Who's Your Daddy?: Gender Issues

Every Jamaican man lives in fear of a lie. It was a lie that was born in slavery, nurtured by Victorian prudishness and hypocrisy, and grew into maturity under the tutelage of fundamentalist Christianity. It’s a lie that continues to wreak havoc on both sides of the racial and gender divide and is a frequent topic of pornography: the Black, male stud.

This stereotype drives straight men to have sex with as many woman as they can (or to lie about it) and to have irrational fears about gay/queer men—as if gay men represented a diminishment of their sexuality. It is an idea that the African-American writer, James Baldwin, explored in “Going to Meet the Man,” where the protagonist’s sense of virility depends upon the debasement of another man—a black man who is lynched because of another man’s penis envy.

It’s an image that allows for gay bashing and murder in Jamaica, and has led some gay men to commit suicide. It’s an issue that many straight writers in the Caribbean continue to dodge, but one which I felt compelled to address in “First Love” and “How Do You Tell” from Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Stories.

These two stories approach the issue of gender identity from different perspectives, yet the characters share a common apprehension: the fear of being discovered. This connects to a larger fear in the Jamaican psyche—that somehow being different is a mortal sin from which there is no salvation.

I hope “First Love” and “How Do You Tell” will continue a conversation that is long overdue in Caribbean fiction. For although Thomas Glaves's, Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles, was a great beginning, unless Caribbean, heterosexual male writers begin to examine our collective attitudes towards gender identity, the issue will remain in a fiction ghetto—an interesting if peculiar development that can only diminish us.

And we will all be the losers.



Richard said…
This sounds great. I'm excited about your book. I hope you will let us know if you are making any appearances in New York. Thanks!
Richard, I hope to round some up for the fall--let's keep our fingers crossed.

Stephen Bess said…
"First Love" was great and it had a surprising ending. Well, I was surprised and then again I wasn't. Nevertheless, a fantastic read.
Glad you liked it, Stephen. Even as I wrote it, I realized I was treading on sensitive areas that might alienate some readers, but the story had to be told.

fwade said…
On the money! See you at Calabash.
See you there, Francis!
Rethabile said…
Haven't read "How do You Tell" yet. And now I can't wait. The discussion must surely spill over to the rest of the diaspora where the black male stallion still roams.

At home (in southern Africa) it has contributed to the refusal of many men to wear French letters, and the virus has of course loved this. Promiscuity + unsafe sex = more than 30% of our people are infected.

Of course 'real' men don't wear condoms. Who's ever heard of such a ridiculous thing?
Give thanks for the comment, Rethabile. Although I suspect that the stereotype is rampant in the diaspora, I only feel comfortable speaking about Jamaican males. I hope it is a conversation that will draw in more writers and artists because the lack of a positive Black male image has resulted in all kinds of distortions and death--both literally and spiritually.
FSJL said…
We've got an insane conception of masculinity. But it's accompanied by an equally skewed conception of the feminine, and we really need to work on both.
I couldn't agree with you more, Fragano!
GirlGriot said…
I'm interesting in reading your stories, Geoffrey. This issue wasn't new to me the first time I went to JA, but I was shocked by the conversations I overheard, some so violent I was afraid to offer an opposing view. That really amazed me.

Of course, this isn't only an issue for Jamaican men. The teen boys I teach in Brooklyn (mostly Latinos, but a few Chinese-Americans and a couple of African Americans) sound very much like the men I've met in Jamaica. I've just emailed the link to your book to our program assistant so I can get a copy and see if I can use the stories with me students.
Give thanks, Girl Griot.

I suspect that it a broader conversation, but I needed to start with those whom I know best. I hope the conversation will broaden.

susan said…
Geoffrey, Thanks for leaving us this link and definitely going to tweet, e-mail, get your book. It's a must have and yes we need the discussion.

Why are you so shy, man? You know a sista is busy and committed. Sometimes you have to remind me what I've missed but then I guess you did that when you left me the link. lol

I also just realize that in my resign of my blog, your link was dropped (I lost my blog roll). Of coursed I've fixed that.

Much love and respect,
Susan, sometimes I tell you, this self-promotion is a stretch for me...give thanks for the love.


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