Op-Ed

Jamaica’s gay activists out to change hearts, minds and laws

Max-Arthur Mantle’s new book, ‘Batty Bwoy,’ details the struggle of growing up gay in Jamaica.
Max-Arthur Mantle’s new book, ‘Batty Bwoy,’ details the struggle of growing up gay in Jamaica. maxarthurmantle.net

When I recently met Jamaican-American author Max-Arthur Mantle at a South Beach café, we talked about his engaging debut novel, “Batty Bwoy.” But we also chatted about the way he was sitting. That is, with his legs crossed.

“In Jamaica, if you cross your legs, if you’re a male, in a quote-unquote effeminate way, I would get my ass kicked,” Mantle told me.

“As soon as they see me their eyes would roll, then they would get red, and then the anger, then the whole hate will come. And then the slurs.”

As a gay man growing up in Jamaica, Mantle heard the slurs. The most hateful – not coincidentally – was “batty bwoy.” That’s what a mob called him one night as he stood alone on a street corner in Kingston waiting for a bus.

“Somebody pulled a knife on me,” he recalled. “And he said, ‘Oh, this is a batty bwoy.’ My life was in danger.”

Someone stepped in to rescue Mantle that night. But many gay and lesbian Jamaicans aren’t so fortunate.

To read the remainder of the column, click here.

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