Carolyn Cooper, Contributor
I GOT several emails last week from angry people trying to persuade me that Dwayne Jones was responsible for his own murder. His crime was not cross-dressing. It was deceit. But since the whole point of cross-dressing is to deceive, this distinction really makes no sense.
Some people passionately argued that the men who were deceived into thinking that Dwayne was female were the real victims. And they had every right to take defensive action. One woman compared the deceit to rape. This is how she put it: "There is an emerging way of telling stories nowadays that lays no responsibility on the victims whatsoever and I don't get it.
"Dwayne was Jamaican. Why did he put himself at risk like that? He also put the lives of other men at risk. If no alarm had been made, some of those other men would have been labelled gay. Some of the men who were wined upon against their will may even have been traumatised for life. As my friend was when his schoolmates from a prominent high school raped him."
But the men who were 'wined upon' were quite willing to participate. Dwyane did not wine on them against their will. It was not rape. It was consensual wining. As far as the men knew, they were not dancing with a man. Dwayne had become the self-styled 'Gully Queen'. It was pure theatre.
Cross-dressing men are not necessarily gay. And dancing with a cross-dressing man doesn't automatically put a man at risk of being labelled gay. Full body contact between Jamaican men is not always taboo. It's perfectly acceptable on the sports field. Footballers passionately embrace when a goal is scored. It's a ritual of the game. I know it's not exactly the same as wining in the dancehall. But the body language is similar. It's just a different dialect.
Perhaps I'm expecting too much of Jamaican men. But I think a self-confident man could have acted far differently to the outing of Dwayne. A real man could have made a joke of it. He could have just said, "BC, Di bwoy good! Im ketch mi fi true!" The profanity would have been enough of a judgement.
The so-called 'bad' word, 'B' is a perfectly good word of African origin, meaning 'vulva'. But like many other elements of African culture in Jamaica, the word has been devalued. The word shows up in Eric Partridge's 1949 Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English where it's described as "West Indian; orig[inally] a negroes' word".
Our own Dictionary of Jamaican English, published in 1967, notes that in the Zulu language there's a similar word, meaning 'pubic region'. So a cloth for the B, like a cloth for blood, is simply a 'sanitary pad'. How a clean cloth could become a very dirty word in Jamaica is a whole other story.
And talking of cleaning cloths, I got an informative email from a Jamaican living abroad: "When I first came to Asia, I noticed that many men carried a small packet of wet wipes. I asked what it was used for. I learnt only Muslims did this. I learnt that they used it in the bathrooms to wipe their penises to ensure there was no dribbling after they passed urine. Urine on clothing is considered unclean and it is avoided like the plague." So our male cross-dressers at Caribbean Fashion Week do have a point.
All of the angry email-writers stopped short of saying that Dwayne should have been put to death. They couldn't quite go there. But none of them laid any blame on the woman who let the cock out of the bag. I think she should have taken a less scandalous approach. She could have called Dwayne aside and said something like this: "Hey bwoy! Yu mad! Yu no know dem man wi kill yu if dem find out? Mind yu self!" But she didn't.
Mastering art of deceit
Dwayne's deception is an extreme version of the sexual games people play all the time. These days, women have mastered the art of deceit. They completely re-engineer themselves: false hair, false eyelashes, false nails, false breasts, false bottoms, false everything. You can actually buy panties in local stores with padded bottoms. And men have been known to stuff their briefs, especially when the contents are very brief. A most wicked falsehood!
Picking up a 'man' or 'woman' at a dance is a very risky business. You really don't know if you're going to get fish or fowl. It's a big chance you take. And as for online dating, that's a whole other kettle of fish. People just lie, out and out. I'm amazed by the statistics you hear on American television about all the marriages that dating services have arranged. I keep wondering about the divorce rates.
I got a most intriguing email about a Chinese man, Jian Feng, whose unnamed wife gave birth to a rather ugly baby, in his opinion. The child looked like neither parent. Feng assumed the child was a 'jacket' and accused his wife of adultery. But that was not her abomination. The rather plain woman had done extensive plastic surgery to make herself beautiful. Genes don't lie so the baby came out looking like the 'real' mother.
Jian Feng filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife had deceived him. He won the case and was awarded US$120,000 – more than the US$100,000 his wife had spent on plastic surgery. I suppose if Feng had been a certain kind of Jamaican man he would have batter-bruised his wife physically.
But divorce, in this case, is emotional abuse. Why couldn't Feng have lived with the fact that his wife simply wanted to be beautiful? In much the same way, Dwyane Jones just wanted to be the gully queen. Death is a very high price to pay for that forbidden desire.
Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.