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Jamaica is presently going through a moment of hysteria. We cannot call it anything but that. The buggery law, and questions about whether to keep it or not, has got every tongue wagging and every foot marching. Everyone is shouting, and women are on the front pages of the Gleaner bawling their eyes out as if they have had some very personal experience catching their husbands being buggered by a well-hung neighbour.

 

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Picture from the Jamaica Gleaner of the Mass March against repealing the Buggery Law

Everyone is clearly feeling very passionate and very desperate about the things they are feeling. It has become hard to even hear yourself think in all the hysterics. But incredibly, some of the loudest things that are being said, are being said without a sound being made. For consider those protestors marching magnificently with duct tape over their mouths, their banners proclaiming: SPEAKING TRUTH IS NOT HOMOPHOBIA.

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I want to think about that banner for a moment. Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) put out an ad in the Gleaner with these same words. It is becoming something of a slogan.

As slogans go, I think there are more helpful and poignant ones the Jamaican church might wish to consider. For example: WHEN YOUR GOD HATES ALL THE SAME PEOPLE YOU DO, YOU KNOW HE’S MAN-MADE. But I suspect the church won’t take on board any of my suggestions.

JCHS

In addition to the ad, there was also an article in the Gleaner where JCHS helpfully explained their position as regarding this new slogan. And give them credit, for this grappling and contending with definitions is actually a good way to step away from the hysteria and move towards a more meaningful discussion. Interestingly, JCHS gives us a definition by negation. They tell us what homophobia is NOT. Whatever homophobia presumably is exists somewhere in the negative space they have created, like those experimental artists who do not paint an object but rather the space around it.

negative space

This declaration by negation is getting quite popular across the island. The term homophobia is now regarded as a pejorative – a bad and backward thing to be – and so everyone wants to distance themselves from it. But sometimes the assertion ‘I am not homophobic!’ is a bit like that proverbial American southerner who declares, ‘I’m not racist! Some o’ mah best friends is niggers!’

Still, some of the objections to the word ‘homophobia’ comes with the weight of the academy behind it. An acquaintance who I’m quite fond of, Dr Karen Carpenter, a respected sexologist, insists that we are not homophobic in Jamaica; rather we are ‘homonegative’. I will unpack these terms shortly. But clearly it is important for us to arrive at some sort of definition.

 

 


 

Is homophobia actually a phobia?

This might seem like the logical place to start. After all, the word ‘homophobia’ declares itself as a phobia, and this is at the heart of JCHS’s attempt to distance themselves from the term.

Wayne West, the head honcho at JCHS makes his case in the following words: “To say persons who are against homosexual behaviour are homophobic is to say they have a mental illness. The very definition of phobia is an irrational fear of something. We are not mentally ill by any means, we are very rational.”

On first glance West’s logic might itself seem rational but the good doctor (bless him, for this is not his area) shows an unsophisticated grasp of how language actually works. Note that he points us to the definition of ‘phobia’ and not to the definition of ‘homophobia’.

dictionary

Dear Dr West, this is closer to my area, so let me try to be of help. In defining a word, etymology is sometimes a useful place to start, but it doesn’t always tell us the full truth of what words mean. Words have an annoying way of doing their own things. They are a bit like children. Over time, they grow up, they rebel, they hate their parents, they pierce their ears and get tattoos, they change their minds and then change them back again, they often migrate, they pick up accents. Words don’t stay the same. Especially in the English language, they rarely mean precisely what their etymologies suggest.

Examples of words shifting are abundant. The word ‘artificial’ used to mean ‘artfully and skilfully made’. But knowing this, I doubt you will now go to an art gallery, look on an especially beautiful and elaborate sculpture, and tell its maker that you think her work is ‘artificial’.

The word ‘doom’ is another example. At one point it was simply a law or a verdict. It was perfectly possible to be ‘doomed’ innocent. We see why and how the word shifted over time – why people would be nervous about any ‘doom’ – why they might not look forward to their ‘doom’s’ day.

Other times words go full circle. Take the word ‘last’. It once meant the highest or the utmost. By this definition Usain Bolt would have been the LAST athlete in almost all his races. Clearly, the word seems to mean exactly the opposite of how it started.

If Wayne West is really interested in the etymology of ‘homophobia’ he might go further back to the first use of the word. You see, it once lived another life – though a very brief one. In the 1920s ‘homophobia’ was introduced as ‘the fear of the male sex’. The latin was precise – homo, meaning man; and phobia, meaning the fear of. A woman who had suffered the ordeal of being raped could then be said to suffer from ‘homophobia’, and many animals who had been abused by men were homophobic. By the old definition, many lesbians today might be homophobic. But in its first incarnation, the word simply did not catch on. It fell out of use as quickly as it had been suggested. It died.

The word was resurrected in 1969, this time re-coined by a psychologist, George Weiner, with a new and less Latin etymology.  ‘homo’ now came from homosexual, rather than from the Latin word meaning ‘man’). Now it is true that even Weiner as a psychologist wanted homophobia to be listed as the very kind of medical condition that Wayne West suggests it is. But it has never been listed. ‘Homophobia’ has never been a medical phobia.

This is the thing with words that ‘catch on’. They necessarily escape the people who invented them and tried to control them. If you ask a linguist they will tell you that to understand what a word means we simply have to listen to how it is being used. Dictionaries do not tell us what a word OUGHT to mean; instead, they tell us what a word DOES mean to the communities that use that word.

Homophobia is therefore not a phobia in the medical sense of the word. It never has been. Homophobia, like its sister xenophobia, is a form of bigotry and discrimination. It can include fear and repulsion but in fact it describes a much wider range of negative responses towards the LGBT communities. Homophobia therefore exists on a spectrum and it’s certainly useful to think of some kinds of homophobia as being more violent than others.


 

A very short dictionary of words that describe LGBT discrimination 

 

Other words have attempted to either take the place of ‘homophobia’ by being supposedly more ‘accurate’ or by giving a much broader sense of the oppressive world that LGBT people live in and the kinds of discrimination they face:

Homoerotophobia  was a precursor to homophobia and perhaps more accurately described the disgust not with the homosexual individual but with the homosexual act. However, homoerotophobia is a difficult word to pronounce. Its tongue twisting effect consigned it to remain in the 1967 paper in which it was introduced, never to be taken up and spoken by the average man. You might say it fell victim to another phobia – sesquipedaliophobia, the fear of long words.

In 1980 the term homonegativity was coined, and this has gotten slightly more traction – but hardly enough. The problem with homonegativity is not its own definition, but that it objects to the term ‘homophobia’ using exactly the same problematic grounds that Wayne West tries to use. Medical Doctors and psychologists really ought to stick to their fields. It’s a futile exercise to stand up and shout at language – HEY HEY! This is what you SHOULD mean goddamit! Language is not impressed or intimidated by doctorates. It just sucks its teeth, saunters by, and continues to mean what it means for however long it wishes to mean that. Homonegativity is therefore a pointless duplicate  -meaning precisely what homophobia already means, but which it wishes it did not mean.

Heteronormativity is a much more popular term – one you’re probably familiar with already. It describes the ways in which the world we live in generally assumes everyone is heterosexual, or should be, and it makes little attempt to accommodate you if you aren’t. Grandmothers and parents always ask their sons, expectantly, have you found a girlfriend!? New acquaintances as well might ask a man, are you single or do you have a girlfriend? Women are routinely asked: do you have a boyfriend? Men and women of a certain age are always asked, ‘do you have children?’ Under this constant, everyday pressure many LGBT people either lie, or try to conform to the heteronormative world. In so doing, they risk the health of themselves and their various partners.

In a sense, heterosexism is not much different from regular sexism. The word hetero in front simply reveals the process of sexism for what it is – a way in which the world polices gender, requiring us all to conform to certain ideas of what a man should be and how a man should behave, and how women – the fairer sex, should be and behave as well. Sexism or heterosexism is a natural product of a heteronormative world, or a world that is profoundly shaped by homophobia.

 


 

The limits of a word

Homophobia, in its own way, is an accurate word. Despite the attempts of amateur etymologists like Dr Wayne West, the word continues to mean what it means: a range of negative and discriminatory attitudes towards LGBT people.

Wayne West says, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IS NOT HOMOPHOBIA. Well, Wayne, I don’t know about that. if the truth is that you are disgusted by the act of homosexuality and you wish to impose or retain laws that limit the expression of that sexuality, then you probably are homophobic.

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Still, this doesn’t mean we should throw the word about. The ‘gay lobby’ and those sympathetic with the cause of Human Rights and justice ought to be wise to the fact that it isn’t always useful to use the term homophobia. Some words close down a discussion as surely as a fullstop closes down a sentence.

Once again, parallels with the word ‘racism’ are instructive. Few people in today’s world consciously think of themselves as being racist despite the fact that we are mostly all products of a deeply racist world. Only recently, having given a talk in New Zealand, a man came up to me in the streets and complimented me by saying how much he loved seeing me on stage and that he found it amazing the ‘shocking disparity between [my] eloquence and [my] physical appearance.’ I get comments like that ALL the time and the people who say such things earnestly mean to pay me a compliment. Their assumptions about what I should have sounded like – me, a Jamaican man with dreadlocks – are rooted in a historic racism. Still it would have been unhelpful for me to call them ‘racists’. They do not mean to be racist, and perhaps they have several black friends. Perhaps their wives and their children are black. The problem is, they have a firm idea of what a racist is – someone who wears white sheets over their heads and who consciously hates black people. Because their own expressions of racism are not so extreme or conscious – they cannot accept the truth that they have internalized many racist opinions.

Similarly, in Jamaica people seem to believe that homophobes are only those people who sing boom-bye-bye or those who actively encourage the death and beating of homosexuals. If they do not engage in this most extreme form, they do not know how to understand their actions or their thoughts or their values as homophobic. They do not understand that homophobia exists on a spectrum.

Like racism, homophobia is often internalized – and just as even black people will hold on relentlessly to unhelpful ideas about ‘good hair’ or ‘nice, cool complexion’ so too many homosexuals have internalized homophobic values and perpetuate it themselves. Gay black men often insist on certain ideas of how a man ought to behave, or what role he should play. In so doing, they expose attitudes of heterosexism. They might insist on being ‘straight-acting’ or ‘DownLow’

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They might insist on having wives and families, on going to church every Sunday, possibly even being pastors of their churches – or leading mass marches in Half Way Tree to stand in support of the buggery law . Yet, if you return to church one Sunday night after everyone has supposedly gone home,  you might find these same down-low, straight-acting pastors, kneeling, not in front of God but in front of a goodly deacon, their mouths full of something more firm than prayers.

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Such are the consequences of life on our homophobic island – there emerges a necessary pattern of deception, lies, self-loathing, and risky sexual behaviours. It might be more difficult but it is far more useful to talk about these consequences of homophobia, heteronormativity and heterosexism than it is to use the contentious word, homophobia.

As well, we might consider that most Jamaicans – straight and gay – are homophobic because we are the products of a deeply homophobic society. It is not easy to suddenly reconsider these deeply ingrained attitudes and recognize them as wrong or unhealthy for our society. We’ve survived this long with these attitudes. Why should we change!? Jamaicans must be allowed some space to work through these complicated feelings and reactions and attitudes towards homosexuality without constantly being accused of being bigots.

 


 

I leave this blog in stereotypical Jamaican fashion by sending out special greetings. For I find it especially important in times as hysterical as these to have friends with whom I respectfully disagree, friends who do not reinforce my own worldview but challenge it. It is important to have friends won’t walk away from areas of contention, but will linger in that uncomfortable place with you, will talk their talk sometimes carefully, sometimes heatedly, but who will always listen, will consider and reconsider, and talk their talk again. It is for this reason that I send special greetings to people like Michellle Roach and Samora Bain. Indeed, It was Samora Bain who recently posted a question on Facebook and in my answer to that question, I talked about a homophobia that wasn’t necessarily conscious, hateful or malicious. Sam responded with incredulity. I could almost feel her rolling her eyes:  c’mon Kei, does the term ‘homophobia’ really not refer to an attitude that isn’t conscious, malicious or hateful?

Because I think Samora speaks on behalf of several well-thinking people, I answer her publicly.

No. Homophobia doesn’t always refer to an attitude that is conscious or malicious or knowingly hateful.  It is a good thing that we are now willing to step away from the more extreme expressions of homophobia. It is a sign that, despite everything, some progress is being made in Jamaica. But the homophobia we must now work to challenge is a homophobia that is more subtle, more internalized, but one that is just as damaging in the long term. It is so ingrained that we take it for granted. We must now confront that homophobia as it exists in many of our values and also in our laws.

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29 thoughts on “Homophobia: Towards A Definition

  1. Paragraph 2 of “The limits of a word” you speak to the retaining of a law which limits the expression of sexuality…
    I have a simple question about this, how is your sexuality limited if I know nothing about it?

    • Hi Child. The question seems simple but I’m genuinely unsure of what you’re asking. If a law forbids something, isn’t that thing limited? Are you suggesting that since no one knows they should just break the law and not be limited? But then, if you’re suggesting that the law be broken, do you not see the level of risk and guilt involved in that, and how that equals a limiting as well? But in so far as the law reflects a general attitude there are further limits in the pressures one might feel to man-up, to deepen one’s voice, to marry a woman even if it causes her hurt, etc etc. The ways in which a law limits sexuality are really quite obvious and profound – whether you are conscious of how someone is limiting themselves or not.

      • I don’t understand how the ‘simplicity’ of the question is an issue, but thank’s for taking the time to reply quite adequately albeit your uncertainty. It means alot.

        I was not suggesting anything at all, Even though, you did answer the question with other questions to provoke thought. What does the law forbid? The lifestyle, the expression or an action that could be implied because of the lifestyle. I do understand the basis of the entire article: highlighting the destructive capability of subtle homophobia. How it leaks out into culture and into the heterosexism norms that beguiles the country. I appreciate that.

        I perceive ‘sexuality’ as a fluid thing. It is not an act neither is it bound by rules or laws. Risk and guilt is involved where buggery [and the law] is concerned. Not because of anyone’s sexuality or expression of it in the public/private eye.

  2. Very incisive article Kei. It would be useful if the Wayne Wests of this world read it, but somehow I doubt that will happen! Or even if they do, they are likely to remain unconvinced by its simply logic.

    I do think that at times it is helpful to point out to people that they are being racist or homophobic – even if they don’t realize it. I’ve done it a few times – to positive effect. So for example, I’ve challenged some folks on their use of the world “lifestyle” when referring to homosexuals.

    Anyway, good article – well done.

  3. fear and loathing, disgust and scorn, abnormal abomination, irrational, hysterical, thinking and acting = HOMOPHOBIA.

  4. I’m intrigued as to the subtle (and non-malicious) forms of homophobia. You gave some examples of subtle racism, but I’d like some help understanding this as it relates to homophobia. If you could help with this, I’d really appreciate it.

    • Hi kenliano. Thanks for your question. Well let’s think of the two ends of the spectrum. Perhaps the most extreme form of homophobia is to enact violence on someone who we suspect is gay/lesbian. At the heart of this, what is happening? The person is being punished for not conforming to an idea of how a man or woman should behave. Some people might not agree with me here, but I think the most subtle form of that kind of action is telling a boy to ‘act like a man’ or instructing a girl to be ‘lady-like’. Teasing boys for being sissies, weak, etc – teasing girls for being butch, tomboys, etc …all of this represents a way in which a society imposes gender norms on young people and expresses a discomfort with men who don’t act like men or women who don’t act like women.

      Then there are so many actions in between this. Queen Ifrica’s performance a year or so ago was accused by some people of being homophobic, but defended by many more as her simply expressing her beliefs and supporting the heterosexual ideal. But to my mind, her saying ‘We don’t want any homosexuals here’ is just as homophobic as a white person saying to a crowd, ‘We don’t want any black people here.’ Sure, she hasn’t advocated for the death or beating of anyone, but she is very clearly stating that she doesn’t want these nasty people in her ideal vision of Jamaica. The songs in which she hides behind supposedly clever metaphors ‘mi nuh want nuh fish in mi tea’ (HAR! HAR!) are once again just as a homophobic as a white person singing, ‘I don’t want any chocolate on my table’ if we know that what is meant by that is a disapproval of black people being involved in the society.

      As Jamaicans we now have a way of saying, ‘We not homophobic, but as long as dem don’t push it down we throat! Dem forcing it pon us!’ But what does this forcing entail? Mostly, what we disapprove of here is a flamboyant sexuality. If people are gay they should be discrete about it, they should not kiss each other in public or hold hands etc etc. But then, if we saw a man and woman walking down the street hand in hand, would we consider that an aggressive act of shoving heterosexuality down our throats? If we watch TV and saw a man and woman kissing would we be outraged by how they are flaunting their sexuality and trying to indoctrinate us? So what is seen as natural and innocent by straight people, is an aggressive, abominable act by gay people, and our quickness to censor that is almost certainly a kind of homophobia which we somehow don’t recognize as homophobia. Instead, people will say that we are just asserting our Christian values.

      • Hi Kei, a really well thought out article. Not sure I agree with the conclusions but certainly appreciated the dialogue.

        Your last post which says “So what is seen as natural and innocent by straight people, is an aggressive, abominable act by gay people, and our quickness to censor that is almost certainly a kind of homophobia which we somehow don’t recognize as homophobia. Instead, people will say that we are just asserting our Christian values”

        As a person of faith who does have a world view about “God’s design” I am often bemused by the focus we as Christians take. You raise a good point by asking how can the same behaviour be viewed differently whether hetrosexuals or homosexuals. If one is taking a faith based approach the question ought to be whether PDA’s are acceptable period where there is no covenant relationship, i.e. the views expressed concerning homosexual PDAs can equally be applied to those who are unmarried. Similarly, the focus on the sexual act itself is also curious as frankly there are heterosexuals practicing the same behaviour (which would also be considered medically unwise).

        I say these things to provoke us in the faith Community to be honest. Meaning Christian values also assert not only the Union of a man and a woman, but one man and one woman in a covenant relationship. However, we seem to often turn a blind eye to that aspect, especially in Caribbean Society where unmarried couples and children being borne outside of a covenant relationship are often the norm (that is not acting justly). Yes the Lord blesses children no matter what but the Bible is clear in regard to covenant relationships.

        So we need to be true to all of the Lord’s word, and if these things (hetrosexual non-covenant relationships) ‘don’t offend us’ but homosexuality does we do have to consider if we have homophobic attitudes. It is these ‘attitudes’ not the upholding of Christian principles, that is homophobic.

        The reality is another core Christian principle (though Calvanists may disagree) is free choice. We choose to come to know and accept Christ. We choose to follow a certain path, lifestyle etc. Therefore, personally I am coming to the view that I cannot legislate for others as that takes away their free choice. The role of the law (and I say this as a lawyer) is to protect the most vulnerable in society and I don’t believe that the buggery laws offer protection to the vulnerable. There is no evidence that removal of the buggery law will increase abuse on children, or impact children by ‘turning’ them! This is hysteria indeed.

        My prayer is that as a Caribbean people we will as you say work through these issues with sensitivity, understanding and with dignity and for us as Christians to remember what is good “to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God”

      • Thanks so much for this perspective.

        I always thought of ‘forcing it down our throats’ as meaning such things as forcing pastors to wed a gay couple, because I couldn’t fathom that it really meant such innocuous things as simply seeing ‘them’ do the same things that straight people often do in public.

        You’ve really enlightened me. Thanks.

  5. Good article. The fact that word has moved away from meaning simply ‘fear’ is confusing to many, and this cleared it up well.

  6. Hey Kei, I can’t say that I agree with everything you’ve said but thank you for an overall good discussion about the sentiment in Jamaica and helpful linguistic directives.

  7. Kei…I am new to your blog, and really look forward to reading your postings. On a side note: I am forever interested in etymology and new words. So…I just had to google the word you mentioned meaning “fear of long words” – “squipedalliophiobia”. Could not find that word at all. I found instead “sesquipedal(i)ophobia”, and “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia”,

    • Hi travelgirl. Thanks for the correction! I knew I should have looked it up instead of writing it from memory. My bad. I’ve corrected it now. ‘Hippopotomonstrososesquipedaliophobia’ has always been one of my favourite words because of how ironic it is.

  8. Kei, well thought out and reasoned. I need to reread and also take in some of the comments. One observation: much is said on one side of the argument (call that homophobia) and then the other side is incomplete, or not actually connected. For instance, saying ‘speaking the truth is not homophobia’ is correct, and that’s that. But, the implication is that those who have spoken a truth or perceived truth have been accused of homophobia, which is not the universal case. Prof. Bain’s testimony is not the basis of all discussion, just a mere piece.

    Another trait is casual conflation. I was discussing the topic with a mother of a primary school boy, and she reacted by saying “So, long as they don’t come molest my child”. To which I asked her views on the recent Children’s Advocate report on teachers having sexual relations with students (which we could presume are more heterosexual than homosexual, but it’s not stated). In other words, homosexuality quickly becomes a synonym for pedophelia, when they are not necessarily connected. This raises the fear levels irrationally but also to a fever pitch, because of the victims’ vulnerability. (You see this clearly in a Clovis cartoon after the report of a man being raped by other men, and the depiction of a mother warning her schoolboy son, wearing a chastity belt, about the risks of men.) That’s both offensive, but more dangerous. The sordid images sown in people’s minds stick and replace facts. That’s pure propaganda at work.

  9. A nation like ours where intelligent discourse like the one you’ve raised here is often not presented and are being constantly brushed under the table is exactly the problem why the majority of our people remain ignorant , neither do we grow as a nation evolving over time or the people seen as modern thinking and progressive.

    Your comments in the end, quoted here-

    “….. we’ve survived this long with these attitudes. Why should we change!? Jamaicans must be allowed some space to work through these complicated feelings and reactions and attitudes towards homosexuality without constantly being accused of being bigots…”

    ..is likened to giving the people an excuse to wallow in their ignorance. Yes our DNA is rooted from slavery but thankfully people like yourself have risen above the stench of the plantation and refuse to be a product of what is expected of the Jamaican society. Hence the man’s reaction to you when you gave your speech. An educated and informed man especially from the Caribbean is still considered ‘unbelievable”.

    I find Jamaica, like almost all of the Caribbean nations, is satisfied in their slow generational and educational transformation simply because we hide under the banner of being a so called ‘third world’ country and region, yet we live and bask on first world attitudes. Why is the black man so destined to be inferior to the white man’s world of intelligent debates and measured outcomes? Why are we as a country so happy with the current status of our people as free slaves enjoying independence and growing at a pace determined by the desires of a corrupt political system and leaders with no ideals or vision for its country?

    I guess this nation still has a price to pay for nation building by the blood and tears of the present generation and history will look back at this time as our developmental stage where you aptly describe as “children never being the same” and like words, they change.

    I or we may not live to see this, but I hope Jamaica will be a mature and progressive nation where it is guided not by flawed religious principles and preachers or corrupt politicians or langer over a degenerative economy but by three intrinsic beliefs, that all men are created equal, that all men have individual rights and beliefs and that every man is entitled to his own reward given the opportunity equal to all and it begins with education

    It may sound like an American dream, but call it whatever you want to call it, it is a profound and inalienable right given to mankind expressed by mankind.

    No cultural norm or the fact that we are just 52 years independent can hide the fact that we are an ignorant society in a world where being ignorant is a choice.

    I finish with this quote by … Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned wife of the Emir to Qatar:

    “The right to a quality education is, I believe, the perfect path to bridge the gap between different cultures and to reconcile various civilizations. Without such a right, the values of liberty, justice and equality will have no meaning. Ignorance is by far the biggest danger and threat to humankind.”

    Truer words have never been spoken.

  10. Pingback: TOWARDS A DEFINITION OF HOMOPHOBIA | beyondentertainmentblog

  11. I was glued to this article well done, i too would like some incite on subtle homophobia. thanks again.

  12. Very good article. What I fail to understand is why it is that one cannot be allowed to respectfully disagree with homosexuality if he/she so chooses without being accused of hatred? Why isn’t it ok for someone to want to maintain his own idea of normality in his own space and in the minds and lives of his family if that is what he/she desires. Why must we be told what we must accept as normal? Does disagreement with homosexuality or anything else equal homophobia or any other phobia at some point in this spectrum you speak of? If we use racism as an example, we can never dictate to anyone how they should think about race, we can only hope that inspite of the truth of how they think their actions will always be humane. There are many jumping on this homophobia or not bandwagon who deep down have an opposing view for or against, and will never admit the truth of it until faced with a situation that has real personal impact. Speaking or writing politically correctly is always easy, reality is sometimes quite different and sometimes brings different things to the fore. Cheers!

    • Hey Twesi,

      I agree with much of what you’re suggesting here, though I think it still bothers you a bit that so much that we comes naturally to us, and feels reasonable, that people should label it as ‘homophobic’. But that’s my point. There’s so much that we say/think/do that it’s worth it just to sit down for a little bit and think about these things, the effect they have, how they might affect others, instead of stubbornly defending our right to those attitudes. I know we’ve learnt these attitudes for so long that they seem natural and we want to defend the right to feel how we feel, and it’s going to take years to undo just as it’s still taking time for us to acknowledge and undo all the ways that racism has shaped our world.

      You say we can’t change how people think deep down, and I agree with that 100%. But you know – I think it was Jane Bolin who said before she dies – I can’t change what you think about me, but I can change how you address me. That alone is important. So I actually don’t care if people deep down think I’m a little black nigger. I am happy that there are laws in place that say to such people, it’s inappropriate for you to address me like that. It’s inappropriate for you to show me your hate. It’s inappropriate for you to refuse to serve me based on my blackness. It’s inappropriate for you to rob me of my humanity. So I don’t mind that people might be hypocrites. I don’t care what goes on deep inside. I can’t control that. But I can demand that you still treat me with respect, and that is plenty, plenty, plenty. I takes time and years, but if you know to look around and before saying ‘Nigger’ then you suddenly realize it’s something to feel guilty about, and it’s something people won’t condone, and the attitude behind it is so ugly you shouldn’t show it to anyone. Again, that is plenty.

  13. It is good that you are keeping abreast of the developments in the island; but please answer this question for me:

    If all of nature and the entire animal kingdom acknowledges the absolute existence of male and female, so much so that procreation cannot exist outside of this acknowledgement and subsequent engagement, how is it that you justify homosexuality as normal/natural (in-keeping with nature)? It would seem to me that if your argument is true then all of nature – including your very existence – is a lie.

    • Hi there O’neil,

      Thanks for coming to this, and for your question. It’s an odd question though, for it seems you’re taking an argument that I didn’t actually make in this post, ascribing it to me, and then asking me to defend it. It’s not that I won’t answer your question, but you should be aware of the dangerous and sometimes unhelpful thing you’re doing here. For it seems you have come with a ready defence, a question you’ve probably asked already, a soundbite that you assume is clever and cannot be countered, and you’re throwing that statement into the mix, whether or not it contributes to the present discussion.

      The problem with prepackaged and ready-made defences or questions is that they can only impress the person who asked it, and those already on his/her side but it doesn’t begin the much harder process of genuinely listening to another opinion and engaging with the specific arguments that were made. When you take the time to listen, you might find that the arguments on the other side are a little different, a little bit more complicated than what you assume they might be.

      I say all this because I feel I’m taking a risk to answer you – taking time to clarify something I didn’t even say. But for the sake of engaging in genuine dialogue, I’ll take the time to consider your question.

      So as I see it, the question you’re raising and the reasoning behind it is a little shaky. There are lots of assertions you make or you take for granted that simply aren’t true. My training, you see, is as an academic and I just can’t make the grand statements you’re easily making here if they can’t be verified:

      1)_There are actually many examples of homosexuality in nature. You could only make a statement as you have without actually doing the research and just taking it for granted. But please do have a look at the data. Homosexual relationships amongst sheep, giraffes, rabbits, penguins and several species of lizards have been long documented. Amongst certain kinds of lizards it gets particularly complicated as its possible to copulate however the lizards pair up – male on female or male on male. The point is, your building a very flimsy ground to ask your question from.

      2) For the most part, humans are born either male or female. You’re right. But then you use the word absolute, and I’m not sure what you mean to suggest by that. Are humans absolutely divided male or female? Mostly, but not absolutely. Some children come into the world without any genitals – completely unsexed, and many more children every year are born with both sex organs – they are both male and female. Unfortunately, we don’t get much biblical instruction about how to deal with such cases.

      3) But your bigger argument I’m guessing is about procreation. Is a relationship natural if it’s non-procreative. Certainly your larger point seem indisputable. Most species in the world require heterosexual copulation in order to survive as a specie. But is this what homosexuality genuinely risks – the extinction of mankind? Can you truly say, that is an honest concern? Several heterosexual relationships are non-procreative as well – whether by choice or because the man has a low sperm count or the woman is infertile. Are these unnatural? Does every adult relationship need to be procreative? Is that the only purpose for relationships? Is a relationship only normal/natural if it can lead to procreation? I assume Christianity allows some people to be eunochs or unmarried – so even the bible affirms certain ways of being in this world that doesn’t lead to children. Ultimately you’re trying to force a false binary – either HETEROSEXUAL relationships are normal, or HOMOSEXUAL relationships are normal. It can’t be both. No one is suggesting that it is one or the other. You’re creating a false choice. The argument that homosexuality is ‘normal’ is not dissimilar to the argument that being left-handed, though not common, is normal for the person who is left-handed, and there shouldn’t be laws that discriminate against left-handed people despite the fact that most people will be born right-handed and left-handed people will never be in the majority.

      • Thank you for replying.

        If all Jamaicans read the ‘Gay Manifesto’ as well of the manual that was taught to those 6 children homes as I did, they would indeed be homophobic in the one sense (afraid of the homosexual agenda). If actual homosexuals and other sexually promiscuous people understand as I do the disproportionately higher rate of HIV/AIDS and cancers among MSMs in all societies worldwide, they too would be homophobic in another sense (afraid of same sex attraction).

        You did assume one thing correctly and it is that I did not read your article fully but instead assumed its gist from the amount of it I could stomach to read. I did however do the responsible thing and did a proper research on the primary basis on which I asked my question. I must admit that due to the inconclusive nature of that area of research, it is not proper ground on which to have projected my reasoning since ones interpretation of the studies done on same-sex attraction in the animal kingdom will vary. It is, for example, up to ones opinion to assume that two male ducks are kissing if they put their beaks together. It is indeed a challenge enough to explain that Judas did not give Jesus a French-kiss, to persons who are unaware of this act as a friendly greeting in some cultures.

        My reference to “the absolute existence of male and female” is based on the newly invented notion by the LGBTTTQQIAAS community that there is no absolute wrong nor right and therefore gender is not based on ones sex organs (or biological makeup) but merely how one feels. In the multiple cases of children being born with both or no sex organ, other distinct physical features make the person’s gender abundantly clear; while their hormones help to dictate their feelings, emotions, etc. Their genders can still be defined – absolutely.

        In the first of the 66-book collection known as the Bible (to which you made reference earlier), clear instructions are give to mankind as it pertains to our sexuality. The first recorded words from God to humans for example are to be fruitful and multiply (procreate). Co-existence in marriage was encouraged in the second chapter Genesis ch2 vs 24 but by Genesis 19 vs 5, homosexuality is mentioned for the first time. The scene is described with much parallel to the ‘Gay Manifesto’ written by Michael Swift in 1987. It was condemned as a wicked thing back then and an unnatural thing many centuries later to Christians in Rome – summarising a history of homosexual behaviour: Romans chapter 1 vs 26&27

        “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

        I am therefore by no means discarding homosexuality a farce that can be ‘fixed’ easily. I do acknowledge it however as being a most unnatural and abnormal lifestyle of choice. Our society consists of serial rapists and compulsive liars and thieves; but although persons are sold out wholly to these tendencies, they are still wrong and abnormal.

        If homosexuality is a normal lifestyle as you are proporting, there would be no need to force persons to accept it by law and re education as we are witnessing in so many american states and countries globally. I did not shed a tear like that woman you ridiculed in your article, but my heart cries out when I envision the type of nation so-called human-rights activists and the monied class are pushing for. But Jamaica will not bow.

  14. Very pleased to find your blog , and look forward to reading more , particularly being from Scotland , moving to Brixton and my first lover being Jamaican and living in Jamaica 83-84 , as a same gender couple “No Problem”.
    Your article is very interesting in history and use of the term homophobia.
    I think part of the problem is that it tends to be mostly concerned with what is perceived to be the “act of homosexuality” ie. anal sex. Relationships and sexuality are much , much more than any one “act”.
    Despite men and women partaking in anal sex ( very common in much porn ) and lesbians not noted for having anal sex.
    So it would seem it is more about the (anal) penetration of men, not women.
    Could the “phobia” – the meaning of which I take to be having a fear or anxiety – be to do with the fear and/or anxiety of men losing their perceived and actual masculine “prowess” by being penetrated. Not only individually , but also their collective hegemonic masculinity ?
    A couple of quotes regarding a book by Jonathan Kemp : The Penetrated Male

    “Michel Foucault’s work on the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome has demonstrated how the male-male eroticism permitted was governed by a strict understanding that the penetrated partner was a non-citizen: that is, a slave, a woman, or a young boy. The civic status and political power of the adult male citizen was contingent upon his body remaining impenetrable, for it was understood that “when one played the role of subordinate partner in the game of pleasure relations, one could not be truly dominant in the game of civic and political activity”: to be penetrated was to cease to be fully human. ”

    http://www.polarimagazine.com/bulletin-board/penetrated-male/

    The male subject is required to submit to – be penetrated by – a dominant discourse of masculinity, but once that identity is established, any further penetration is a threat to its stability, and must be disavowed. The male body is thus heavily policed, and the penetrated male body becomes the problematic site of fear/desire, a dumping ground of all our fears about homosexuality/anality/feminization/psychosis. It also functions as a site of transgressive pleasure.
    http://www.beigeuk.com/2014/04/jonathan-kemp-the-penetrated-male/

  15. Interesting article by Tony Sewell from a few years ago –

    Women trying to work out the strange male psyche have often asked me why men are so violent – and why they are even more violent among their own kin.

    We have seen this month a surge in knife attacks among black men – in my area alone we have had two involving cousins and recently in east London an argument among so-called friends led one young man to lose his life.

    We can only explain such murders at close quarters as a kind of homosexual act, a desire to eliminate the difference between two opposing parties. What we find hard to accept is that the art of war-making and the art of love-making are not that much different from each other. To penetrate a man’s body with your knife until he has reached the end of that almost orgasmic fight to stay alive, and then to recoil lifeless, is found both in love and death.

    When I used to teach in a boy’s school, at playtime I would see just one thing – boys of all ages wrestling one another. Again, this play wrestling was no different than any decent vigorous love-making between a man and a woman. Even in a mixed school, boys can’t help but touch each other in what seems to be a ritualised violence but can be reinterpreted as a kind of gesture of sex. I put no value judgement on this, in fact I think this play is healthy and fun.

    I have no doubt that one of the reasons why the homeland of my parents, Jamaica, is so homophobic is because the men spend so much time reworking their homo-erotic instincts through violence. The ancient Greeks understood this dilemma and so many soldiers would openly have a young boy as their lover, sometimes accompanying them to the battlefield. Better wrestle with your young slave at night than trouble one of your own soldiers – there would certainly be blood on the floor and maybe other liquid refreshments.

    What I am saying is that it is no coincidence that communities which are violently homophobic are also indulging in violence against their kin. The gun lyrics of the mid-eighties and early nineties in Jamaica’s dancehall’s also saw an increase in anti-gay lyrics. Ironically enough the Outrage campaign seems a bit late now because its heyday has long past.
    Am I saying that the more violent the lyric against homosexuals, the more likelihood that the DJ or punter has homosexual instincts ?

    Perhaps. These lyrics are not just offensive – the real sting is that many of the men perpetuating them have trouble trying to understand their own manhood.
    Much of this can be placed at the door of absent fathers or matriarchy. Boys have grown up with few men around them, they are nurtured totally by women.

    In his excellent paper Why Man, Stay So: Tie the Heifer, Loose the Bull, Professor Barry Chevannes talks of how fears and disgust of homosexuality were commonly expressed, particularly in Jamaican communities. He says that many parents believed that certain child-rearing practices or child behaviours could lead to this ‘deviance’.

    Manhood therefore clearly involves sexual activity with women. The sooner manhood is established, the better for the young male’s self-image and the sooner parents can stop worrying about this aspect of their sons’ maturation.
    Therefore, sexual activity for boys begins early, with the discreet knowledge of parents, and sometimes the encouragement of fathers.

    It is really the almost paranoid obsession with heterosexuality which puts most pressure on young boys. A boy might sit down with his legs crossed or shouldn’t have his trousers too tight. Jamaica, in particular has built about a whole custom and decorum around how to be a genuine ‘heterosexual’.

    It isn’t surprising that these young men grow up believing that maybe if they step on a crack in the pavement that they’ll turn gay.
    I have also found it perplexing to understand that in our communities, where mostly women do the child-rearing, that they should produce boys who become violent. Surely given the more peaceful, nurturing instincts of women, those boys should be in touch with their feminine side. However, the reverse happens for the male can easily feel demeaned in being housed, contained, enveloped, absorbed, hence incarcerated, infantilised and extinguished in the female.

    When he reaches adolescence all he wants to do is let-rip, both sexually and violently. The obsession with heterosexuality is an act of turning his back on his mother and his female-side
    Yet it is sadly through the bonding of violence, in the penetration of the dagger into their kin that they find a perverted love of another male.

    Tony Sewell – The Voice Newspaper

  16. Pingback: Jamaica’s Anti-Gay Protesters Don’t Want to Be Called Homophobic · Global Voices

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