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Under Oath: It Could Have Been Me


Today, the pain feels raw. It feels the same way it did some six years ago. Nobody was concerned - well, save two of my then Jamaican, male lecturers - that the accusations were not just unfounded, they were made up stories. By the time the stories were done being told, my reputation was already tarnished and I was known as "Di batty bway" (a derogatory name used for male homosexuals)on campus.

Since the beating of the alleged homosexual on the University of Techonology (UTech), Jaamica, campus by security guards, who were caught on tape performing the gruesome act and have since pleaded NOT GUILTY, I have been reflecting. Not merely reflecting on the rights that were trampled on or the ethical principles breached but on the simple realisation that this could have been me. Amid my "bold" stance on social media, my contribution to the national discussion on the issue in both traditional and new media and sharing in social settings, I have cried and cried and cried some more over the issue. Why did I cry, you may ask. I cried at the hate that caused this beating. I cried wondering, what if the story was not true. I cried for myself, who about six years ago, while a student at seminary, I was subject to homophobia - a homophobia justified because it was alleged that I was seen in compromising positions with another male seminarian.


THE NATURE OF THE ACCUSATIONS

Pierced ears, dyed dreadlocks, eccentric clothing and jewel, gender non-conformist by Jamaican standards, far from being a bible-toting Christian, very close friends with another man on campus - I had all the makings of a bonafide gay man. And, certainly, no two men should ever be so close; well, unless they're actually having sex with each other. The weird stares and almost audible whispers and snickering whenever Sean (not his real name) and I would walk pass to head to the canteen for lunch did not bother me at first. I never really cared what anyone had to say about me by that age. You see, growing up, I had been teased enough about not having a macho enough voice or walk or gesticulation that would have qualified me to matriculate into being legitimately male. So, I had developed a somewhat thick skin by the time I had got to seminary. I had my friend, Sean and we did everything together: Ate lunch, went to church, went shopping - EVERYTHING; so those who were whispering could have kissed places on my anatomy that were kept generally hidden.

But then the weird stares and whispers soon morphed into something else. The first story was that I was discovered in the computer lab on the third flow of the school's only library, that was used by both students of the under-graduate and graduate programmes, looking at porn - sorry, gay porn. That rumour went on and I did not find out about it until I was called into a meeting before the then Academic Dean and some students who were helping to give the story legs. The meeting began at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening and we did not leave that meeting room until about 4 a.m. the Thursday morning. All the meeting produced was a string of hearsay. There was nobody who could have pointed a finger and say, "Yes, Damien, I saw you looking at gay porn." But by then, the damage was already done. Everyone already knew I was caught in the library, looking at gay porn. Truth was not important, here. Nobody pursued truth. My difference was what was under trial and whatever it took to get me to conform or get me out would have been justified.

Unfortunately, the stories would not stop there. Sean and I were seen kissing, many lunch hours, under a tree to the front of the small, Christian campus, that was regularly traversed by visitors to the school and by students and faculty and staff. And, then one night on a platform right in front of the library (where graduation ceremony usually takes place), boys on dorm looked down and saw me on top on Sean in what was a full on make out session. They saw this! The rumours had taken over the school. I had responsibilities for chapel sessions. I used to sing on the praise team. And, when persons would come to chapel and see that I was the one leading they would take an about turn. Other times, if I was sharing, once introduced, persons would take up their bags, hiss their teeth and walk out. As much as that hurt, I don't think anything prepared me for what happened next.

The rumours had left school and found their way to the ears of one of Sean's cousins. He was having none of it. This foreigner who came to Jamaica and made his "fambily" gay. Certainly, I had to be dealt with! The gentleman came on campus looking for me, having in his possession his licensed firearm. Perhaps, if I had not been forewarned by Sean of what was about to go down I would be dead. Dead for actually having had a homosexual relationship with Sean and having been found in a "compromising" position with him? No!!! Dead because of LIES - stories concocted to justify the xenophobia and prejudices of some. But the truth does not always matter in the face of prejudice and so my death would have been justifiable homicide.

Those were my darkest days. How I made it is still a mystery to me. But I am grateful. I did have the support of two male lecturers, who did become the subject of rumours as well because they dared to stand on the side of the "batty bway". Because, they refused to stand on the side of the mob who wanted me out and who would have preferred to see me dead... And I still cry because I wonder how many more have been; are being; and will be beaten, ostracised and lied on because of their difference - their perceived sexuality. Today, I stand, not as strong and opinionated Damien, but I stand in my vulnerability.

I am Damien Marcus Williams and I.... I am under oath

Comments

  1. *Tight hug* This is powerful beyond words bro. This is a reality for many people who grew up in Jamaica and sadly the majority of the population thinks this is how it should be. I am really sorry for the pain caused and thanks for sharing. Love u man.

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    1. Thank you, Bro. I love you more. Stories were always easy to be made up on me and believed about me. Today, the pain feels raw. But I think I am resilient enough.

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    2. Hi Damien...keep smiling keep shining.....you are an inspirarion....I hope that one day Jamaican we will wake up to the reality that Gays are human being....loved and created by God as well.....keep strong brother ONE LOVE. Paula

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    3. Thank you for stopping by and for actually taking the time to comment. your kind words and readership are greatly appreciated. namaste

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    4. Wow! Very profound lesson as it relates to prejudice and people's perceived reality. My God!

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    5. Thanks for reading and providing your feedback. I appreciate it.

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  2. This is a powerful post and necessary. I see this all the time.I often wonder how much of my brother's aggressive male character is attributed to the environment at an all-male school. I remember when he was 13 he didn't issue homophobic sentiments, in fact, he thought the whole thing was ludicrous. However, by the time he turned 16, he was ready to beat with his schoolmates because that is the appropriate way to be accepted. It is sad.

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    1. :-( Jamaica's homophobia, apart from being rooted in religion, is borne out of a need for acceptance and validation - validation of masculinity; of faith of being "normal". It is difficult being the other, especially when that other is vehemently repudiated. It is sad, IamQuagmire...

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  3. Powerful stuff brother Damien.

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    1. Thanks for the strength in what you just wrote, wilwyse!

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  4. I love you, Damien, for this and for your courage. Take care.

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    1. Oh...Thank you, Emma. You are as beautiful a soul as you are in person. I can be strong because there are people like you in the world...

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  5. Aaaahhh Marcus...this breaks my heart to tears. You should never have been treated in the way that you were whether or not the rumors were true. And what makes it worst is that in your case the church was the mob....something is very WRONG with that picture. I am thankful you are still here in the land of the living irrespective of an attempt to take your life. I believe that God has a great call on your life, the same one in which you now walk. You have more 'balls' than many men, so continue to stand up and speak out for those amongst us who are marginalized & downtrodden. Press on Bro!!!

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    1. aaaaaaahhhh!!! *sighs* I wish I could find the words... emotions overwhelm me. My heart is full... Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for your kindness. Kindness is golden; especially to one who's experienced immense hate

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  6. Remain steadfast unmoveable always abounding in the work of faith, in deed this is the work of faith... giving voice to the voiceless.
    Croy

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    1. So many voices - too many - are screaming in silence. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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  7. I often read a lot of blogs but seldom post comments however, this entry moved me.
    First: I am sorry. Sorry for the actions of my brothers and sisters who sometimes make me a little ashamed to call this great nation home. Sorry for the pain they caused you.
    Second: I love you. I love the YOU that thought it necessary and important to share your story and willingly faced, once again, the pain that must come with retelling it.
    Third: I pray for you. I pray that you will overcome the pain that you experienced during that time and the pain you still experience with every recollection.

    On a more personal note, this post resonated with me because I am in love with a man who has also fallen prey repeatedly to the gay rumor because of his personality and mannerisms. Some of the things I have heard (mostly from people who don't know of our relationship) have left me in tears and it breaks my heart every time I think of the challenges he has to contend with for simply being different from our 'Jamaicanized' version of manliness. Rumors are powerful and malicious tools that break many a spirit and take many lives. Your speaking up weakens the legs on which they would otherwise stand.
    I cannot thank you enough for sharing!

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    1. I am very grateful for the love and affirmation that you have expressed. You have helped me to realize the power of telling one's story rather than simply "screaming in silence".

      Again, thank you for being so kind (and for your readership).

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  8. Its the first time i am seeing this, and thus knowing this. i am moved. And still, i respect and admire u even more. stay strong

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Daren. Namaste

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  9. Hey Marcus, I had no idea you went through such a tough time. Living in New York, I think there are days when I take my freedom here for granted. Thank you for reminding me that the fight is not yet over for many people in the world. You are a hero to be so bold in a place whose reputation for homophobia almost equals its reputation for tremendous talent. Though I may be far, I am still willing to do whatever I can to help. Keep blogging and keep on sending me petitions. Nuff love and hugs and ting.
    Terry

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    1. Terry, you are a gem. The fight is not over... the fight has only just begun and I am prepared to fight to the very end, using my VOICE, words & power to bring attention to incidents of homophobia and to challenge heteronormative privilege. I will continue blogging & I will continue to send you petitions. Thanks for the love and hugs and especially thanks for "TING". *winks*

      Namaste

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  10. Our journeys... different but the same. Be strong

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    1. Thnka you for reading and for your feedback. Be strong, stand strong, stay strong.

      Namaste

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  11. Wow!!! So many of us take many things for granted. I nevered experience such craziness when I went school. My problems were related to Race issues mainly and not in the school, but in the surrounding neighborhood. You have to take the negative energies of your life and change them to positive energy. Use it to make you a stronger person. Thanks for sharing your story. Keep sharing it because there are people out there that need to hear it and keep your head up my brother! Much love!

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    1. Thanks, Glenn for dropping by and for leaving your words of encouragement. Love like these casts out fear and takes the sting out of hate. I am happy to lend my voice in the service of my fellow men and pushing towards a world that is rid of the straight lines we draw to create divisiveness.

      namaste
      #DMW'13

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