Why I Can’t Go Home Again: Young Activist Takes Stand Against Savage Antigay Policy

jdmjaylenoThere comes a point in every person’s life when their values are tested, when they are asked to stand up and act on their principles and convictions instead of just talking about them. In the last few weeks, I have arrived at that point. And although it has taken me some time to reflect and figure out exactly what I should do about it, I now feel that I have the answer to that question.Anybody who knows me will tell you that the Beverly Hills Hotel is my favorite place on the planet. Even those who don’t know me can see that from my posts on social media. While it’s true that the hotel is beautiful and glamorous, that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about my family history there; the hotel holds a very special place in my heart.

My grandparents, the late actor James Mason and his wife Pamela, came to the U.S. in 1947 seeking a new beginning. They came to Hollywood from war-torn England seeking a fresh start, to have kids and pursue the American dream. Pamela said when deciding where to live in L.A. that she couldn’t be more than five minutes away from the Beverly Hills Hotel. Being close to it gave her a sense of comfort and safety, the security of knowing that whatever happened, the hotel was right around the corner.

JDMOver the last 70 years, my family’s connection to the hotel has only grown stronger. My grandfather died in 1984, my grandmother died in 1996, and my aunt died, at the way-too-young age of 55, in 2004. Throughout all of those traumatic experiences, the hotel has always been there for us. Whenever I go in, the staff members are always there to give me a hug, to give me a sense of belonging.

In truth, the hotel is the only place where I can go and feel truly happy, where I can feel close to my roots and to the grandfather I never met, the grandmother I was too young to know and the aunt that was gone too soon that I wish could hug and hold in my arms but will never have the chance to do so. It really is the only place on earth I truly consider home, which has made the last few weeks a very difficult period.

For you see, the owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel for the last 20 years has been the Sultan of Brunei, who has recently begun implementing sharia law in his nation. The law includes, among other outrageous provisions, the stoning and murder of gay people. It’s incredible that I’m even writing these words in this day in age, but alas that is the reality we are facing. And so in response, there has been a massive outcry and effort to boycott the hotel, one that as of today has already recruited celebrities such as Jay Leno, Richard Branson, Valentino Garavani, Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osbourne.

JDM1I admittedly was a little late to the game in terms of joining the boycott. Not that I went to the hotel at all since the news was announced; I haven’t been back from the moment that I heard about this disgusting law. But I guess I was hoping that there might be some kind of resolution before the first part of the new penal code was signed into effect at the end of April. After all, the last thing I want to do is hurt the hotel and the people who work there that I care so much about.

We have come to the moment, however, where it is clear action has to be taken, and I am committing myself 100 percent to the cause of doing whatever is necessary to boycott the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as all Dorchester hotels, and get this draconian and evil law thrown in the dustbin of history as soon as possible. As Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We cannot stay silent.

I mentioned all the celebrities above who have come out in favor of the boycott, and I guarantee you that there are many more to come. It’s just the beginning; I intend to be a part of helping this movement grow and expand, and I hope that everyone, celebrity or not, uses their voice as well as their pocketbooks to show the Beverly Hills Hotel as well as the other Dorchester hotels around the world exactly how much we care about this issue.

Christopher Cowdray, the CEO of the Dorchester Collection, came out recently and said that the company will not be issuing an apology in response to the new law. I hope he looks in the mirror every morning and thinks about what that means, that he is essentially condoning the torture and death of every gay human being, including many of his own employees. I know that may sound harsh, but now is not the time to mince words when lives are hanging in the balance.

Mason has launched a petition urging President Obama to take action against the Sultan of Brunei. Read and sign it here.


James Duke Mason, 22, is an actor and political activist. He is the son of Go-Go’s lead singer Belinda Carlisle and producer Morgan Mason, and the grandson of the late British actor James Mason.