Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jamaican Bisexuals

A few years ago, one of my brother's old classmates (4 years ahead) told me he wanted to be with me. This came as quite a shock, because I never dreamed he was gay, and further, he could remember things I did, or said, in high school of which I had no recollection. Creepy? Yes. We haven't spoken frequently since then, but when I came back he made an effort to reach out to me,

I am not interested. Never was, never will be. Like many gay men in Jamaica, he is in a relationship with a woman; most of the 'gays' I meet identify as bisexual (or in order to avoid labeling themselves gay, they tell me they love people- I used that one once too). I have nothing against bisexuals, for I have met a few "true" ones in my short life. I labelled myself bisexual once too, just after I turned 17 and was coming out to myself. I met a few bisexuals then too :) After a couple of years, we spoke again and confirmed that we were now homosexual (gays and lesbians). You see, the term bisexual is much more palatable to a heterosexist/homophobic populace, than the term gay. You know it, and I know it.

However, bisexuality seems to serve a different function for Jamaican gay men. It has to be their way of life. Not their sexuality, but their way of life
(And this is what we call a lifestyle!!!). This guy admitted to me that he loves the girl he is now with, but is largely attracted to guys. He will never leave her, he says. So it is imperative that she knows his boyfriend, and that his partners are comfortable with each other. "The family that has sex together stays together," he assured me. (he he he) By this time in the conversation I was about to explode- and not in the good way. He tells me, "she will want to watch us, and if she likes you she might participate. Participate? Excuse me!

We talked about human sexuality for a while, and I told him I was gay. To my surprise, I was asked if I was totally that way- whatever does he mean? "You've never fucked a woman?" No, I have not and will not. "You aren't even the least bit attracted to women?" No, I am not. "So, couldn't you just like stick your dick in a hole and pop?" No, I cannot. And why would I ever need to? I don't put myself in awkward situations where such eventualities may arise! And how dare you describe a woman's vagina as "a hole"!

But then it all made sense to me.

This boy doesn't love women! He likes saving his ass from speculation about his sexuality. And let's be real now, what better way is there to do so (well, aside from getting a kid). His bisexuality is his survival mechanism, not his sexuality. I understand fully why this must be so, but I am also gravely disappointed- I don't know why. So many gays in Jamaica pass as straight- we need to survive now, so fair enough- but doing so requires that they lie about themselves and lead lives that I consider would be less fulfilling (I may be wrong, because everyone desires different things in life). But then I ask, If we don't stand up for ourselves, who will? I'm not suggesting that anyone start a one man campaign against homophobia, but the solution can't be to just wear a mask and pretend to not be affected by prejudice and fear of gay men.

I will never enter into a three person relationship just so you can be protected from the 'shame and guilt' I am supposed to endure for being gay. You see, when you have a girlfriend you can always say, "Mi ano really batiman, a jos try mi did a try mi av mi gyal ya." That makes me very uneasy. I'll have to think about this some more. 


  1. This is a very common "coping mechanism".
    "Bisexual" is seen as being "better"--although not by much;but it establishes that you are "part straight".

  2. I disagree with your estimation of how much better bisexuals are regarded.

    People can never understand why I am not at all attracted to women. It defies all (their) logic. My brother always says, "Boy, just screw some girls, please. Get a child, please." He would cope better with my sexuality if I was still somewhat attracted to women.

    And let's be real now... when you are just coming out, you try the bisexual thing... then people say, so you are still attracted to women...and you say, "in theory" :) and then they say, "ok"... some others add, "well I hope you find the right woman." Nothing pisses me off like someone wishing I become heterosexual. Bisexuality is so much more palatable to the heterosexist world. But that's just my view.

    Why do you postulate that they are not regarded with much favour?

  3. FP - your brother seems very persistent of you having sex with a woman.
    My sexuality comes into, every time someone from the island asks me why don't I have a girlfriend. Even accepting myself as being bisexual, I usually shy away from conversations involving my orientation. Some people doesn't understand. Although, it is known that some people accept the term bisexual easier. I recently started telling people I was gay as they look down on bisexuality. One of my friends called it "double dipping" and that I should chose one. I can't help who I am. I will never be with a woman and be having a guy on the side. Such behavior I find repulsive even more than radical homophobia.
    In my view (and from my experience) bisexuality is harder to accept than being gay.
    It is understandable why most gay men in Jamaica usually are in relationships with women, its the norm and weaken suspicion.

  4. I hold a similar view point but I've always been a bit skeptical of people that claim to be bisexuals. But "Who am I to judge?"

  5. @ Dave: I know what you mean. I've met some people who really do swing both ways though... and their case is a lot more believable to me, because they have no qualms about declaring their love for men. This is America of course.

    This one guy tells me he likes men more... but he still enjoys sex with women... can't argue with that.

  6. Personally I disagree a little all the people I know are either straight or gay. I am the only bisexual I know. My gay friends keep trying to convince me I'm a lesbian or say stuff like ewww when i talk about loving both men and women. My best friend said she doesn't condemn my sexuality nor does she understand it, people should just pick one. And I keep thinking I didn't pick my sexuality how the heck am I supposed to up and decide that I'm gay or straight. Most of the people I know just think it's a phase on my way to homosexuality. What is easier about that? My best bet for a real gf is probably a lesbian (who may not appreciate my interest in men) and many men (as much as they pompaset) don't really like the idea of their girlfriend/lover/wife going off to be with a woman or thinking about being with a woman.

  7. @ Anonymous: It is unfortunate that you are made to feel like you need to chose one thing or the other. It is my experience however, and I make no claim to be speaking for a larger group, people with some cultural aversion to homosexuality respond better to bisexuality than the extreme. I feel like you would be regarded negatively by a man who is hitting on you if you told him you were solely interested in women, as opposed to both sexes. Bisexuality in women is largely seen as sexy.

    People's understanding of sexuality is informed by the binary system of gender and sexuality. People will always ask, which gender you like more, because that is the only the they can relate to. So in that sense, surely it is frustrating for you to be explaining your sexual proclivities.

    I still feel like it's easier to be bisexual though, in terms of how one is regarded by the population at large.

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