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Homosexuality and crime

By Dana Seetahal

 In the many years that I have been involved in the criminal justice system I have never heard of a link between homosexuality and the increase in criminal or deviant behaviour. Although it was in 1985 that I did a master’s degree in criminology, I have since then kept up with developments by, among other things, participating in conferences and doing literary and practical research, including research done during the course of a Fulbright Award in criminal justice.

It was thus with surprise that I read of the assertion by artist LeRoy Clarke. According to newspaper reports, Clarke related homosexuality to the increase in crime, saying young men are usually indoctrinated into gangs through homosexuality and because of the violation of their manhood use the gun as a symbol of their masculinity.

In an immediate response head of the Police Service Victim Support Unit, Margaret Sampson-Browne, said she could not validate the statements. She said that while it is common that abused children grow into troubled and sometimes violent adults, she was not aware of research to show that young men are being indoctrinated into gangs with gay sex, leaving them angry and violent. Sampson-Browne said that Clarke has perhaps conducted his own research and found a basis for his statements but she was not able to make a connection between crime and homosexuality.


No evidence

My personal enquiries of senior investigators have not elicited any such connection. Further, there is no such connection known to the Criminal and Intelligence Gang Unit of the Police Service. That unit has not recorded homosexual activity as a means of indoctrination used by gangs. The preferred methods of indoctrination appear to be to cause the “applicant” gang member to either commit a robbery or shoot at someone — seemingly to test how far the person would be willing to go. As to using a gun to symbolise masculinity, while this might be so, anecdotal reports suggest that young men become gang members in order to get a gun. This prop of masculinity was particularly important to those who were academically challenged.

In further contrast to what was has been asserted, internationally there have been recorded reports of persons being killed by gangs BECAUSE they were homosexuals. For instance, in 2008 a teen who was a member of the Family Swans (a subset of the bloods gang) was killed by fellow gang members after they discovered he was gay, according to the police in Baltimore. Reports have also emanated that in Jamaica there have been killings of persons who were said to be gay, whether by gang members or not.


It has been argued by some that while, as in the wider society, all gangs do have some gay gang-members, the percentage of gay gang members would be a bit higher than the national average because the nature of gang life itself attracts gays. It is argued that the closeness of guys hanging around and pledging their loyalty to other guys, putting their girlfriends second might be indicative of the gay life style. There has however been no research to statistically support this view, at least none that I have come across.


Homosexual street gangs

There are however reports of some street gangs whose membership is only homosexual. Police in New York City have reported that they have evidence of gay gangsters swearing allegiance to Gotham rival sets, the Sharks and Jets. These gangs have emerged in somewhat large numbers, leading to an influx in cute little trinkets, avant-garde fashion and the spontaneous unfolding of seemingly choreographed skirmishes between the two gangs on main streets all over the country. 

An NYPD Lieutenant during a police conference on interstate street gangs described them as follows: “Travelling in finger-snapping, strutting packs, the members of the Sharks and Jets support their overtly gay lifestyles by aggressively peddling exotic homemade fashions, fashion accessories and pieces of art to unsuspecting members of the communities they move into, often by openly mocking the individual’s more practical tastes.” There is no conclusion however that these gangs are really criminal gangs rather than street gangs made up of homosexuals.


No parenting

During the course of my practice I came across what might be termed loosely a “gang” made up of a few boys of ages 17-18 who lived on the streets. They collected and sold bottles to support themselves and slept in vehicles parked on the street or cemeteries. This particular group was made up of boys who had been abandoned by their parents. They engaged in “small” robberies and engaged in homosexual activity. Two of them were eventually arrested and charged for murder. 

Despite this fact there was nothing to suggest that they were anymore criminally minded than perpetrators who were not homosexuals. In fact the majority of persons charged with violent crimes were, from all evidence, not homosexuals.


Given that most gang members do not appear to have any male role model or, to be more specific, a father in their lives, it might be relevant to consider research in this regard done by the American Psychological Association in 2012. They sought to test the hypothesis that paternal absence during childhood was significantly correlated with masculine-feminine identity, intensity and type of anxiety experienced, and proclivity towards antisocial behaviour. The results indicated that paternal absence is related to trends towards a feminine identification (though not in terms of overt homosexuality), aggressiveness, anxiety related to sex and oral tendencies. No significant relationship was found between paternal absence and anxiety as reflected in general fearfulness or incidence of antisocial behaviour. 

From the research, information from the police and my own experience there appears to be no basis to conclude that any increase in criminal activity in this country (or indeed elsewhere) has been occasioned by homosexuals or homosexuality. 


* Dana S Seetahal is a former independent senator

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