Thu | Dec 8, 2016

KC old boys won’t kiss and make up

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Last year, I got a lovely invitation from Dr Patrick Dallas, president of the KC Old Boys' Association. It was to give the Kingston College Founders' Week lecture, scheduled for next month. I was delighted to accept. KC is the brother school of my high school, St Hugh's; and my own brother is a KC old boy. We're family!

Then, a few months later, completely forgetting about the invitation, I foolishly had a little fun at the old boys' expense in my now-infamous column. I won't even repeat the scandalous headline because I'm afraid of arousing the old boys' passion again. That's not the kind of passionate arousal I like to provoke.

When I saw the murderous responses to my satirical column, I immediately emailed Dr Dallas. Given the 'trauma' I had caused, I told him, I would completely understand if the old boys decided to withdraw the invitation. I felt it was the right thing to do at the time. The wounds were fresh and the old boys were hurting.

Then, after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, I publicly apologised in another column for pulling the old boys' legs: 'Wa a joke to you a death to me', published on January 18, 2015. Sex and religion are very delicate subjects. Especially in Jamaica, homosexuality is no laughing matter.

DEEP DISTRESS

All the same, I hoped that the old boys would eventually forgive, even if they could not forget. But alas! That was not to be. Late last month, I got a rather disappointing email from Dr Dallas. The invitation to give the Founders' Week lecture has, indeed, been formally withdrawn because "the distress still runs deep among many persons in the KC family and this makes such a possibility too difficult at this time".

I'm disappointed not because I no longer have to prepare a lecture for the Founders' Week event. I give lectures for a living. So it's not like I'm dying to speak in public to old boys and young men who may be carrying feelings. What surprises me, though, is that some of the KC old boys are still keeping malice - after four months!

I say 'some' because I really can't imagine that it's a unanimous decision to withdraw the invitation. There must be a few men on the committee brave enough to say, "Wi no fraid fi her." They must know that on a grand occasion like the Founders' Week lecture, I would behave myself. Not a word about same-sex dinners would slip out of my mouth!

The problem with having a reputation for being 'controversial' is that you get stereotyped. It's assumed that you delight in controversy for the hell of it. In my case, this is certainly not true. I don't go looking for controversy. It's the other way around. Controversy stalks me. And I have to keep running away.

By now, the KC old boys must have found an uncontroversial substitute to deliver the Founders' Week lecture. So it's not like I'm begging them to reconsider their decision to uninvite me. What I am hoping for is that the 'controversy' ignited by my column will inspire more frank discussion about sexuality in Jamaica today.

GAY ROLE MODELS

At the core of that satirical column was the expectation that one day, one day, gay men could, indeed, come out in Jamaica and not feel 'a way' about their sexuality. It was a serious joke I was making. And the fact that so many KC old boys got so angry at the very thought of the Fortis name being 'tarnished' means that I touched a very sensitive nerve.

I keep wondering about the young people all across Jamaica who may be wrestling with their sexuality. And I don't mean hands-on combat. Conflicted young men and women need reassurance that it's OK to be gay. Where are they going to find support? Where are the gay men and women who could be role models for these youth? Without exploiting them!

This is a conversation that needs to be taken out of the proverbial closet and put on the public agenda. We can't keep on hiding from the subject. We must take the shame out of sexuality in all its variations. My edgy column on the male-only dinner was an opportunity to seriously consider the taboo topic of sex at school. In and out of the water closet!

Admittedly, the ironic tone of the column made it look as if I was not just mocking the old boys for their folly in excluding women from their special dinner. I seemed to be turning homosexuality into a weapon of abuse! That's the trickiness of satire. It both is and isn't what it appears to be.

I certainly understand the persistent desire of long-time buddies to reunite annually. Without the prying eyes of females who may be tempted to pass unwelcome judgement! Old boys are entitled to their homosocial world. Social means just that: innocent socialising.

And even though I did say I would understand if I were uninvited, I thought the KC old boys would be able to kiss and make up. But I now see that it's going to take a very long time for me to be accepted back into the family. If ever! And I would have given such a nice lecture, you know.

n Carolyn Cooper is a teacher of English language and literature. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.