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St. Maarten Gay Bash Update

St_maartenTwo suspects are reportedly being held in connection with the gay bashing of CBS News producer Dick Jefferson and his friend Ryan Smith on the island of St. Maarten.

From The Daily Herald:

"First reports that two men had been arrested Thursday in connection with the incident reached The Daily Herald Friday night. Dutch press agency ANP reported over the weekend that two arrests had been made at Bamboo Bernie’s and that a third suspect, apparently the main suspect, was still at large."

Said Chief Prosecutor Taco Stein: "I say to you as I said to all other reporters, I cannot deny nor confirm the arrests." Stein also told the Herald that "the investigation was 'very touchy' and 'delicate' and that he would give a statement 'as soon as this is possible.'"

Dick_jefferson Ryan_smith

The recent gay bashings have thrust St. Maarten and the Caribbean in general into the limelight, prompting Time to ask, in an article published this week, if the region is the most homophobic place on earth?

The Time article focuses mainly on Jamaica, punctuated with a description of hate crimes that have happened there recently:

"In 2004, a teen was almost killed when his father learned his son was gay and invited a group to lynch the boy at his school. Months later, witnesses say, police egged on another mob that stabbed and stoned a gay man to death in Montego Bay. And this year a Kingston man, Nokia Cowan, drowned after a crowd shouting "batty boy" (a Jamaican epithet for homosexual) chased him off a pier."

An editorial in St. Maarten's Daily Herald expressed concern about the consequences for the travel industry and urged people to see the gay bashing as an "isolated" incident, saying "The islands to a great extent depend on Americans visitors for their survival, but that does not mean they should be blackmailed. What happened to the two badly beaten visitors is horrible, but it’s obviously an isolated incident involving a handful of people and presenting it any other way simply misleading the public."

However, with attitudes like the one expressed in a second editorial that a reader scanned and sent in to me (allegedly from the Herald as well and not, as of now, available online), folks may agree with Time. The writer of this opinion piece blames the victim and longs for the days when gay bashing wasn't such a "no-no." It's pretty damn sickening. Here you go:



UPDATE: As I suspected, the editorial may not be from The Herald. As you'll see in the comments below, a reader seems to think it was from another, smaller paper called Today. In either case, the editorial is still illustrative of much of the homophobic thinking that pervades the Caribbean today.

St. Maarten Gay Bash update [tr]
St. Maarten Gay Bash Victim Speaks Out [tr]
Brutal Gay Bashing on St. Maarten [tr]

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  1. taco stein, lol

    Posted by: elliott | Apr 18, 2006 1:40:03 PM

  2. Wow. That's pretty damn sickening.

    Posted by: jon | Apr 18, 2006 1:45:55 PM

  3. You know what? I actually AM ashamed. We SHOULD be ashamed. We should be ashamed that Americans continue to tolerate this kind of blatant hostility and bigotry. Can you imagine if the word "gay" (and its analogs) were replaced with [insert disgusting racial slur here]? "Wow, I sure miss the days when we could round up black people and punch their teeth out." Are you kidding me? What year is this again? 1910?

    Homophobic attacks happen all over the world. They happen in the United States, Mexico, Canada, even liberal places like the Netherlands. But what separates those incidents from this one is the widespread and public support of the attacks that is demonstrated by this vomitous "editorial". People of conscience, straight and gay alike, should think long and hard before patronizing such a place. I wonder if their hatred is worth the obliteration of the only viable economic engine supporting their hateful community? With any luck, we shall soon see.

    Thank you, Andy, for posting this.

    Posted by: Brian | Apr 18, 2006 1:58:00 PM

  4. I'm Dutch, and ashamed.

    Posted by: arjanwrites | Apr 18, 2006 2:07:48 PM

  5. The "editorial" promotes hate and violence and is disgusting.

    Posted by: David | Apr 18, 2006 2:28:57 PM

  6. Honestly, I'm not surprised. Tourist destinations like this one have always had a love-hate relationship with visitors, and when something like a hurricane disrupts order, the tourists find out just what the locals really think of them.

    Ublike right-wing haters here, who know to preface and disclaim their hate-filled remarks, as in "I'm not homophobic, but [hateful wingnut anti-gay slander here]," this is just the unfiltered truth about how they hate.

    And just like the right-wing, you can believe they meant what they said the first time, before they started issuing mush-mouthed denials that they are irrational gay-haters.

    Posted by: brian nyc | Apr 18, 2006 2:33:19 PM

  7. very stupid editorial. it first says 'gay bashing' doesn't exist and is a trumped up word, then goes into a pretty detailed description of what gay bashing is, after just having described the island attack, which fits quite closely with his own definition. it's a classic example of someone with a high school education with a penchant for soapboxes gettin' all riled up and writing the local paper.

    hopefully the paper printed this letter because it was soo stupid that it would wake up some of the complacency that has plagued the gay community recently.

    Posted by: joe | Apr 18, 2006 2:38:53 PM

  8. Friends in Sint Maarten have told me that editorial was NOT from the Daily Herald. It was from a small community paper called TODAY.

    There's a big difference--the same difference between the NY Times and the NY Post.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Apr 18, 2006 2:40:13 PM

  9. The best way to rebut crap like this is with our dollars. As in, spend them elsewhere.

    Posted by: Steve | Apr 18, 2006 2:40:48 PM

  10. The "editorial" wasn't written by anyone actually from the Caribbean. The author misspelled the name St. Maarten. The person used abysmal English…everyone uses better English than Americans. The author referred only to US laws…not Dutch or British laws against gay-bashing…the idiot must be an American.

    Be afraid, though, folks, the author’s stance against calling gay-bashing a hate crime is shared by several people who post on Towleroad. Be afraid, folks, because Brian reflects what I believe is the sad truth about gay travelers—we’re only welcome when our presence means money that wouldn’t otherwise be forthcoming. Otherwise we’re generally not even tolerated.

    Posted by: JT | Apr 18, 2006 2:42:35 PM

  11. ...I love how the editorial spins the feelings of the "four upset young men" who later went on to beat the gay guys for "being all over each other." Frightening perspective.

    Posted by: midnight lounge | Apr 18, 2006 2:50:21 PM

  12. What we need to do is not spend any of our ‘gay money’ in St. Maarten. I suggest we rally and stop visiting locals where we are not welcome. The best way to have an impact is to stop supporting hate and crime; because of the person we choose to love.

    In the same breath, we need to contact gay organizations, like Atlantis Tours, which stop in St. Maarten on their Freedom of the Seas tour, to reconsider their itinerary. The only way to cause change is to be aware and alert. This really is a call to action.

    Posted by: Dan Halm | Apr 18, 2006 2:57:47 PM

  13. Are we getting the message yet? Yes, seem to be.

    Posted by: Peter Rivendell | Apr 18, 2006 3:14:03 PM

  14. The problem with getting gay cruise lines like Atlantis to re-route their chartered ships is that you have to find a non-homophobic Caribbean island to re-route them to. And according to the Time magazine article linked to by Andy above, such a place may not exist. The whole region seems to be populated by culturally homophobic blacks ("Gay-rights activists attribute the scourge of homophobia the ...increasingly thuggish reggae music scene.") thus making it "The Most Homophobic Place on Earth."

    A more practical solution may be to just stay on board the Freedom when it docks in St. Maartin. Don't go on shore excursions, and don't go sightseeing and shopping there. No going ashore essentially means no gay tourist dollars from the gay cruise ship.

    Posted by: Jim | Apr 18, 2006 3:18:09 PM

  15. No, no, no, go on shore but don't buy anything other than water...and lots of it. That's all, just water.

    Posted by: JT | Apr 18, 2006 3:20:39 PM

  16. As lovely as the Caribbean may be, there are thousands of other places on Earth just as lovely to visit.

    Posted by: Bill | Apr 18, 2006 3:29:50 PM

  17. St. Martin is the correct spelling for the French side of the island, and St. Maarten for the Dutch. Gay people visit, but also live and work on the island and like gay people everywhere, they can be targets for bashing. Does boycotting make a difference? Should gays boycott the United States because gay bashing happens there? How about Canada or the UK... or any one of the hundreds of countries where gay bashing occurs?

    Posted by: Out-O-Rama | Apr 18, 2006 3:37:15 PM

  18. Right on, Bill. You're absolutely right.

    Posted by: Brian | Apr 18, 2006 3:38:04 PM

  19. I know that gay bashing is happening everywhere this days but gay hating is super pronounced in places like St. Marteen, Jamaica, Caiman islands and most of the Caribean Islands. I say, if you go to these islands instead of Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands (places more tolerant to gays) you are looking for trouble and you deserve to be beaten and urinated on or worse. Boycott these places and by hitting them in the pocketbook maybe they will feel that they need to change or at least to be more tolerant. Anyway, it is obvious that they do not want gay dollars. They show their feelings about this by beating gays. So, lets stay away.

    Posted by: Oscar | Apr 18, 2006 3:56:43 PM

  20. I've yet to read or hear about any realistically gay-friendly island anywhere in the Caribbean region. Jamaica is a homophobic pest-hole, and the whole-swathe from the Bahamas to Trinadad ranges from "your on your own" to openly hostile to "free-stay in Jail, fag"; ...and this includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Even the Dutch A-B-C islands have hostile, backwards inhabitants...especially amongst the "natives".

    The only island that I think you can be gay and safe is Bermuda, and that's far-north of the Caribbean. I just don't get "the Gays" taking cruises in the Caribbean, it's like going on a bus-tour through backwoods Alabama and Mississippi.

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Apr 18, 2006 4:08:03 PM

  21. Oscar, I understand the point you're trying to make, but please rethink the comment that "if you go then you deserve to be beaten and urinated on"... what the ??? Surely you don't mean that.

    Ted B., I've been traveling to Puerto Rico several times a year for the past 10 years and have always found it to be extremely gay friendly. There are a handful of gay-exclusive hotels, including 3 right on the main stretch of beach in San Juan, and I've never experienced anything but kindness when visiting there. We usually stay in Old San Juan, or on the eastern end of the island in Fajardo, and both places have provided us with great food, great music and amazingly tolerant and accepting locals. My partner and I were just there at the end of March to attend a commitment ceremony for two friends. The wedding was held in the main square of Old San Juan, and all of the spectators cheered and joined the celebration... not one single slur or type of abuse was offered.

    I'm not saying it's a perfect place, I'm sure there are hot-beds of intolerance, but I've found that island to be more accepting than the mainland when it comes to gays and lesbians.

    Posted by: wayne | Apr 18, 2006 4:20:05 PM

  22. Oscar, you can't be serious. No one "deserves" that. It is moronic to blame the victim.

    Posted by: jon | Apr 18, 2006 4:23:31 PM

  23. Ted,

    The "natives"? Could you be a little more racist? Homophobia exists all over the world from Chicago, where gay men are regularly bashed in Boystown, to Iran where gay men are executed, to Wyoming where a young gay man was lynched.

    Instead of making this a "racial" issue, you should be intelligent enough to know that this is a cultural issue. Didn't everyone's favorite movie "Brokeback Mountain" depict Jack Twist's death at the hands of bigots? Didn't Reagan and the Right turn their backs on the AIDS crisis? Didn't the Republican Party use the "threat" of gay marriage to round up votes in the 2004 elections?

    Let's not kid ourselves about how much more "civilized" our country is. It was only a few short years ago when similar articles appeared in the New York Times (but are still uttered by Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage on the radio or the Rev. Fred Phelps at the funerals of dead American soldiers).

    Posted by: noah | Apr 18, 2006 6:43:13 PM

  24. I'm booked on next year's Atlantis cruise that's supposed to go to St. Maarten, and I have to admit this gives me pause about going on shore.

    But I also have to stop and ask, should I condemn all the people on that island because of the hatred of some? I was on the Atlantis cruise that stopped in Grand Cayman a couple of months ago, and yes, there were protesters. But there was also a brave (and smaller) group of people holding up signs welcoming us. When I see people wanting to write off the entire region, I think of those folks. And I feel like it's important to support them, just like they supported us.

    Of course, if it's just plain unsafe, that's another matter. No one from our ship got bashed in the Caymans. And that's what gives me some pause about getting off the boat in St. Maarten next year. But we do have gay-bashings right here in the good ol' USA too. Even in the big, supposedly "safe" cities.

    Posted by: Glenn | Apr 18, 2006 8:16:56 PM

  25. A simple boycott could just fan hatred and anger. Hatred is adjustable with the right resources. It's a cultural issue, and there are Carribean people who could soften the culture up. In the US, that happened through media and sympathy. Is there a way divert part of what I would have spent on tourism to help gay Carribeans do that for themselves?

    Posted by: Daniel | Apr 19, 2006 12:42:03 AM

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