Associate Professor of Journalism Gillian Royes hosts presentation on homophobia in Jamaica
ST.CROIX — Faculty and staff from both University of the Virgin Islands’ campuses attended on Feb. 27 Dr. Gillian Royes’ presentation on homophobia in Jamaica via video conference.
Royes’ presentation not only examined homophobia in the Caribbean, but also chronicled the struggle many gays in Jamaica have with coming out.
Before getting into her presentation, she mentioned recent legislation granting equal rights to gays and why there was opposition.
“In my estimation, it is the issue of the legality of same sex marriage that has created the polarization in the world that is now taking place,”Royes said. “It’s one thing to have moral thoughts and ideas, but it’s another thing to take the route through the courts and that tends to make the moral issue come to the surface, and you have the pulling apart which is extreme.”
According to Royes, this issue is no different in the Virgin Islands.
“We are governed by the federal laws here and the locals turn a blind eye to gay-friendly hotels, restaurants or to couples walking through the streets,” she said.
Over the past few years, Royes taught a diversity focus group in her interpersonal communications class on discrimination in the Virgin Islands.
Separating her freshman class in half, Royes assigned one group to write questions, while the other acted as the focus group and answer the questions.
“Invariably, when it comes to homosexuality, across the board I find that the young women are tolerant and this has been years now, I have been doing this five years,”Royes said.“The men are very much against homosexuality. So we see just among genders, it differs within the Virgin Islands.”
Closer to home, students at the university, have mixed views on homosexuality.
For 18-year-old UVI communications student and UVI Voice reporter, Shani Isaac, upbringing and exposure impacted perception on gays.
“Well, when students come to college they will have the beliefs that they have been brought up with; like if you are brought up Catholic, you probably will emulate whatever it was that you view your parents doing,”Isaac said. “But there are students who will go out there and some of them will receive culture shock when they come into contact with the LGBT community. Some will handle it better than others.”
Isaac added, “If you are raised in a household where the roles of men and women are starkly defined, then you’re going to go into the world with this mentality.”
She said that a state of mind will also have children parodying what their parents do or believe.
“Until tolerance—the meaning of tolerance—is fully understood, and acceptance, we are not going to have that level of understanding of people that are different from us,” Isaac said.
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