Sunday, May 31, 2015

Amandala Editors Lies: Reflections of the Editor about the New York times piece

Posted: May 31, 2015
Written by Kay Johnson

An indignant opinion piece entitled The New York Times Magazine Lies! was published in The Amandala on May 29th, 2015, by Russell Vellos, regarding Caleb Orozco, and UNIBAM -
Vellos' outraged spluttering was an attempt to buttress The Amandala's penchant for slandering the LGBT community. It seems poor Russell Vellos is under attack at every turn by those not in sympathy with the Amandala's blatant bigotry.
In fact, in an opinion piece from 2011, Vellos portrayed himself as being constantly in fear for the sanctity of his body, due to his irresistible attractiveness to men. Amandala - 25 November 2011, by Russell Vellos
Using the "find" feature, search for "homosexual" (found 54 times) and you'll see clearly who is obsessed, to the point of a seriously unhealthy fixation.
If his words are to be believed, Vellos spent his youth dodging predatory males, and in fact, lived a hellish life due to his astounding ability to attract unwanted attention from men.
Poor Russell!
The story, of course, is a gross exaggeration regarding the life of Russell Vellos. It was written to garner sympathy and support for oppressed straight men, seemingly under siege from aggressive gays. Unfortunately, we cannot know much about Vellos’s real life, but Belizeans who know, see and interact with him would condemn the greater part of the story as a flaming tall tale.
No less than four times in his life, poor Russell claims he was subject to unwanted attention from a man. Shudder in vicarious fear, as Vellos describes in detail how, forty years ago, a man telephoned him! (If Vellos was so "young" how could he go to a bar? Or be employed? This fairy tale does not add up, nor does it even remotely indicate that gays are predators on the "young") Another man asked Vellos to a party! A man invited him to his house for a few beers! Tremble in terror as you realize that poor Russell had no earthly idea the man was one of "those" types, finding out later, much to his everlasting horror and dismay!
Of course, if every adult female in Belize toted up all the unwanted attention in their lifetimes, including telephone calls, leering looks, disgusting comments, rude gestures, filthy cat-calls, unwanted date invitations, lewd street accosting, gropings, (and worse) from arrogant, obnoxious, pushy males, the count would be in the thousands, if not tens-of-thousands. People like poor Russell Vellos simply cannot abide being treated the way many men constantly treat females.
While there are many Belizeans who are homosexual, they nevertheless know that Vellos just AIN'T alla dat!
"The other thing I want to talk about is the homosexuals’ practice of name-calling, a time-honored and proven way of getting people who abhor their way of life to quit opposing them, and just shut up, leaving them to their stated policy of trying to change the world from “Adam and Eve” to “Adam and Steve.” Oh yes, they call you all sorts of names: homophobic, backward, stupid, uneducated, ignorant, and the like."
Let's compare being called ignorant and backward with some of the terms and phrases The Amandala (Evan Hyde, Colin Hyde, and Russell Vellos) have used to label the LGBT community over the past four years: "predator" - "danger" - "disgusting" - "evil" - "an abhorrence" - "perverted" - "scourge of wickedness" - "disgusting" - "drooling" - "dribbling" - "sickening" - "prey on young boys" - "wicked" - "sick" - "blasphemous" - "depraved people" - "misbegotten creatures" - "nastiness" - "aggressive" - "a nasty, despicable, God-forbidden way of life" - I'll leave you to decide just WHO is doing the vast majority of name-calling, and of the worst sort.
There are people who will mock Vellos, of course, but there were simply not enough of these incidents to even faintly buttress Vellos' argument that he lives a life pursued by aggressive men, slavering after his derrière.
In fact, not only does Vellos' tale itself appear to be a skillful fabrication in pursuit of the Belize Action Anti-Gay Agenda, (which falsely claims gays are "after the children") but it also seems Vellos’s histrionics regarding his close calls were penned under the coaching of Pastor Scott Stirm, and Pastor Louis Wade.
The Amandala, Belize's largest newspaper, published a page-long editorial under the headline UNIBAM divides Belize which properly points out that the churches need to clean up their act before pointing fingers elsewhere.
The Amandala has ALSO published many anti-gay screeds, among which was this: "Homosexuals are predators of young and teenaged boys,’ wrote the editor-in-chief, Russell Vellos. ‘Woe unto us, Belize, if homosexuals are successful in our court. Woe unto us! In fact, since ours is a ‘test case,’ woe unto the world!"
I have checked Google and can categorically state that the entire quote was published by The Amandala and is only one among numerous other such poison-pen pieces. The EXACT words Vellos denies, (and was unable to find, in his own paper's archives) do indeed appear in a section called "Of This and That" - Features— 17 November 2011— by Russell Vellos
If Russell Vellos can blatantly lie about such a thing to suit his purposes, then the veracity of his entire newspaper has to be questioned.
The puzzle for me is, why would a media entity such as The Amandala think it necessary to resort to “gutter journalism” in pursuit of their anti-gay agenda? Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Belize IDAHOT 2015: LGBT Youth, Social Complications, quiet resistance

17th May, 2015

IDAHOT is not a single day, but a daily reminder how Young Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender resist threats, beating, murder, accusations, the lack of legal protection and political indifference in not giving up on their lives. It is a story of victimhood and we in Belize must acknowledge the pain of our Y.L.B.G.T. A pain that crosses a generational divide where the older generation have sought to self-medicate in binge drinking and smoking to help to sustain personal calm, in an atmosphere of hostility and self-guarded socialisation. To the media, he was 18 year old Joseph Sanchez, cross-dresser, murdered victim who died in January,2014 in women's clothing. To the police, ASP Calbert Flowers he was  simply a person, who experienced an attempted robbery and was murdered as a result. Flowers said in a channel 5 interview, "The investigation reveals that this person was walking on Elston Kerr Street when he was attacked by two persons. The investigation revealed that these two male persons that attacked this person tried to rob him. During that robbery a struggle ensued and this person was stabbed once to the chest.   The investigation is ongoing and we have what we think is enough evidence to show that it was an attempt robbery.”  

To the LGBT community, she was a friend, a brother and a son to a mother. He was not just a murdered victim,not just a person or a cross-dresser found in women's clothing. She was a Youth, who's experience, remain undocumented, who lost her life in a senseless killing, who lived under constant threat for her gender expression and identity. She was Cenida Ramos, a trans youth. The lost of her life was symbolic of a system of social, legal, cultural oppression the community lives under that remains invisible to the wider public and the political directorate, who's response has been mimimal in recognizing that there is need to uphold concerns of dignity and rights. This was Cenida Ramos as she was, alive and in burial. Sadly, I learned that some of the same people who harassed, mocked, insulted her, attended her wake looking for rum. One person in particular, on the day of the funeral shared his experience of hearing, on the bus, while going to the  cemetery,someone, making a homophobic remark and he had to put him in his place. Nevertheless,the people who showed up was not three persons, but many at her final resting place and showed nothing but respect.


We celebrate Cenida Ramos life as a symbol of resistance, as she lived in an area where violence, harassment, threats, mockery was the norm, not the exception. I say this because of my personal experience of driving in the area to deliver community donations, after she died to her moms house. A  child, no more than 12, decided it was his right to stone my car. In addition, a separate experience prior to her  death occurred where persons told me, " come back on this street, again" took pride in shaking up my car, just before, I was able to drive off. This incident happened not more than 100 yards from where she was murdered. Personally, I am surprise, she lasted that long in the area.With low conviction rates, we don't have any expectations that justice will be found.

As we explored the murder of Cenida Ramos, it is important to remember that the general youth population lives a complicated life affected by violence in homes and streets, poverty and unemployment. When sexuality, psychological maturity and inadequate access to sexual health education is added, life skills for the most hardy, can be tested to the extreme, affecting, life decisions that add to the struggle of navigating all the cant do's and clouding the path to the can do's. In this regard, family becomes crucially important as a social safety net to ground individuals, but for transgendered persons for any youth who belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender population, there is no guarantee of such a safety net. The result is perpetuated violence, not by strangers, but by blood. We came across one 15 year old story, in October, 2014 who wrote,"They took me in a pick-up truck out on land....and they beat me with stick and they kick me while I was lying on the ground trying to cover my face and head. I could hear my pa said that you spare the rod and spoil the child so he was kicking me to save me from hell." Like most, no state services will ever document such a case, and so family abuse for young LGBT persons will remain invisible, for such experiences are almost never reported in Belize. 

With the April 9th, 2014 mob attack of 19 years old Vanessa Champagne Paris on Central American Boulevard, we discovered, how transgendered youth are on the frontline of violence, it is not just effeminate gay men. While many will ask what was she doing on Vernon street looking like a woman. The no one asked, what her family life was like, about her school experience as a child where she lived, if she was employed or skilled to be employed and why she did not finish her education. What we got were news reports of stealing women's clothing, burglary and other accusations.Vanessa story, is a case of contradiction. A case that showed the effects of how social and cultural oppression can impact a youth psychology and socio-economic standing in Belize, while showing that not all LGBT persons are able to  to make healthy-judgements to survive in an atmosphere of psychological and potential physical violence. It is a story, of poor-judgement and unwritten social background and living a self-prophecy that invites instability and social isolation.

      On 21st, January, 2015, the body of a 26 year old was found in a decomposed state, in the roaring creek area. While the story speaks in generic terms, it also was implies that even in death, injustice is going to be norm in any criminal investigation as the Belize justice system is challenged by its evidence collection process, trained personnel, inadequate data structures and a wall of social silence. 

We know that 13.85%  of men who have sex with men were found to have HIV prevalence rates that disproportionately affect men. What we have not seen is the quite erosion of dignity that impacts health. The system often touts the need to do more test, to do more prevention work. It never ask how discrimination impacts the health of young persons. Here are two, one that have already died because family support was not possible. While we got him connected to his family weeks before he died. It was clear that advance HIV had ravaged his body.The 2nd person is still alive, I place cream on his shingles years ago, but he is still struggling with recognizing his worth as a gay man. These pictures were taken years apart, but they hold true, still today. That the violation of an individual dignity and worth has lasting effects that is years in the making.

      Despite, the silent, dark, invisible experiences, our community have shown that we are willing to resist, mockery, threats, insults and physical violence and so create social spaces of every kind to remind ourselves. Allies share in the vision of reminding us about our humanity and in celebrating life. Allies provides hope to the future an amplify our voices in government, business, among friends and family.


We see the struggle is not just an LGBT issues, but every citizen, as Civil, Social, Economic and Cultural, Political rights can be violated everyday, for anyone. The United Belize Advocacy Movement calls on all citizens to act shamelessly to uphold the rights of all citizens, but especially, young Lesbian Gay Bisexual and transgender persons and show the right to personal security, expression, association, education and dignity upheld, in social practice, in policy, in institutional mechanism that promote tolerance. The recent UNAIDS launch of a poll which said 68% of Belizean's are tolerant or accepting, is important, for it shows we are a society of extremism, that families still matter. In the end, ff blood is before church and politics, let families lead this day, of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to act and support our youth, in improving their quality of life and in the upholding of their human dignity.The Special Envoy for women and children leads the way in her actions. Can we see other Belizean's move from the role as fence sitters, to champions?


A look at the possible  motive of Joseph Sanchez murder

Accused of stealing Female Clothing

Transgendered woman robbed

Special Envoy statement on IDAHOT 205