Trapped in the closet
Jamaica defines itself as a Christian nation, and that is the main umbrella under which many Jamaicans justify the way homosexuality is seen in this country. While female homosexuality gets some small level of tolerance, when it comes to male homosexuality, the response is usually much more visceral - and not in a positive way.
For a very long time, Jamaica has been known as a very homophobic society. Countless international polls and lists have shown Jamaica as one of the most unfavourable places to be gay. Photos and videos of homosexual men being mobbed in the streets shared on social media and eventually picked up by mainstream media only provide further evidence as to why it's not safe to be openly gay in Jamaica. Looking at the evidence, it's not surprising that many homosexual men in Jamaica are on the down low - they keep their sexuality a secret.
We are taught the importance of honesty in our lives, but I think it's perfectly understandable for a gay man in Jamaica to stay in the closet. While some would argue that there haven't been many incidents of public mobbing of homosexual men in recent times, there are real consequences for a man being openly gay in Jamaica. From losing his job to his home, being openly gay is not very good for a Jamaican professional, especially if he has certain jobs like being a teacher or even a chef.
The current prime minister, Andrew Holness, did say that he would not object to a gay person serving in his Cabinet, which is a very different position from his predecessor's, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. It is true that when it comes to homosexuality in Jamaica, opinions are evolving, but the legislature has yet to catch up.
In addition, the deception that comes with being on the down low is a strain on all parties involved. Picture a scenario where you are in a relationship with someone you're not sexually attracted to, yet you engage sexually with this person and pretend to be interested because you are hiding a secret. Imagine what it must be like for the partner of a down-low man, and after spending years in a relationship with him, you find out that he was gay the whole time.
Personally, I would like to know that my partner is actually interested in me and not just putting on a show to fit the expectations of society. As long as we continue to treat homosexuals as 'other' and discriminate against them, especially when it comes to basic things like housing and employment, we will always have individuals who will continue to hide who they really are. It's especially hard on the family to deal with issues of betrayal, and the gay individual is sometimes shunned.
As we continue to evolve on this issue, I really hope we can get to a place where we are not so quick to judge and more open to seeing the full person, not just their sexuality.
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