Sean Major-Campbell | 'Girly' guys are men, too
Do you know anyone you would consider to be effeminate? Have you ever met anyone in school who would have been described as effeminate? Maybe you have met someone who has been described as butch, too. But what and how did you feel and think when you saw or met that effeminate one?
One of the less-talked-about matters in Jamaican sexuality-speak is that of the impact of misogyny on the population in general, and some persons in particular. Misogyny is much more than the hatred of women. It is the denigration of all things feminine. It is, therefore, acceptable to degrade anyone by using a pejorative female image.
Consider the following statements: "Him gwaan like a woman." "She is a real bitch." "Talk up like a man." "Him talk like a woman." "Him walk like a woman."
In heteronormative societies like the Caribbean, the ultimate gender status is a manly man! Sorry, ladies, men are still the privileged gender. Not because of inherent value. Possession of a penis just comes with certain nonsensical assumptions.
Our severe lack of literacy in human sexuality robs us of the capacity to comprehend gender expression and sexual expression. Did you know that, generally speaking, a man never chooses to be 'effeminate'? Think about it for a while. Why would a man in religiously homophobic Jamaica choose to be 'effeminate'?
Gender normativity dictates that sexual expression be conversant with expected gender norms. (By the way, sexual expression is not the same as sexual behaviour.) In a society characterised by an extremely fragile masculinity, a man will be deemed effeminate if his body language or sexual expression is seen as typical to that of a woman. Patriarchal rhetoric supports structures of sexism, prejudice, and hate.
A deeper understanding and awareness of human sexuality should expand awareness beyond the boundaries of ancient pederasty and hierarchical societies which kept effeminate boys/men in subjection. We now know that intelligence is not determined my how macho or manly or testosterone-driven a man is. We also know that oestrogen is not inferior to testosterone.
A more progressive society has the capacity to affirm men who possess loose wrists, sensitive and nurturing ways, and, yes, a strong 'feminine' side.
Just imagine the society we might have if we move away from a culture with strong support for coarseness and crudity. Imagine if instead we promote support for protection and respect for images of the feminine. Support for the vulnerable and the despised and those that are considered weak and conquerable. Imagine a world without rape and violence.
The protection of all our boys and men must include that of our males who are considered 'different'. Interestingly, effeminate men boys and men are at risk both in cisgender contexts and outside. It is not unusual for effeminate men to experience prejudice and disregard in the LGBT+ community. A transgender person is also often at risk of such prejudices where clearly defined constructs are required for masculine definition.
We have a far way to go in terms of educating ourselves with a deeper understanding of our human community. We need every citizen to know an experience of welcome and protection, regardless of their reality and place in the broad reality of human sexuality. There are multidisciplinary studies that may inform, empower, and make for the promotion of diversity awareness in Caribbean societies. Let us keep the gender conversation alive for the sake of all our people.