Popular longtimer and vendor aka Trevor who often could be found on Princess Street both upper and lower sections or along Spanish Town Rd when it is busy has been forced to relocate to other parts of town in peddling his goods as he tries to turn a living in present times. He has been active for many years and I came to know him from my more active years on the LGBT party circuit as he was a regular patron during the Club Entourage years and times following. Apart from having to constantly be on the lookout for cops or metropolitan parks and market officers and police who often seize goods in surprise raids; one has to also contend with extortionists disguised as or faced as women with receipt books who collect a ‘fee’ weekly for supposed unofficial protection and access to of all things public thoroughfare.
I ran into Trevor on the weekend where he expressed his concerns and that of other MSM who also are vendors downtown who have been seeing some strange pressure than normal forcing them to be circumspect or outright relocating just to avoid the pressures. Word is that gay vendors are being targeted to pay some more than normal as it has always been perceived that they get more business than other vendors not from other LGBT customers but by the mere friendliness and approachability element they naturally have; their customer service is devoid of profiling persons be it due to gender or aesthetic; other reasons for the unusual targeting is said to be from other vendors who are simply jealous as territorialism and spite due to the same perception of making more money than other vendors.
Trevor who has been active for some twenty plus years (he couldn’t recall when he exactly started) said he has never had to relocate because of homophobia directly; in clashing with other vendors for space or rivalry he has been called the proverbial ‘battyman’ which is also used to embarrass heterosexual men in public squabbles as well but no threats has been aimed at him he said. He was paid a regular visit some three Saturdays ago by the woman who normally comes by with her receipt book for regular collections but she was accompanied by two men which is not the norm, although other ‘security’ would be nearby to show force if persons are hesitant in paying the extortion fee. The men told Trevor that he had to pay an increase as his business looks like it is booming more than the other vendors. Trevor himself said he was shocked at this approach as such monitoring has never impacted him before.
He tried to respond to the men saying no such increase in business existed and that he was not in a position to make the demanded increase patronage. But the men would have none of it and made it clear that the next time the woman turned up he must comply; the exchange was loaded with anti gay rhetoric and veiled threats with one instance the good business perception came through tinged with some jealousy. The man claimed by words to the effect that the battyman dem a tek over the place and a run weh business (the gay men are taking over and getting more business). The men maybe referring to other younger gay men (as perceived) who hail from the displaced communities but who have been getting involved in selling.
Trevor has decided that if you can’t beat them then simply move to avoid any drama. In a previous post on the DVD reveller who has been homeless on and off for some seven years he was also selling downtown but has been forced to stop in a sense for his own safety as his identity is known due to the party DVD that went public in 2007 and to date is still having him face challenges that he has to be in hiding or maintaining a low profile. Another vendor who sells market shopping bags and who is also an active cruiser was the subject of a minor skirmish in January with some thugs by the former rural bus park by Pechon Street earlier this year. He was labelled as gay just by his appearance and gait in his walk and just by that he was profiled and threatening actions taken. He has since relocated to Cross Roads market and surrounding shopping zones for now I am reliably informed.
Trevor is also planning to become more mobile as the market district becomes more competitive overall. The presently available grants through the regional health authorities for small business assistance and or education pursuits via global fund is only for HIV positive MSM and no other grants seem out there at this time in that vein. Such a grant could really come in handy to offset these circumstances.
I wished Trevor all the luck and bought some items from him in support.
Peace & tolerance