Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homophobic T&T: One Foot in the Closet

Last week I posted a YouTube video on my Facebook wall, made by an American comedian, addressing the recent spate of gay, teen suicides in the States. An FB friend, let's call him 'Bob', decided to comment on the video saying, "Gays could do what the f@ck they want. Once they don't come around me", followed up with the more insightful "They could all kill themselves, don't really care". Now it would be easy to dismiss Bob as an idiot, after all he sounds like one, but on closer inspection of Bob's Facebook page, you'll discover that listed in his favourite music are Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin.
He has a Maya Angelou quote for his FB status, and his profile pic shows him enthusiastically enjoying a mojito at Shakers.
A friend from France, who was appalled at Bob's comments, emailed me and asked if Bob represented the 'typical Trinidadian view on gays'.
Here is my reply to her:
Dear Candice,
Yes. Bob does represent Trinidad and Tobago's attitude towards gays. You see like Bob, Trinidad and Tobago is not really homophobic - it's schizophrenic. Let me explain.
While being a country that denies gays and lesbians their right to a legitimate space in mainstream public life - out of the sentiment that their lifestyle and values are in conflict with mainstream society - Trinidad and Tobago is also a country where, for two, whole days every year, mainstream society celebrates Carnival, the national festival where we don skimpy, colourful costumes, designed by celebrated 'mas men' like Peter Minshall or Brian Mac Farlane, and 'parade' ourselves down the streets of Port of Spain, happily 'jamming' and gyrating our buttocks on other scantily clad, sweaty, half-naked bodies along the way.

"T&T is also a place where there is no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships... yet it's also a place where gay culture is very much mainstream."
T&T is also a place where there is no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships or media addressing gay and lesbian issues, and homosexuality is still technically a crime, yet it's also a place where gay culture is very much mainstream. From skinny jeans, to mohawk haircuts, sparkly t-shirts, trendy wine bars, man bags, spoken word poetry, Beyoncé concerts, male grooming products, David Beckham worship, film festivals, and mixed martial arts to Carib and Stag commercials, where true manhood is depicted as having the bravery to walk through the rain carrying a flagpole up a slippery mountain, and then thrusting it into the muddy earth beneath you, making it fully erect.
You probably have heard of Pastor Winston Cuffie, then again probably not. He is a prominent pastor who was very opposed to Elton John performing at the Plymouth Jazz Festival. He believes gays can be 'cured', and once wrote in the Trinidad Express: "We must introduce (gays) to the love of Christ, for deliverance into a straight and normal life, which so many gay folks continue to enjoy after their born again experience". You can see Pastor Cuffie every Sunday morning on TV delivering his sermons - after which he presumably goes back to his house in Couva, which looks like a fairytale castle.

"Trinidadian society has created this special, mental psychosis."
As you can see, Trinidadian society has created this special, mental psychosis that enables us to live in relative peace with the idea that there are gays amongst us. It's our version of the American military's "don't ask, don't tell policy", except ours includes "don't ask, don't tell, don't want to talk about it, I don't want to deal with this, I'm not hearing what you're saying, burn in hell you heathen!"
Is this a healthy state of mind for a country to be in all the time? How do we cure it? I don't know. I am part of the sh*t. What I do know is that we have created a deep-seated, cultural mindset that will continuously evade the pressing issues of equality and justice that hang over certain members of our society. It prevents us from maturing as a society, and taking responsibility for our actions, or the lack thereof. The Trini, schizophrenic state of mind is something that has become so stitched into our brain, so woven into the fabric of our consciousness, so elegantly and perfectly designed in our cultural outlook, that if it looked like a dress, it would surely score maximum points on Project Runway.
P.S: Bob is also just a douchebag.

first published in Outlish Magazine 2010 

1 comment:

leeannaJoyS said...

To the writer of this article, not only did i thoroughly admire the refreshing perspectives in your article, I am taken aback at your extremely effective and enjoyable writing style. Well done. Hope to read more from you!
From a fellow Trini :)