening outbursts from the media and Church have come to derail it even before we can view it for ourselves.

A few things have disheartened me about this: first, the ad has not even been aired or viewed fully by all of the entities actively seeking to refuse it. Television Jamaica (TV-J) has disappointed no one by refusing to air it as its family-oriented position is well-known. However, the management structure of the RJR group (responsible for TV-J) has failed to look at the ever-changing direction of our culture. It has used the weak excuse of identifying its own brand with the PSA’s message and our buggery law as a staunch guide. When last I checked though, The Broadcasting Commission, not TV-J, dictated what was proper to be aired. Nor did I remember seeing a memo stating that the station was a registered religious institution. We watch TV-J for local entertainment and to learn. Indeed, RJR’s own website says it stands unwaveringly for, among other things, fairness and social responsibility. Thus, we can deduce that RJR is an anti-gay tolerance body as that was simply what the PSA was advocating against only. The PSA mentioned nothing about legalizing same-sex unions, (which is a whole different issue). If I’m wrong then I’d be happy to see its own message that is geared to promote tolerance in our society aimed at any minority groups. If no such PSA is forthcoming then I stand correct.

For, how can a media titan like RJR be accused of inaction in the age and rise of social media responsibility? We now know that the journalists working there are obligated therefore to uncover only happy, photo-cropped and biblically-pleasing images we wish the outside world to see. For, if we do not focus on something then it doesn’t exist, right? Homophobia is a part of our culture, there can be no denying that fact but is it the place of media in Jamaica to promote or hide that status quo or is it their responsibility to press our leaders into action as well as themselves?

My own interest in the PSA begun when I realized that I actually went to prep school with Matthew as well as the fact that the Church and the media were working overtime to get a forced reaction from the public for different reasons. The Church’s response to anything homosexual is the same stock reply. And as perversely homophobic as we are, newspapers know that any gay-themed headline sells papers like hot bread. Listening to the one progressive local media entity (Nationwide) and hearing the different church-folk decrying the PSA without even as much as watching/listening to it makes one wonder if they have any moral authority to, for example, criticize politicians, because their interest is limited and will never change. Indeed, what is the Church’s position on tolerance then? Where is their PSA? How would they frame an ad that sticks to their valid principles yet accept that such errant lives shouldn’t be killed? For that is what faces many gay people in Jamaica and you’d be a fool to think otherwise. Or, is it that the Church doesn’t see the need to be publicizing such an issue? No one asks the Church these questions but as an entity looking to dictate the morality of our lives, shouldn’t we expect more?

As for the media, I’m sure John Maxwell is turning in his grave at the display of silent cowardice. Homosexuality touches on every aspect of life (negatively and positively) so I’m sure there are gays in powerful positions in media, the Church and no doubt reading this article. They know that a few gay hustlers in New Kingston are not the only representation of that part of our society. Let’s not blindly forget that there are just as many heterosexual hustlers in the area too that are a nuisance. We can’t just dismiss their lives because Jesus would not have. We need to understand their misery and think that there may come a time when our own lives fall into such a state. Given the harsh economic crunch we’re in, for some of us that will be sooner rather than later.
If in rejecting the PSA both entities had put forth put feasible alternatives then there would be some choice. What they advocate though is delayed action or none at all and that approach lacks vision. No one I’ve spoken to since this story broke has even heard of this now infamous PSA but thanks to Youtube ,Twitter& Facebook, people can view and judge for themselves if its relevant.

The reception may stun the Church because it still feels as if it controls the way we think. I could incite hypocrisy on other topics like adultery (an even wider practiced biblical sin in Jamaica) but deep within every adult, lays a conscience and it guides you, with or without religious or State approval. What TV-J has done is to turn its back on its conscience and embrace instead the ideal of merely living a lie in hope no one pays too much attention. Like the popular #OnlyRealJamaicansKnow thread running on Twitter currently, this is the effect of the two-edged cutlass.

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