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.