Growing up gay in the Caribbean, I was in constant survival mode

It is a strange thing, growing up in an island called “Little England”. You inherit the legal system, the education system and the old English manners, and words. But you bedrohlicheres also inherit something far more; an abundance of archaic laws and prejudices.

Imagine, a child of six, who recognize that he is with the boys. Now imagine this, while living in a place where they are, who they are, what they want to do and to love the you can choose, is not only illegal, it is considered immoral. Imagine the impact that a child can have. The absolute burden, to know, to hide that you have, who are you, really, for the rest of your life.

At a party you hear a ‘shot batty boy” and you cock your hand in a weapon to use against the guy who is gayer than you

I love my country. Its beaches and 365 days of sun a year, I love the food, the Humor and the lightness of the island. But it is a dark under world of intolerance, religious zeal, and the rampant out is hypocrisy to kill, if you are not strong enough, it will slowly from the inside.

I remember everything ever said that hurt me. Especially the words said by those who I loved and loved me. My father once screamed at my mother and said: “It’s because she and her mother [my grandmother] that he is so.” My mother years later, she told me, “you will never accept the” when I finally came officially to her. And also, my wonderful grandmother once said that she hopes I “find it, more by luck than my uncle”. My uncle, her son, is also gay.

The school was even worse. Any slight movement of the head or the hand could be removed, so you had to watch and plan everything carefully. A few days ago I saw a video of Wentworth Miller, the gay actor, who said, that every day was growing up in “survival mode”. It is as if he lived my life. All of us grow up to be gay in the Caribbean are in survival mode.

We defend ourselves against the religious leaders and followers, the praise the Lord of demonization, they don’t understand. Or as a common place, on this island of the masks – what they are, but don’t want to see.

We defend ourselves against the music. The music of Jamaica, the murdered gay and burned alive. Imagine a closeted gay teenager and go to their first party, and hear the words “shot batty boy” blaring from the speakers. What do you do? You bop your head, cock your hand in the sign of a gun and point it at the guy who is gayer than you. You show it and humiliate those who have dared to let their masks fall.

Here we live our lives through the eyes of the other – to be gay was bad, but to be the parents of a gay son, was worse

Growing up in this predominantly black society as a gay boy, you try, take your inspiration where you can. But who? Mr Humphries from Are you Served Being? Maybe Steven Carrington from dynasty? Maybe Jack from Will & Grace? But where are the gay men that looked like me? Who had my history? Who could understand that the life of a black gay boy in the Caribbean had its own history and its own tragedy?

I made it through school by never dared to dream of a life beyond the quick goof in the back of a car or an existence of lies and excuses. I had a Partner, but we all suffered loathing under the disease of invisibility, and the scourge of the self. How could we possibly good for each other, if we are so hard on ourselves?

My coming out was a night of high drama in my house. My father, hugged me, told me I was his son and he would always love me. My mother seemed more worried about what others would think. In the Caribbean we live our lives through the eyes of the other – to be gay was bad, but the parents of a gay son or daughter, which was even worse. They had failed. Their gene pool was infected. Your daughter or your son was a disappointment. You get veiled sympathy and offers, beat the gay out of him. You will receive invitations crowded in the Church. You get a shoulder to cry on, and to transfer an open ear to all who want to hear it.

But today, 25 years later, I see a change. Social media has helped young gay men and women in the Caribbean, not knowing that you are not alone. Amazing advocacy groups are always diving more frequently in Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana, the demand that gay men and women have a voice and a right to be treated equally. The pool of models is slowly deepen. We see Ministers and diplomatic missions, media, speakers and doctors, artists and teachers increasingly less guarded about who you are. We see people to find the love.

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I have seen boys and girls with whom I grew up – part of the survival mode, clan – live happily with their partners. I am getting an increasing number of invitations to weddings. Weddings! We grow never allows us to think that such a thing was possible.

Social media those of us, the thought connected, we would be alone, he has also given a voice, the cowardly and ignorant

But two things are consistent. This love and survival the vast majority of these brilliant, creative, passionate souls have left the Caribbean. And two, even though the social media connected, those of us who thought we were not connected, it has also given a voice, the cowardly and ignorant. Read the comments section on all articles on the topic of homosexuality in the Caribbean at your own risk.

But these people are not on the right side of history. The younger generation is always more accepting and able to think for themselves. My hope is that this free thinking that will lead you on the way to the dreaded tolerance, but the acceptance of equality.

As for me, I just celebrated my 12. Birthday with my partner. My parents and my best friends are willingly to my truth and embraced my partner. I can immediately go to work to push for equality in each Phase I. I’m no longer in survival mode – is also not 100%. Like my home, I still have a way to go. But I’m on the right track.

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