My unexpected appearance in HRW report

Human Rights Watch released a comprehensive, well-researched and respectful report yesterday: “Not Safe At Home: Violence and Discrimination Against LGBT People in Jamaica”. I will write a more extensive post later, as it deserves attention for how revealing it is, however, I want to first shed some light on my unexpected appearance in the report.

As background, I am currently working with the Colour Pink Group, which is embarking on an employment training program for young men who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, sex workers or men who have sex with men. I have also written several times about my frustration with how the Jamaican media (mostly the Jamaica Observer) treats members of marginalized communities (the poor, disabled, LGBTI people, etc). In fact, I presented at a conference on the topic. So imagine my surprise when one of my blog posts on the topic “Gyrating Gays Spark Melee, Throw Missiles At Carnival” appeared as evidence of a disrespectful media in a footnote in the report in a section about Media and Homophobic Discourse.

I immediately understood what had happened: the Human Rights Watch researcher, on the ground in Jamaica from April to June of this year, had only read the headline of the post. They missed the irony, I assume, and would not have had they read it, for I went on to explain that my use of such a ridiculous headline was an attempt to highlight the disrespect endemic in the Jamaican media. It was an attempt to grab attention and provoke thought. So I knew my post did not belong there as a reference.

I found a media contact for HRW (an international NGO that monitors and reports on human rights abuses around the world) in New York and found a live person right away. Emma was extremely helpful and apologetic and suggested I contact Graeme, who was in charge of the research in Jamaica. I sent off an email explaining the situation and within the hour had a response from Graeme. He was also apologetic and promised a correction. By the end of the evening, it was done. I am no longer in the report. Thank you to Emma and Graeme for your professionalism and speed with which you addressed this issue. I understand that these things happen. I have undertaken extensive research projects that seem overwhelming, that demand sensitivity, efficiency and cultural knowledge. I’m sure I have made mistakes myself. In any case, congratulations to HRW for their professionalism and a much-needed report on the plight of LGBT people in Jamaica.

UPDATE: Here is the Correction issued by HRW. Correction: This report incorrectly referenced Kate Chappell’s blog, which was included by mistake in section 1. We have deleted this reference and the relevant footnote has been corrected.

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