Thu | May 25, 2017

Dressing down Thwaites on cross-dresser drivel

Published:Tuesday | September 30, 2014 | 9:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: I am not sure where to begin with the incredibly tone-deaf op-ed ('Gully gays and other mysteries', Sunday Gleaner, September 28, 2014) by lawyer, Rhodes scholar, good Roman Catholic, and supposed intellect, Daniel Thwaites.

First, there is no question that the circumstances under which homeless youth who have been forced to live in the sewers of Kingston are difficult. But I would like to ask Daniel how would HE behave if he were forced to exist in such subhuman conditions? And to claim that persons choose to live in this environment, in pursuit of idle freedom, betrays several degrees of callousness. It is not surprising that the youngsters resisted being evicted from the gully. When they were kicked out by their families, some as young as 10 years old, these youth used to live in abandoned buildings. However, as local media reported, the police forcibly ejected them from those spaces and the buildings were eventually torn down to prevent the kids from "re-infesting" them. The sewers were their last resort. Now they will have no choice but to sleep in the streets. Surely, this is a reason to resist!

Next, the hysteria that Daniel tries to whip up about trans people is truly reprehensible. So what if someone chooses to dress as they identify? What does that matter to him? In the past, at least half of Daniel's ancestors were forced to abandon their cultural African attire in order to adopt the clothes of their slave owners. A few decades ago when "Rasta-guys" (to use Daniel's own disparaging term) first started wearing tams to cover their flowing dreadlocks, Jamaican children were indoctrinated to believe that they were harbouring centipedes in their headgear. The very difficult language Daniel uses in describing the homeless youths' attire is emblematic of the Eurocentric mindset that has prejudiced the minds of many in the Afro-descended Jamaican intelligentsia.

Further, Daniel's claim that trans people have some mental defect (manic compulsion) because they dress and behave as they identify is both wrong in law and medicine. Unlike places such as Guyana, Jamaica does not criminalise cross-dressing, as we (still) consider this to be a fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Further, there is no scientific basis for arguing that trans people are somehow defective. What is defective is our insane desire to force people to conform to our sense of dress in order to feel better about ourselves. If anything, it is the irrational fear of trans people (i.e., transphobia) that Daniel displays, which is a pathology. Doesn't he know that clothing on another person cannot harm him, unless he chooses to get too close? How would Daniel feel if he lived in a society that forced him to wear a skirt (or Scottish kilt, or sarong, etc.) when he felt more comfortable in pants?

Finally, and most disturbing, is Daniel's comparison of the choice of attire trans youth wear to that of an excessive abundance of marmalade. His attempt to dehumanise trans people and to trivialise their legitimate need for expression is simply unimaginable in someone who really ought to know better. Human diversity is what makes life interesting, and variety, truly, is the spice of life. How someone expresses themselves is really their choice, and as long as it does not harm you, there really is no reason for you to vilify and denigrate them.

Maurice Tomlinson, an openly gay man, is an attorney-at-law and gay-rights campaigner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mauriceT@lgbtiawarecaribbean.com.