With this current deep hairpin curve on my yellow brick road, I have had to re-adjust a few things in my life, the most profound of which has been getting used to public transportation. I can’t say I have much experience taking public transportation in this ‘new Jamaica’, I bought my first car right out of college at 20 and have been driving ever since, until some bad decisions took a few things away from me including that.
I have learnt and been exposed to so many things on the street, it is a whole different place when you drive, my perceptions and opinions about many things have changed since. For one, I never supported the notion that Jamaica is extremely homophobic, when you drive, no matter how gay you are or look, it is a whole different world; take the bus or have to walk and a big black cloud seems to creep up on you, if you are not prepared mentally and physically it can be heartbreaking at least, deathly at most. When I just started taking the bus, I got into quite a few arguments on the issue of homosexuality and homophobia, as well as how easily Jamaican men and women use battyman and sadamite as curse words for every and any one who upsets them. Eventually I have had to adjust how much attention I pay to such rhetoric, because it seems there is no sense in arguing with them, whilst I have seen my engagements create quite a change in people, I have realised that the effort needs to be on a bigger scale to be sustainable, and also needs to be supported by the gay people that are constantly in the public’s eye.
This leads me to share about my most recent experience on public transportation heading to Half Way Tree and hearing this man express his discontent with Jamaica in very thundering tones, he kept saying ‘I am not proud to be Jamaican’ . In his tirade he spoke of Jamaican male youth, the hairstyles dressing, unemployment, lack of education and Mugabe’s ‘honest’ pronouncements about Jamaican men. He went on about politics, the JLP and the procurement of human fertilizer from the great USA for use on our crops and proposed that to the be the cause of our failed agriculture lately and those freakish pests. He went on about a few things around the lack of leadership and vision in our leaders, I was with him until he touched homosexuality with what seems like genuine fear from his guts. I listened as he proclaimed that all homosexuals are pedophiles I contested him on that account to say that the recent surge in reporting of pedophiles preying on young girls demonstrates that heterosexuals are pedophiles too and as such it cannot be that all homosexuals are pedophiles in the same way all heterosexuals aren’t. He obviously started to get angry and spoke of how the public officials including police are protecting ‘battymen’, mentioning the case of the 2 young boys that drowned, found naked and sodomized. He complained bitterly that if homosexuality was ever legal in Jamaica, gay people would go around raping and trying to convert people to homosexuality, highlighting that it is because of lack of opportunities why so many young men are getting caught into it and the lack of family and good male role models.
Now, whilst a lot of his fears are baseless, as most fears are, they are REAL fears that many Jamaicans appear to hold, and use to colour how they feel and relate to gay people. If our advocacy ignores these fears and continues to aggressively push for legislative and behavior change, without trying to find a solution to the behaviours of the gay community which we KNOW TO BE TRUE whether we want to admit it or not, we may have a battle to wage very soon. As the avid social commentator on the bus said ‘if dem ever mek dat legal, me personally ago start kill battyman and sadamite, mi nuh waa dem rape mi’
At some point, we have to ask ourselves how do we contribute to this irrational fear as a community. We agree that homophobia exists, people are intolerant of homosexuals. However, are homosexuals preying on young people, using material things to lure them and unemployed persons promising money and swag; Do we know of and support ‘gay for pay’; How many of us entertain people who we know to be engaged in homosexual behavior but are homophobic when night comes to day; How many of us actually act and present like good contributing citizens; how many of our relationships are sound and empowering, that could suit marriage or long term productive commitment.
Sometimes when we ask what is the matter with the world, we need to look at how are we contributing to it, as the songwriter says ‘Nothing is wrong with the world, its just the people that’s in it…YOU and ME and ofcourse Them and US’