An Ugly Reaction
A few weeks ago I got a message.
My wife took a message for me on my business line from a man whose name I could not quite recall. The number was unfamiliar, as was the area code.
As my mind searched for the person, I realized who I thought it was. I started to think it was a fellow who I had met in a meeting early last year, and he happened to be one of the many that I've met or worked with, who at some point I've had the thought "I think he's gay."
Except that the thought that flashed into my mind next was "I hope it's not that fucking Batty-Boy calling me." I then muttered those words under my breath.
("Batty-Boy" or "Batty-Man" is just about the most vicious slang that we use to attack gay men with in Jamaica. It's the worst insult that can be applied to a male in our society.)
The next set of thoughts I had were interesting.
"Who said that?" (Well, the answer was pretty obvious!)
"I shouldn't be saying that." (I'm too "advanced" to be saying that.)
"What would my friends who are gay say about that?" (Better hide this damn thought quickly, especially from them)
"I hope he isn't calling ME thinking I'm one of them..." (Praying desperately now...)
"If he thinks I'm one of them I'll kick his rass...." (Oh shit, there it is again!)
"Was I wearing my wedding ring when I met him?" (Insane thoughts were now starting to creep in.)
Hopefully, he didn't notice all this going on when I finally did call him back, and emailed him my speaking notes as I routinely do many times after meetings. It wasn't until the call was over that I was able to process all of these thoughts.
I realized I had come a long way, and in some ways hadn't changed at all.
As a teenager growing up, it was critically important to not look, seem, dress, think, laugh, speak, smell, sing or walk like a Batty-Man.
I remember the Calvin Klein jeans that "they" wore -- the ones without the pockets. Thank God my mother had not bought me a pair of those unwittingly, as I would have had to burn them.
This was all exhausting work, all this "making sure we weren't something."
We happily sang popular reggae songs like "Don't Bend Down," by Lovindeer. It was followed in the 1990's by songs like "Chi-Chi Man" by TOK, "Wicked in Bed" by Shabba Ranks, "Boom Bye Bye" by Buju Banton and others. They advocate that all sorts of bad things be done to gay people, including their destruction.
Standing up for "them people" was unthinkable (and definitely sinful to boot, according to the Bible.) In fact, we angrily advocated that "dem people" deserved a good beating, and perhaps the "tendency" would be "beat out of them."
Anyone suspected of being gay was quickly ostracized and derided, and I remember that there was a guy we accused of being gay in Prep School (aged 10.) We called him a "Beeps" back then. I also remember a teacher we thought was gay in high school. To be called by our first name by that teacher was a source of all sorts of teasing, as it meant that we were on a "first-name basis" with him, and therefore gay.
Add to that the fact that buggery is illegal in Jamaica. And the various Bible scriptures that can be used by some to emphasize the sinfulness of gay sex.
So, I grew up hating gays, and especially gay men.
However, I thought I had gotten past it, having lived in the US for almost twenty years. I have a few gay friends who I intend to keep for life, no matter what.
Damn, I've even watched episodes of "Queer as Folk." And, like many heterosexual men, I had a sick feeling in my stomach from watching two men kiss.
And then there is the matter of my Ugly Reaction to that message.
Somewhere, my fear that he might be calling me to "check me" or "scope me out" very quickly turned into a vile hatred, and an unconscious involuntary response.
That's what was there. Forget that bullshit about "hating the sin but loving the sinner" -- what was there was a feeling of pure hatred.
Now that I'm back to my "right" mind, I wish it weren't there, but... well, there it was.
I wouldn't say that it dominates my thinking, or that I'm even present to it for other than an instant, but now I do know that it does exist someplace inside me, and that it can come out in an instant. It also may never go away.
So, long story short, I guess I'm not as "advanced" as I thought I was. I still do need to watch myself in this area.
I'm sure to come back to this thread in some future blogs.