A 16-year-old Jamaican, Dwayne Jones, was brutally murdered in late July by an angry mob; his offense? Being transgender.
Jones, a young boy from a town in the slums of Montego Bay, was thrown out of his home by his father when he began to flaunt his sexuality after dropping out of high school at 14. Jones’ father even aided others from the area where they lived in forcing his son out of the town. (In Jamaica there is an enormously large population of people who are extremely prejudiced toward all forms of homosexuality, especially in the Montego Bay area.) Sadly, Jones bore the brunt of this homophobia more so than anyone, paying for it with his young life.
Dwayne Jones lived with two other transgender friends, Khloe and Keke, both 23. Perhaps their seniority to Dwayne was what prompted them to be less blatant about their lifestyle choices.
On the night of July 22, Khloe, Keke, and Dwayne decided to attend a dance party at a bar in the small area of Irwin. Though there were over 300 partygoers present, no one can seem to remember the names or faces of the men who killed Dwayne.
Around 2 a.m., the roommates showed up in a taxi to the party. Dwayne’s good looks and flawless dance moves drew attention to him, but it was when he revealed to a friend at the party that he had come in drag that things began to spiral downward…quickly.
Surrounded by several angry men outside the bar, Dwayne was asked if he was a man or woman. The men used what little light they could find to gauge his sex by the size of his feet. When someone grabbed a lantern from a nearby bar, one man determined that Dwayne was no woman. Khloe, realizing that they were in a no-win situation, tried to persuade Dwayne to leave. “Walk with me, walk with me,” she told him quietly. But Dwayne didn’t listen, making one last attempt to insist that he was a female. When someone from behind pulled his bra strap, Dwayne, frightened, tried to flee.
Unfortunately, Dwayne was no match for the angry mob, and they caught up to him, at which point he was beaten, stabbed, shot, and run over. Dwayne was in and out of consciousness for two horrifying hours before another attack finally killed him.
Today, Khloe and Keke spend their days at the home they shared with Dwayne, staring into his empty room. Khloe says she “can’t stop seeing his lifeless body,” remembering the attack herself; she was also badly beaten before she managed to find a church in which to hide for the rest of the night. To make matters even more disturbing and heart wrenching, Dwayne’s own family would not come to identify his corpse.
While officials in Jamaica claim that they are working diligently to correct the stigma around homosexuality in the area, they are making slow progress; there is still an anti-sodomy law, 150-years-old, prohibiting anal sex. Two visiting gay rights activists were killed in 2006, leaving other activists and researchers to call the area “the worst they’ve ever seen.”
Hopefully Dwayne’s life and death will not be in vain, and push lawmakers in Jamaica to create stricter laws and punishments that will prevent homophobic-related crime.