Revisiting My Ugly Reaction
In an earlier entry, I shared my ugly and hateful reaction to a phone call that I received from a colleague who I thought was gay.
Also, I have been wondering why it is that the label "homophobic" just does not seem to ring true here in Jamaica, whereas in the US I could more readily see why it made sense.
I believe that there is a connection between my Ugly Reaction entry, and the label.
The label "homophobia" implies to the listener that what is at work is a fear of gays, or homosexuality. The average Jamaican man would admit to no such feelings: "star, mi nuh 'fraid of dem man deh at all!"
Today, as I was cleaning my bike in the front yard, I overheard a 'ruptions in the open lot next-door. Several taxis park there, waiting for fares.
It is not unusual to overhear heated arguments in Jamaica that sound as if they are about to turn into immediate bloodshed. They do not (of course) but the effect is still felt on the nerves.
I could tell from the conversation that it was escalating, and that at some point I realized that I knew that I knew something about what was coming next -- that one person would accuse the other or "being a battyman" (the worst epithet for being gay.) Sure enough, it came out loud right over the fence.
It struck me a moment later that the particular kind of homo-related phobia that we have in Jamaica is not of gays themselves, but is instead of "being called gay."
Being called gay in Jamaica is one of the worst things that someone can be accused of.
Accusations can have dire consequences in this country. Lynchings happen from time to time, and less than a mile from my home a man was lynched after he attacked an employee at the tax office. The police only showed up when he was dead.
A thief, once accused and caught, can lose their life on the spot. So can a murderer, a thief and a rapist. And, according to different news reports, so can a homosexual.
So this is not homophobia (unless it is to be understood in the abstract psychological sense.) Instead it is more akin to character assassination, and is driven by a fear of rejection and isolation. Furthermore, it is a fear that is shared by every single Jamaican, whether they are gay or not, because behind the accusation is an intent to attack and do harm. It really is another form of violence.
I think I'll call this fear "homo-name-a-phobia" -- a deep and powerful fear of being accused of being homosexual.