Did I ever tell you about the first time I heard the word Lesbian? No? Ok storytime.
I came home after summer camp one day and went to my parents, who seemed to know every word and would answer any question: “Mum, Dad, what’s a lesbian?”
My dad, who, despite his religious tendencies (or lack thereof) was still in many ways a conservative Caribbean man, bristled. “Listen here young lady-“.
But my mum interrupted him. “Why do you want to know?”
“A boy was troubling my friend, so I told him to go away because she doesn’t like him and he called us lesbians.” My parents looked at each other.
“Bring the dictionary and look it up. Tell us what you’ve read.”
So I looked it up, read it out and then asked “What, like how men and women get married?” My parents nodded. “Oh ok. Well I’m not one, but I’d rather marry my friend than that boy, he’s annoying… Oh by the way, what’s a male chauvinist pig?”
Biting the inside of their cheeks, they spelled it out to me as I looked it up. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because that’s what I called him after he called me a lesbian.”
Even as a kid, I took a take-no-prisoners approach to ignorance.
The first time I remember actually meeting a lesbian was not too long after that. A brilliant spoken word poet named Staceyann Chin visited St Lucia, and my mum, in her mysterious ways, scored two free tickets to watch her perform. I do not remember much of what she said (I think the word nipple was used, which made me giggle because hey, I was 10), but I do remember a pause between her poems when she looked out at the audience, her face lovely and humorous yet there was a shade of sadness to it I hadn’t noticed before. “You know, I can perform my poems all over the world, I can even perform my poems the next island over, but I cannot perform them in my own home country because of fear.”
I am, as far as I know, a heterosexual woman. I say “as far as I know” because I’m keeping myself open for Beyonce should she come my way, and because I might one day meet a woman that changes my view on my own sexuality. I am in a relationship now, but who’s to say that I won’t end up with someone different to while away my twilight years and who’s to say that the someone else won’t be a woman? We are prettier and smell nicer. Sorry, current boyfriend. I like your smell. Smells like clean linen and testosterone. But if Beyonce came up to either of us and asked for a concubine, the deal was we’d leave each other for her. It is what it is.
But growing up in a culture that justified homophobia with religion always perplexed me. I always used to wonder if I had missed something growing up agnostic, for I was told that God was love and Jesus died for all our sins and we were to treat others as we would like to be treated, and that’s why I should renounce my heathen ways and join the fold. Yet being gay was seen as an abomination, a great sin that condemned people to Hell. This made no sense to me, especially when I took the ambitious step to read the Bible cover to cover and discovered about 600 sins ranging from “do not covet thy neighbour’s wife” (fair enough) to “do not eat shellfish” (Lobster is incredible and if you live on an island that’s crawling with crabs and crayfish, it would be impractical not to eat them). As far as I could ascertain, God was meant to be love. But then I suppose just because God is love doesn’t mean his people are going to be.
This is something on a list of things that I think people of colour and feminists need to work on. We know what it’s like to be considered less because of something we cannot change, and any heterosexual person should be able to say that they were born liking the opposite sex. It’s not a great stretch to say that homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality, all the letters of the rainbow, are traits that people can be born with as well. Where is our compassion? Why do LGBT+ children continue to become estranged from their families for living life the way they were born to, often becoming homeless in the process? How do we not recoil in horror whenever a music-maker of our culture sings about violence against “batty boys”? How do we justify doing unto others what we would not do unto ourselves?
I for one am proud to say I am an ally. I support the LGBT+ community not just because I have loved ones who are a part of it but because we are all humans just trying to get by on this rock speeding through the universe. We deserve to live and thrive regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, belief system or nationality. This year I am challenging everyone who’s thrown a proverbial stone in the name of homophobia to look at their own sins before doing so. Homosexuality isn’t a sin, but your judgemental ass is (Matthew 7:12).
It’s a big enough planet for all of us to be fabulous and slay all day. Thus it is written in the name of Godney, the Holy Spearit. Gaymen.