Gay and Hated : In His Own Words
When I started this blog I promised myself that no topic would be off limits, I vowed to always speak the truth, as I saw it; and above all, I vowed to give voice to those who would not otherwise be heard in our society. I have not lived up to that, I have been a coward. I’ve aimed only to write about things I believed my audience would receive well. Many people will perhaps stop reading my blog posts after this, I will risk that. I will perhaps be called all kinds of names, and I have prepared myself for the hate mail I will receive. However, I believe Martin King Jr. was right when he said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. After reading a heartbreaking account of the harassment and bullying a friend of mine has faced on the perception that he is a homosexual, I feel compelled to address, as best I can, the issue of homophobia in Jamaica’s society. Thousands of young people face unbelievable bullying and discrimination because of their sexuality; this post will invite you to see the issue through the eyes of someone who has been the subject of considerable ridicule and discrimination. I want people to see how the hateful things they say to people affect them, how it affects self esteem. Here is his story.
Q : When did you first realise you were gay? At what age?
Lee : I think I always knew that I was different, I understood that I was having gay feelings. But I accepted my sexuality at age 13.
Q : You say you “accepted” your sexuality, but many Jamaicans will argue that you chose to be gay, would you agree with them? And why or why not?
Lee : I don’t believe that I chose to be gay, by definition homosexual means attraction (emotional, intimate or sexual) to the same sex. Now going by that, I can say definitely that I did not chose who I am attracted to, because I have tried to be attracted to women and it didn’t work.
Q : So you believe you were born gay?
Lee : I believe attraction is an innate characteristic that cannot be controlled. It just happens. I don’t believe I was born straight nor gay.
Q : Did you ever face ridicule at home in those early days?
Lee : No. If it’s one thing I’m happy for is my family. I was never teased or ridiculed at home. However rare utterances were made by my brother when we fought but those were said during anger.
Q : When did you first face public bullying because of it?
Lee : Depends on if you see a difference between teasing and bullying. But I have been teased since primary school. Being called a sissy, gyal boy etc. I was in Grade 6 the first time I was called battyboy.
Q : Tell me about the teasing / bullying from primary school and onwards, what forms did it take?
Lee : In primary school it was purely verbal abuse. Being called a sissy as I said before, or gyal bwoy. And being asked “why yuh act like girl” or “why yuh walk suh”. It bothered be a lot. As a child it frustrated me because (1) I didn’t know how to answer those questions and (2) I wanted to change and didn’t know how to. When I started high school I decided that I didn’t want to have the same experiences that I had in primary school, so I tried to change my behaviour, which eventually failed. Despite my attempt at walking “manly” and speaking with more bass, I still got “yow yuh act like gyal”, I remember the first time I was told that in high school. It was during my first year in high school. I was never physically attacked but their words were just as hurtful. I was threatened a lot. I got things like “batty boy yah guh dead”, “batty boy yuh fi dead”, “afta school me ago beat yuh”, “watch yuh back”. I remember once in Grade 8 I was warned of my pending beating. Imagine walking around knowing that persons are planning to attack you and not knowing when. I was extremely paranoid. In Grade 11 is when the bullying peaked. I was surrounded by a group of boys in my grade on the road heading home. One had large peice of wood in his hand and he attempted to hit me with it, I stopped him however. I was thanking for the passersby who stopped the guys before the did any damage. After that day I hardly went to school, I didn’t want to be around them anymore, the threats were becoming real. Some brought knives to school in an attempt to harm me.
Q : Did you ever feel suicidal?
Lee : I never felt suicidal, I did however feel self pity. I hated myself at one point because I felt I put myself in the position I was in, basically i blamed myself. But I had an epiphany and I realized that I am not to be blamed for the intolerance or ignorance of others; that’s their problem, I was just a victim.
Q : How did you over come it?
Lee: As I said before I realised that I wasn’t suppose to be blamed and that made it easier for me. But the main over-comer was me accepting me for me and for being different, self worth made moved me from shame to pride and happiness.
Q : What would you say to a young man facing the same thing and contemplating suicide?
Lee : I woud say to a guy being bullied that it does get better, but it starts first with accepting and loving yourself, dont be afraid to complain and to let others know what you’re going through, get help if needed. The bullying may never stop but once you’ve learnt to love yourself and think of yourself as valuable then it gradually gets better.
Q : What would you say to the bullies?
Lee : I honestly don’t know. It’s a question I’ve thought about many times. I guess I would ask if they understand what they’re doing. Your actions could cause someone to take their life. I just don’t know… Maybe if they thought about it, they wouldn’t do it. I don’t know….
Seeing the bullying and discrimination “sissy” boys face, many bisexuals are forced to hide their sexuality and behave according to the dictates set down by society. I decided to ask one such person how the hiding affects him. He wasn’t comfortable going into much detail. Here is the little he said.
Q : How do you feel when you hear those closest to you say hateful things about gays or bisexuals?
A : I feel insignificant and small, just overall horrible. On top of that, I am afraid, genuinely afraid. I feel if they ever know, that would be it. I hated myself because they seemed to hate me so much, and hate who I am.
Q : Do you think your parents would accept you if they found out?
A : I’m not sure what their reaction would be. My mother might eventually come around, I’m not sure about my father.
This is as much as he was willing to say.
I want people to think about this issue seriously. “Lee” was subjected to all that abuse not because these people knew he was gay, but because they thought he was gay, people were content with making a human being feel belittled and hated without any kind of fact. What’s more alarming is the fact that people were prepared to attack and hurt him based on just a perception. As a nation, this is something we have to begin to think about and deal with. It is fundamentally wrong.
I am not telling anyone opposed to homosexuality based on moral grounds that they must accept it, I am asking you to think about the fact that this is another human being. Tolerance and acceptance are not the same thing. We have to remember that. Statistics indicate that some 36% of gay teenagers in the United States have contemplated suicide. Unfortunately, some eventually do take their lives. I’m sure the statistics in Jamaica are far more chilling. The next time you think to bully someone because of their sexuality or perceived, think about it. Think about the effect it might have on their life.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.