A scourge has swept our great nation. A disgusting way of living has infiltrated our homes and churches, perverting the minds of even our precious children. At the heart of this wicked, sinful behaviour is a particular segment of society—limp-wristed, fashion-conscious, high-voiced art lovers traipsing around with shaved legs and armpits. They’re out in public, everywhere you look. You know who I mean, right? Women.
The scourge I’m talking about is homophobia, the extreme fear of our gay friends and family members that makes us commit acts of unspeakable cruelty. These acts, though perpetrated by us men against other men, are ultimately about women.
In 2006, Time magazine called Jamaica ‘the most homophobic place on earth’
What exactly is the problem? Simply that we are, Time magazine chides, ‘the most homophobic place on earth’, a country where our gay brothers and sons live a shadowed life under constant threat of exposure and assault. Last year, Dwayne Jones was stabbed and shot to death by a mob for cross-dressing and dancing with a man. A UTech student was chased by his peers and beaten by the security guards with whom he sought refuge. Dancehall music, the pulse of the nation, is still laced with poisonous lyrics advocating violence against homosexuals. How bad is it? Until recently, more Jamaicans sought help from Immigration Equality, an American asylum group for gays, than any other nationality.
Why do we have such a vicious collective reaction to harmless individual behaviour? Because men are afraid of other men—straight men. ‘Homophobia’, says sociologist Michael Kimmel, ‘is the fear that other men will reveal to us and the world that we are not as manly as we pretend.’
Imagine a perfect Adonis—tall, fit, rough and rugged, flush with cash and virility, whisking nubile models between New Kingston and Norbrook in his oversize pickup. Secure at the top of the masculinity pyramid, he watches the rest of us jockey for position and female attention below. Some of us shield our own insecure spot by dislodging others (“real men don’t cry, wuss”). The lower down we are, the more desperate our infighting and need to climb becomes, and the more naked our displays of machismo (motorcycles, dancing) to impress women. Those of us at the bottom, emasculated by equally stinging prejudices of class and colour, lash out at the best remaining target—gay men. In a place like Jamaica, with so many dispossessed, that attack metastasizes into widespread bigotry and deadly mob violence.
The solution, as for so much else, is education. Most Jamaicans (abetted by Christian authorities with borderline malicious intent) remain ignorant of the basic facts about sexual orientation. Well, here they are.
We don’t know its genetic origin, but we do know being gay isn’t a choice
Homosexuality isn’t a choice. Let me repeat that. Being gay is not a choice, as study after study after study has documented, examined, tested and proven. (If it was, who in their right mind would choose to be gay in Jamaica?) What’s more, humans are only one of thousands of documented species that exhibit same-sex pairings, including cats, dogs, goats, horses, monkeys, birds and in a wonderfully appropriate touch, our own common house lizards. Somehow I doubt they’re picking a lifestyle.
Science hasn’t yet found specific genes responsible for homosexuality, but we do know a lot else. Male sexuality is more fixed than female, somewhat hereditary and quite likely already in place at birth. Women related to gay men tend to be more fertile, which partially explains how homosexuality persists even though gays usually don’t have children. And a clever new study by economists suggests our current best guess, that roughly one in ten of us are attracted to our own sex, may be underestimating the true number by as much as half. Which means all of us—yes, even you—have gay or bisexual friends.
You’d think it unnecessary to say this to slave descendants, but discriminating against people for something natural and unchangeable isn’t cool. The explosion in activism and awareness in recent years is not an epidemic of homosexuality, but rather a welcome step towards openness and equality for people who have always been there, and always will be. My friends of every orientation defy stereotype and are at times wonderful, vivacious luminaries and selfish, capricious asses. But we’ll never see the full rainbow of gay humanity until we take a straighter look at ourselves.