BYLINE: David McFadden Sapa-AP
MONTEGO BAY: Dwayne Jones was teased in high school for being effeminate. His father kicked him out of the house at the age of 14, and joined jeering neighbours in running the youngster out of the Jamaican slum where he lived.
By the age of 16 the teen had been murdered - beaten, stabbed, shot and run over with a car, after he showed up at a street party dressed as a woman. His mistake: confiding to a friend that he would attend a "straight" party as a girl.
Jamaica has been portrayed as the most hostile country in the western hemisphere for gays and transgendered people. After two prominent gay rights activists were murdered, a researcher with the US-based Human Rights Watch in 2006 called the environment in Jamaica for such groups "the worst any of us has ever seen".
Local activists have since disputed the label, but still say homophobia is pervasive.
Dwayne's July 22 murder made headlines in newspapers and stirred calls for more action to protect the island's gay community, especially those who live on the streets and resort to sex work.
Advocates say much of the homophobia is fuelled by a nearly 150-year-old law banning anal sex, as well as by dancehall reggae performers who flaunt anti-gay themes.
The island's main gay rights group estimated that two homosexual men had been killed for their sexual orientation last year, and 36 had been victims of mob violence.
"Judging by comments made on social media, most Jamaicans think Dwayne Jones brought his death on himself for wearing a dress and dancing in a society that has made it abundantly clear homosexuals are neither to be seen nor heard," said Annie Paul, a blogger and publications officer at Jamaica's campus of the University of the West Indies.
Some say the hostility stems from the legacy of slavery when black men were sometimes sodomised as punishment or humiliation. Some historians believe the practice carried over into a general dread of homosexuality. …