Dwayne Jones (Gully Queen)
Dwayne Jones was a 16-year old that had been banished from his family's home, having been forced to live on the streets of Montego Bay. Afterwards, Dwayne had struggled to find a life for himself among Jamaica's underground LGBTQ community. On July 21st, 2013, Dwayne - a talented dancer - had decided to cross-dress and hit up a dance club with his friends. When a mob of strangers discovered that he hadn't been born a woman, things took a turn for the worst...
Jamaica is a small island in the Caribbean - roughly 90 miles south of Cuba - which is known by many as a tourist destination: whether it be a stop on a cruise or the setting for a destination vacation. Because of its picturesque beaches and vibrant culture, it's hard not to be aware of Jamaica or its Rastafarian culture... which has, perhaps, been exaggerated in pop culture.
However, behind this veil - of beautiful beaches, lively music, and delicious food - is a nation that is deeply flawed. Jamaica has been called "the richest poor nation on earth," with an economy that is defined as one of the slowest-growing in the world; leaving many of the nation's roughly 2.8 million citizens to fend for themselves.
Additionally, Jamaica has been described as one of - if not the - most homophobic country in the world (a designation it earned in 2006, when it was given this unfavorable title by Time Magazine). In 2012, the U.S. State Department proclaimed that:
"... homophobia was widespread in the country."
This unfortunate fact is particularly notable when it comes to gay men in the nation, as male homosexuality is directly outlawed under Jamaican law. Seriously, as it stands now, simply being gay can result in gay men receiving 2 to 10 years in prison, with or without hard labor.
In addition to these obscene laws, there are noticeably higher rates of violent crime perpetrated against members of Jamaica's LGBTQ community, who - more often than not - refuse to report these incidents to police because it can only result in more heartache or suffering for themselves.
This episode directly intersects both of these major flaws in Jamaica: not only the widespread poverty that afflicts many, but the violence that goes unchecked against the LGBTQ community in general.
This is the story of Dwayne Jones (also known as "Gully Queen").
Before I get started, I just want to include a brief disclaimer. In this episode, I will tell the story of a young individual that was involved in the LGBTQ community of Montego Bay, Jamaica - a teenager that identified as gender-nonconforming.
I assume that some will take issue with how I address the subject of this story - using male pronouns - but I am doing so because this is how all of Dwayne's friends and family continue to refer to Dwayne. So, out of respect to them, I will be doing the same. Hopefully everyone listening recognizes that I'm not trying to disrespect Dwayne's memory, but I will be including some quotes from Dwayne's loved ones that use the honorary "he" or "him." So, in an attempt to tell this story as thoughtfully and efficiently as possible, I will do the same. I hope you all understand.
Dwayne Jones was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Generally known as a region relient on its tourism-friendly economy, Montego Bay is actually a vast region full of squalor, and this is where Dwayne was raised: in an ghetto called Paradise Rowe.
Early on, Dwayne recognized that he was different than the other boys he grew up alongside. While he was never quite open about his sexuality - due in part to the repressive culture that is pervasive throughout most of the Caribbean - he started to become more effeminate as he grew up through adolescence.
This behavior resulted in Dwayne being bullied quite heavily at school, which ultimately resulted in him dropping out of high school at a very early age. And the one refuge that most children would rely upon - home - wasn't much better for Dwayne.
A short time later, Dwayne was kicked out of his family's home by his father - who not only kicked him out, but encouraged others in the neighborhood to chase him away by pushing and kicking at him until he was literally out of their sight.
This was simply because of his behavior, which others described as "feminine."
After being banished from his family's home - and the ghetto that he had grown up in - Dwayne was forced to sleep in bushes and on the beach, hoping to avoid beatings, imprisonment, or worse because of his burgeoning sexuality.
At the time, Dwayne was only 14 years old.
After a brief period of living on the streets and just struggling to get by, Dwayne began squatting in an abandoned government building in the hills north of Montego Bay. Dwayne had been taken in by a group of older transients, who - like Dwayne - had been banished from their previous lives because of their very nature.
In particular, there were two young transgender women - named Keke and Khloe - who took an immediate liking to Dwayne. They were both in their early 20's, but both women bonded with Dwayne over similar life experiences and shared passions.
Here, living in this derelict building with a couple of individuals he just recently met, Dwayne began to embrace who he was inside. He began cross-dressing, and expressing more of his innate emotions and behaviors - which he had had to repress for several years now. Dwayne no longer had to hide who he was, but was instead embraced by those he lived with - and with those he associated with in Montego Bay's underground LGBTQ community.
Khloe, one of the women that Dwayne lived with, said about Dwayne:
"He was the youngest of us but he was a diva. He was always very feisty and joking around."
Among this group, Dwayne began being called "Gully Queen" by his friends, which was a reference to a certain subgroup in this community. Several members of the LGBTQ community - who had been banished from their homes and forced to live on the streets - had begun flocking to Jamaica's storm drains: aka "gullies." So, "Gully Queen" was a sort-of nickname given to these people, and Dwayne seemed to wear the nickname like a badge of honor. It became his, and whenever he cross-dressed, he became the "Gully Queen."
In this community, Dwayne became known as a proficient dancer, who won numerous dance tournaments through the region. He dreamt of becoming a performer like Lady Gaga: someone that could cross boundaries and push the envelope in the entertainment field.
Despite being a teenager with his sights set high, Dwayne was also realistic, and knew that the odds of him becoming an international entertainer were very slim. So he also set his sights on becoming a teacher, or even working in the tourism field that attracted many to Jamaica.
In this community, Dwayne had not only discovered who he was, but what he wanted to do with his life. He no longer had to repress who he was, but began to embrace his identity as the "Gully Queen," and - even though he still had to deal with poverty and bigotry - he seemed to be enjoying life.
At this point, before we get further into the story, I want to take a step back and explain why homophobia is so rampant in the Caribbean - and, more specifically, why it is so prevalent among the Jamaican people.
Homophobia in Jamaica dates back to the 1860's, when the island was still a British colony. That is when Sections 76 through 80 of Jamaica's criminal code were created, which specifically outlawed and relationships that even bordered on homosexuality. These criminal acts likened "buggery" to bestiality, and made the sentence for said offense 10 years imprisonment with hard labor. It also made "attempted buggery" worth 7 years in prison - with or without hard labor.
This also includes the act of "gross indecency," which can be anything between full-on intercourse between two men to two men holding hands. This crime was also worth 2 years in prison - again, with or without hard labor.
Section 80 of the criminal code, specifically, makes it okay for law enforcement to target individuals between the hours of 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM that they simply believe may be attempting to engage in anything deemed untoward. This allows Jamaican police almost full discretion to target anyone they deem fit, who might be in violation of these draconian and obscene morality laws.
If that wasn't bad enough, the Sexual Offences Act of 2009 took it a step further, and now forces anyone convicted of these alleged crimes to register as a sex offender.
That's right. If you are openly gay in Jamaica, you can be charged with one of these open-ended offenses, and sentenced to more than a decade's imprisonment with hard labor. Then, after you're finally released, you would be forced to register as a sex offender. All of that just because you are gay.
This has created a climate that is not only trying to suppress members of the LGBTQ community, but is actively persecuting them - both in and out of the law. Violence against the LGBTQ community - especially towards gay men - is rampant through Jamaica to this day.
In 2004, Brian Williamson - one of Jamaica's most vocal gay rights activists - was murdered by an acquaintance of his. The culprit was found and convicted, but that did not stop a large group of Jamaicans from gathering after his death was announced and celebrating his death while chanting homophobic slurs.
In 2005, "Steve" Harvey - not that Steve Harvey, another Steve Harvey; another vocal gay rights advocate, who had long advocated for those living with HIV/AIDS - was abducted from his home and shot dead by a group of masked men. A group of men were charged with his death, but ultimately acquitted.
In 2009, John Terry - a British diplomat that lived in Jamaica - was found strangled inside of his home. A note was left beside his body, which contained a number of homophobic slurs.
Then, in 2011, a 16-year old named Oshane Gordon - who just-so-happened to be gay - was abducted from his mother's home. He was later hacked to death by his kidnappers, who used machetes and other similar bladed weapons to commit this heinous crime.
In all of these incidents, homophobia is believed to have played a vital role - if not providing the primary motivations for these attacks.
This type of behavior has even infected the pop culture of Jamaica, with violent homophobia creeping into the music we all associate with progressive ideals. Buju Banton, a popular Jamaican reggae musicians, released a song in 1992 called "Boom Bye Bye" which suggests that listeners shoot gay people and burn their skin with acid. Elephant Man, another reggae musician from the island, once famously sang:
"When you hear a lesbian getting raped, it's not our fault... two women in bed, that's two sodomites who should be dead."
These two musicians have received a variety of international complaints about the lyrical subject of their music, but are by no means alone: musicians such as Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Mavado, Sizzla, Capleton, T.O.K., and Shabba Ranks - among countless others - have similar themes in songs of theirs', and are similarly unapologetic about it. They all seem to just be indicative of the culture in Jamaica, which has long been hostile towards members of the LGBTQ community.
Every single year, there are at least a few dozen attacks against gay and trans members of Jamaican society - leading to members of the LGBTQ community having to live in fear of not only shame and humiliation, but the threat of imprisonment or physical violence. And that's simply because they are the way they are.
In 2012, there were at least 2 men murdered and 36 men attacked because of their sexual orientation; in addition to a number of similar crimes that went unreported, because those affected are often ignored or openly mocked by the police they rely upon for help.
In the mid-2000's, following a string of high-profile murders, a researcher with the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called the environment for the LGBTQ community in Jamaica:
"... the worst any of us has ever seen."
On the evening of July 21st, 2013, Dwayne Jones was just 16 years old. He was still technically homeless, squatting in the abandoned government building with his friends Keke and Khloe. Along with these two friends, Dwayne got all dressed up, and planned to visit a bar in the Irwin area of Montego Bay - which held dance parties every weekend called "Hennessy Sundays."
This would be the first time that Dwayne was going to a "straight" bar while cross-dressing. He was nervous to do so, but excited.
The three - Dwayne, Keke, and Khloe - took a taxi to the bar, and arrived at around 2:00 AM. They were all wearing women's clothing, and Dwayne - fearing persecution or harassment - was hoping to keep his true gender a secret.
The three began dancing, and inside, Dwayne's fears began to ease away. He lost himself in the music, and soon became one of the stars of the show. Dwayne was, after all, an experienced dancer, and was soon sought-out by numerous men in the club - some of whom began dancing with Dwayne.
These were all men that would normally not dance with Dwayne - or another man, for that matter - but who, for minutes at a time, were attracted to not only Dwayne's dance moves, but his appearance.
On the dance floor, though, he encountered a girl he had known from his prior life. The two had attended church together, and their families were familiar with one another. In a momentary lapse of judgment, Dwayne confided in this girl, telling her that he was attending the party in drag.
While Dwayne returned to the dance floor, that girl rushed off to tell the rest of her friends who Dwayne really was. This group then waited for the right moment to accost Dwayne away from the dance floor.
Outside of the dance club, Dwayne was surrounded by a group of strange men he hardly knew; some of whom he had been dancing with inside, but others who gathered around the group for no reason other than pure outrage.
Now that he was surrounded, members of this group began to demand Dwayne's true gender. One man even asked him directly:
"Are you a woman or a man?"
Dwayne told them that he was a girl, but that wasn't good enough for this rabble. One of the members pulled out a lighter and held it down to Dwayne's feet, using the light to get a better look. They then proclaimed that his feet were too big to be a woman's.
Then, one of the men decided to grope Dwayne, determining him to be a "man" to the other members of this mob. This preceded a long onslaught of homophobic slurs, which soon led to verbal threats of violence against Dwayne.
It was at this point that Khloe, Dwayne's friend, tried to get Dwayne to leave with her. She wrapped her arm around Dwayne and started walking away, telling Dwayne:
"Walk with me, walk with me."
However, Dwayne refused to leave immediately. Dwayne stood his ground, insisting that he was a girl - and that, even if he wasn't, it wasn't any of this group's business what he was.
Now, things began to turn physical. A member of this mob grabbed at Dwayne's bra strap, and that led to both Dwayne and Khloe running away. This group of strangers gave chase, pursuing both down the road. Dwayne and Khloe lost each other in the frenzy of the attack, but a brutal assault began unfolding with Dwayne at the center of it.
Over the next several minutes, Dwayne was beaten severely and even stabbed. For more than two hours, Dwayne would slip in and out of consciousness, before being attacked once again - presumably by the same group that had incapacitated him. This time, their attack would be fatal.
During the length of this assault - which, again, took place over the span of hours - nobody stepped in to help Dwayne or deter his attackers. More than 300 people were in the dance club that night, and nobody raised a finger to help Dwayne as he died just feet away.
Khloe, Dwayne's friend, has refused to give her real name in the aftermath of Dwayne's brutal murder - for fear of future reprisal to herself or her loved ones.
The night that Dwayne was attacked - just outside of the dance club - Khloe had tried to step in and leave quickly with Dwayne. However, Dwayne hesitated for just a moment, and that moment was enough for the mob to grow violent. Khloe attempted to flee with Dwayne, but in the chaos, the two had been separated - and quickly lost track of one another.
Khloe was brutally beaten and nearly raped by the same group of attackers that had ultimately killed Dwayne. But in a moment of confusion, Khloe had been able to escape and take refuge in a nearby church - and then, later, in a patch of woods nearby. She wasn't able to call for help because she didn't have her cell phone with her, so she just had to patiently wait for the morning.
When she finally slipped away, Khloe was one of the first to discover Dwayne - or, at least, what remained of him.
"When I saw Dwayne's body, I started shaking and crying. It was horrible. It was so, so painful to see him like that."
Police would arrive at the scene at around 5:00 AM - shortly after the final and fatal assault on Dwayne. At this point, his body had been dumped in some bushes along Orange Street, just a short distance away from the dance club, in the neighborhood of Albion.
Dwayne's body had all the telltale signs of a vicious beating - the bruises, the abrasions, etc. - but the attack on his body had gone far beyond any kind of beating. He had been stabbed numerous times, had been shot three times, and it even looked like he had been run over by a vehicle.
It was one of the most brutal crime scenes that these police had ever come across, and one that would stick around in their collective consciousness for some time.
Dwayne's body originally went unclaimed by his family, who continued to spurn Dwayne even after his death. However, they would change their minds several day later, deciding to do at least one decent thing and give Dwayne a proper send-off.
In the weeks after Dwayne's death, police were hopeful that the perpetrators of this crime would be brought to justice.
Steve Brown, the Jamaican Deputy Superintendent of Police, acted as the official spokesman for the investigation. Brown said that police had received very little information in the wake of the crime, and claimed that the details of this death - in particular, alleged sexuality of the victim - was causing many potential witnesses to remain quiet. Brown also said that Dwayne being a cross-dresser was stifling public interest in the case, causing many in the region to essentially victim-blame Dwayne for "tricking" other men.
However, Superintendent Brown told the media that the investigation was still ongoing, and he publicly invited any friends or family of Dwayne to contact them with information.
Despite there being more than 300 people in the dance club on the night in-question, no one stepped forward to present any information. Those that were questioned by police - who were proven to have been there the night that Dwayne was murdered - were unable to remember the names or faces of the mob that had gathered around Dwayne and brutally murdered him over the span of hours.
Police admitted that they were able to speak to several dozen potential witnesses, and collected at least 14 official statements in the weeks after Dwayne's murder. By August of 2013, they seemed optimistic that an arrest in the case was near, however that investigation would quickly prove to be a dead-end. In subsequent years - both 2014 and 2015 - police officials would state that they had no suspects in the case... nor any active lines of inquiry.
In Jamaica, Dwayne Jones' murder didn't receive much attention. It seemed to attract more apathy than sympathy, with many brushing aside his death as the unfortunate result of his sexuality. Some even made him out to be the aggressor, claiming that he had tricked men into dancing with him by dressing as a woman.
However, there were those in the region that spoke out against this logic, including the Out and Proud Diamond Gang (OPDG). They, in cooperation with the Peter Tatchell Foundation, arranged for a protest to be held outside of the Jamaican Embassy in July of 2013 (just days after Dwayne's murder). They also petitioned for Jamaica to begin protecting members of the LGBTQ community from hate crimes - which had been increasing in violence and propensity in recent years.
The organization known as J-FLAG (which stands for the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays) helped arrange Dwayne's burial and a memorial service for his loved ones after his death. Dane Lewis, the executive director for J-FLAG, spoke to the media about the unfortunate circumstances of Dwayne's still-unsolved murder:
"The fact that there were so many people at that party, that they could have stood there and allowed a young person to be beaten, left to die on the side of the road? That hundreds of men and women could stand by and watch a life being taken, without any need to stop it? It's very disheartening."
Jamaicans For Justice - a human rights group that is often abbreviated as JFJ - released a press release roughly two weeks after Dwayne's death, which included the excerpt:
"... there has been little sense of outrage, little media coverage, and only a few voices speaking up and out about this killing. We must ask ourselves what this says about us as a people."
The sentiment from these civil rights groups was shared by many international resources, who began to express outrage of their own and publicly condemned the actions that had led to the death of Dwayne Jones. Feeling the pressure, Jamaican officials promised that justice would be found, with Justice Minister Mark Golding promising to spare no expense or effort in the quest to find Dwayne's killers.
However, most knew that this was little more than empty rhetoric. The ugly truth was that the investigation to find Dwayne's killers had grown cold merely days after his death.
Weeks after his death, Dwayne's presence was still felt with those that had known and loved him; namely, with Keke and Khloe, the young women that had taken him in when he had nowhere else to go. In his time of need, they were had been more family to him than his actual family.
Khloe, who had been with Dwayne in some of his final moments, was brutally beaten at the same time. She would show reporters that came to visit some of the scars that lined her arms and torso, which reminded her of the terrible night Dwayne had been killed - and the following morning, when she discovered his remains. To those same reporters, Khloe claimed that, every night, she:
"... can't stop seeing his lifeless body."
Keke, the other friend that had lived with Dwayne, stated:
"I'll be cooking in the kitchen and I'll say, 'Dwayne, you hungry?' or something like that. We just miss him all the time. Sometimes I think I see him."
The two would continue to live in the abandoned government building they had found refuge in months prior to Dwayne's murder, but would be faced with another tragedy months later - when this home of theirs was set ablaze by an angry mob. This mob had discovered that members of the LGBTQ community were residing inside the derelict building, and decided to firebomb it.
Everald Morgan, an officer with the St. James Public Health Department, told reporters in the aftermath of this act of arson:
"I got a call from one of the men shortly after the incident. I know the police were alerted and that they went to the scene."
Morgan asked the police to provide those that had been living in the building a temporary place to stay, to avoid being harmed further by this violent mob. This request was denied by the police; and Khloe, Keke, and the others staying with them were released back out into the public... potentially back out into further danger.
Sadly, the story of Dwayne Jones is just one of dozens. I told you some similar stories at the beginning of this episode, of men whose lives were taken because of their sexuality - but their stories are by no means aberrations. Violence has been a constant in the lives of the LGBTQ community in Jamaica, and it remains a constant threat today.
Dane Lewis, the executive director of J-FLAG - who I quoted just a few minutes ago - remained optimistic following the death of Dwayne Jones. In multiple interviews, he described Dwayne's death as an outlier, and remained hopeful for Jamaica's future. In a 2013 interview, he claimed:
"We can say that we are becoming more tolerant. And thankfully that's because of people like Dwayne who have helped push the envelope."
In 2015, the first public gay pride celebration in all of the Caribbean was held in Jamaica. Named "Pride JA," the celebration was a celebration of all things LGBTQ, and was revolutionary in allowing repressed members of this society to express themselves in a safe and earnest way.
Angeline Jackson, a well-known Jamaican civil rights advocate, said about Pride JA:
"This allowed the LGBT community and its allies to feel free, to have a safe space for a week but we need more, we have to change society. It's not only the law but it's changing the hearts, the minds and attitudes of Jamaicans that's going to be difficult - we need to move people away from the mob mentality."
In the years since, Jamaica has come quite a long way. Publications and news agencies on the island have really helped spread the stories of these disenfranchised members of the Caribbean, and helped put a face to the name for many like Dwayne Jones.
Yet... despite multiple protests and international condemnation, Jamaica's anti-gay laws are still on the books... and violent incidents are still occurring. In August of 2017, fashion designer and gay activist Dexter Pottinger was murdered in his own home, for what many believe are homophobic reasons.
The culture that Dwayne Jones fell prey to back in 2013 has been inching closer and closer to acceptance; perhaps slowly, but incrementally. However, as long as answers continue to elude the unsolved murder of Dwayne Jones, we can rest assured that Jamaica - and the world at large, really - has plenty of room to grow when it comes to accepting members of the LGBTQ community.
The murder of Dwayne Jones remains an unsolved case.
Unfortunately, the investigation was never really active to begin with, with police not believed to be actively working on the case. Many of the potential leads dried up in the early days of the investigation, dozens of witnesses failed to come forward with any pertinent information.
The mob that assaulted and ultimately murdered Dwayne has escaped justice for the better part of six years. They have not faced charges, or - as far as anyone knows - ever been identified. Multiple witnesses that were questioned by police claimed that they never got a good look at the faces of the men that brutally took Dwayne's life, and these attackers remain enigmas to this day.
Dwayne Jones is remembered in the Jamaican LGBTQ community as a martyr of sorts. I hate to use the word "martyr," but it's unfortunately the word that best fits his tragic story. He was a person that refused to back down from who he was under the threat of violence, and it ended up costing him his life. Yet, it has empowered numerous others in the years since, giving Dwayne's death at least some kind of meaning.
However, until justice is found in this unsolved murder, the story of Dwayne Jones - aka "Gully Queen" - remains unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Produced by: Ben Krokum, Katherine Vatalaro, Laura Hannan, Quil Carter, Scott Meesey, and Timothy Stratton
Published on April 21st, 2019
Scott Holmes - "Everest"
Kai Engel - "Brand New World"
Mystery Mammal - "Pragia"
ROZKOL - "Last Train in the Station"
Graham Bole - "Away An Wash Yer Hauns Ya Clatty Article"
Rest You Sleeping Giant - "What Fades"
Borrtex - "Fog in the Street"
Other music created and composed by Ailsa Traves