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Nothing to fear except fear itself

Thursday, April 24, 2014
London Calling

An attractive couple strolls along the banks of the river Seine in Paris holding hands, stopping to kiss in the evening sun. 


They take in a movie, laugh, dine al fresco, go home, make passionate love and next morning they get engaged underneath the Eiffel Tower. 


They marry six months later and within three years they have two children, a house, car and dog. Nice story, isn’t it?


The couple I’ve been describing are two men. Two friends of mine. 


For some people, that story suddenly switched from being nice to something sinister or uncomfortable. But it’s still the same story.


In London, gay couples hold hands and sometimes kiss while walking around town. 


Ask yourself, what’s your reaction to that? Are you excited? Fine. 


Are you amused? Fine. 


Are you offended? If, so, ask yourself why.


What about two men making love? Are you disgusted, by the idea? If so, why? 


Is it the anatomy?


Some people (male and female) are disgusted by men’s penises. Some people are disgusted by women’s vaginas. They think sex organs in general are gross.


Those people are disgusted by sex in general. I don’t understand them and I don’t understand those who find gay sex disgusting.


Most straight men watch porn. It’s strange how they aren’t disgusted by men’s erections in that context. 


I first became aware of gay sex aged nine, watching Maurice, a film adaptation of an EM Forster novel about a young man (played by Hugh Grant) who falls in love with another male student at Cambridge University in 1909.


The film had romantic bedroom sex scenes. As a young child I didn’t feel disgust. It was just like any other cinematic sex scene, only more daring and interesting.


Did it turn me gay? No. Did it turn me off gay people? No.


When the T&T Film Festival screened the award-winning Bahamian film Children of God last month the film had erotic scenes between two men. I wasn’t disgusted. I was impressed.


So, what is homophobia, really? It’s a question I’ve asked myself and found no adequate answer to. 


I know what racism and sexism are. Learned behaviours produced by ideologies of inferiority. But nobody claims gay people are inferior. They claim they are many things but not inferior. 


Words I have heard from the anti-gay squad in T&T include “aberrant, deviant, abhorrent, disturbing, a threat.” 


Meanwhile, those who support gay people are afraid to use words like “beautiful, sexy, alluring, kind, good.” 


Politicians are afraid to show public support for gay rights.


Two weeks ago, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Chief Justice Ivor Archie were not afraid to show support for the family of Matthew Shepard, publicly embracing the parents of a young American man whose son was killed in a homophobic attack in 1998.


But neither the Attorney General nor the Chief Justice wanted their comments on record that night.


A week later, Ramlogan e-mailed me a statement saying: “...The issue of gay rights requires much public education and discussion as part of the developing international law on human rights. It is a sensitive, delicate and controversial issue which ignites the passions of many religious and social groups.”


Fear on both sides of the debate. But what are homophobes really afraid of? Sexual penetration by another man without consent? And what about women? Do they fear their sons or partners might be assaulted?


Male on male sexual assault is rare, but homophobes in the Caribbean, often middle-aged men, often say their first encounter with homosexuality was older men preying on younger boys.


None of them tell you they were preyed upon, they say they heard about it. 


It happens of course, less frequently than older men preying on young girls, but it does happen. It’s called sexual assault, not gay sex. Not gay love.


Apart from the erroneous link made between homosexuality, paedophilia and deviancy, there are other fears. 


Newsday, last week, published a letter from Dr Clifford Ramcharan of St Augustine, who said he is literally afraid of the end of the world.


He wrote: “Just imagine if the world was peopled only by homosexuals and lesbians, what would happen? The world population would dwindle to alarming proportions with no new births and...that would be the end of the world and civilisation by encouraging gay rights.”


Dr Ramcharan’s weak understanding of demographics, genetics, sexuality and population studies aside, it is at least a more imaginative fear—a biblical fear of self-imposed human sexual apocalypse. 


Assuage your fears Dr Ramcharan. Buggery and naughty sex will not bring about the end of the world. Nuclear bombs and global warming is what you should fear, my dear learned doctor. 


Morgan Freeman recently re-tweeted the quote: “I hate the word homophobia. You’re not scared. You’re an asshole.”


Racism has retreated to the point where the US President is black. One day the US president will be gay.


I like to imagine (and sure, accuse me of stereotyping) that when that day comes the world will become a more peaceful place, with less nuclear bombs and global warming and just about the same amount of gay sex.


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