I hope by now, y’all have heard the story of CBS employee Ryan Smith being gay-bashed in St. Maarten. The CBS bit being important, as in, you’ve heard of this incident and not others.

I shouldn’t have say, it’s more than a little fucked up to have someone place a tire iron into one’s head because you hugged a man at a bar. But the response in queer communities here in the States…is to say the least troubling. The first concern that gets voiced, in this article and in my survey of other reactions, is….wait for it:

That other American tourist gays might be stopping there in the future, when they ought to be boycotting.

We need to insist that if the island is going to welcome visitors, they must have some sort of a police force that will answer their phone if they are called with an emergency. Attacks on gay people happen everywhere, and they will happen again. But you would like to think that if a place is being marketed as a gay-friendly destination, the police would be ready to handle these problems when they arise.

It just bugs the hell out of me to see someone point out a legitimate concern for the safety of queer persons in a homophobic society, and then completely elide the fact that queer people live there. The worst kind of tourist is the one who assumes that the place they visit exists for them. Witness the recent purchase of Nambia as a large maternity suite by Brangelina. Ryan didn’t deserve to have his skull bashed in. Nobody does. But that doesn’t preclude me from noting that the kind of attitude being displayed here looks pretty frankly like a racist demand for the safety of white, American queers over and against the condition of queers who, you know…can’t leave the danger of homophobia when their employer airlifts them to safety.

Instead of lecturing the governments of the islands on how they need to behave in order to get our precious tourist money, maybe try thinking of ways to ally with Caribbean queers who are seeking their own liberation, and start doing the desperately necessary anti-racist work in our own communities so that anti-colonialist rhetoric doesn’t find resonance with homophobia.

If I was queasy reading the article, the comments sealed it for me. A selection, without further comment.

What’s equally enraging is that these Dutch controlled islands seem to be completely at odds with the rest of Dutch society. Time to send in some new provincial Governers I think.

[I]t’s long been known that the Caribbean is generally quite hostile to gay people. The islands are poor, with tourism often being the main industry, which creates dependence and resentment. Combine the economic issues with the conservative cultural tenor of many of the islands, and you get hate crimes against gay tourists. Fundamentalist religion is strong on many Caribbean islands, with Jamaicans being particularly god-crazed, worshipping everything from Jesus to dead Ethiopian emperors. Many islanders see us as rich, decadent, godless, and immoral. But as dangerous as this situation can be for gay foreigners, it’s far far worse for gay islanders who have to live in these backward societies.

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