PAUL MILLER (name changed to protect identity) is finally at peace with himself. After years of self-denial and "living a lie," Miller has been able to come to grips with the fact that he is attracted to men.
"I can't help being the person I am," he declared, his defiant voice sounding somewhat relieved that he could say this openly. "I didn't just wake up one morning and decide that I wanted to be gay, I was born this way and so are a lot of other Jamaican men and women. We are no different from anybody else -- God made us this way and no, I am not ashamed of who I am."
Now 29 and at the stage of his life where he freely admits wanting to settle down with that "special someone," Miller recalls the first time it dawned on him that he was attracted to someone of the same sex.
"It was the funniest thing ever, are you sure you want to hear this?" he said, his eyes barely making contact from across the table but enough to tell that he was a little unsure about the bluntness of the interview. "I was 14 at the time and there was this guy at school that I felt this urge for which I just couldn't explain. I mean, there were girls that I thought I liked too but with him the feelings were different."
Miller remembers going home from school one Friday afternoon with "his special friend" when suddenly, "maybe by design," he chuckles, they found themselves alone. "We just wandered off and realising there was no one around we started kissing. It didn't go further than that but it was an experience that, at the time, simply blew my mind."
He claims not to
have had another experience of the sort with his friend, noting that they
drifted apart over the years. "I still see him every now and then but
to be honest I don't know if he is gay or if he is straight. We occasionally
say hello to each other but we have never discussed that incident of 14
He even tried to convince himself that what he was going through was just a phase and that eventually he would find the right woman and the yearning for male companionship would disappear. Miller, "to appear normal," he explained, would also engage himself in gay bashing and came across to his peers as the ideal poster boy, "the man with all the girls," they would say.
"None of my friends had the slightest idea that I was gay," he recalls, his eyes now fully focused and for the first time during the interview, seems very relaxed. "I wore nice clothes, wasn't from a bad neighbourhood and had no problem attracting girls. It was deception of the highest order but looking back, I can't see where I had a choice. I mean, I probably would have been lynched from the nearest tree if people had found out."
In 1994, Miller met a young woman whom he felt would have turned his life around. He is not certain if it was because they started out as "very good friends" before they decided to get intimate why they got on so well together. "I cared deeply for her," he admitted. "I don't know if that is different from saying that I loved her but yes she was very special."
The relationship, or facade, as he puts it, lasted for a couple of years before it came to its inevitable conclusion. "She hinted at wanting to break it off and though I really liked her I did nothing to stop her," Miller said. Perhaps, looking back, it was good that it ended when it did because I know it wouldn't have gone anywhere. I was living a lie and it was killing me." And did he cheat on her while they were together? "Yes," he muttered. "I cheated on her with a man."
Miller has not been involved in another relationship, neither with a man or woman, since but admits that he dates occasionally. "There is this mistaken belief in the wider society that all we do is go around having sex," he added. "This is not true. I am not saying that you don't have a lot of promiscuity going on in the gay community but there is a lot more to our lifestyle than just sex. We have meaningful relationships too like heterosexuals -- we share the same joys, sorrows and heartaches that comes with everyday life -- we even shed tears too you know. We could be your friend and closest confidante and you don't even know it -- we are all over society."
Miller, who has recently gone back to school where he is doing a course in business at one of the island's universities, said he is trying to find some way to tell his parents about his lifestyle but hasn't yet summoned up the courage. "Sometimes I believe my mother, who is a very perceptive woman, knows," he added. "Moms always know everything and I just have this feeling that she is on to something. My dad, I don't think he would take such news too well."
Miller feels that the time is not too far off when gays will finally be able to come "out of the closet" in Jamaica and can openly show their affection to each other without the fear of persecution. He sees society's attitude towards homosexuals as very hypocritical, noting that a lot of it has to do with people who are not so sure of their own sexuality. "The day of full acceptance by society is not too far off," Miller notes. "Look at the strides we have made over the years. The fact that we can be sitting here doing this interview is a testament to that."
|A Go- Jamaica Feature 2001|