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I’m not straight

Monday, February 26, 2018

That’s me trying to be presidential. As is appropriate to today’s solemn occasion.

By my reckoning, today marks publication of my 120th Guardian column. And, of my own reckoning, it is my last.

It’s been an enormous privilege I do not take for granted.

Over more than four years, through these pages I’ve talked with readers about myself and a range of issues—residency requirements and licks for parliamentary representatives; Dike Rostant’s Gasparilloness, Patrick Manning’s disability, Reema Carmona’s dignity, and Wayne Sturge’s briefs; ageing, raising boys, and the politics of motherhood; Pontius Pilate, Sodom and Santa Claus; wrecking and grief and exit-row seating. Earnestly, and playfully, and riskily.

Carnival is when the country intersects—and I bounce you up—most. Readers who’ve shared my eye surgeries, Baltimore Uber woes, GATE rejection, ejection from the AIDS Committee launch, search for Vaughnette Bigford’s CD, rain on Brooklyn Panorama, my mother’s death, spoiling my ballot, and understanding that men are delicious. I’ve enjoyed your notes, including two from sons of past Editors-in-Chief.

We’re in a moment when newspapers—much like this century-old one—are grappling with their relevance, functioning and sustainability. Notwithstanding the “Arab Spring” of democracy that social media has turned into, and the sharp decline in their readership, what the papers print and who gets to write in the press, and about what, still powerfully shape this thing called national consciousness.

Words matter. And who tells stories matters.

I’ve long been in awe of what it meant that Guardian Media gave me the space to write here, from the vantage point of a gay man, about personal and national life and justice. How, without narcissism, this column was a media landmark. It was Editor-in-Chief Judy Raymond who invited me in originally. But Orin Gordon and Shelly Dass each invited me back.

In 2007, I took up the work of being a noisy voice in national affairs, swimming in the wake of folks like David Mitchell, Godfrey Sealy, Faye Gomez, Geoffrey MacLean, and all the straight feminists who advocated for LGBTI inclusion before gay men did. My vision has never been about seizing rights or winning victories. It’s been one of sharing the nation—of building one that all of us, with our many bodies landed here by history and its injustices, can share. Naming achievements the nation has made in this regard, I’m cautious. I don’t think I’m swimming an anchor lap.

I know parliamentarians remain cowards; not rights guarantors. But I want to believe Lynette Seebaran-Suite, Nirad Tewarie, Kenneth Suratt, Sharda Ramlakhan, Living Water Community, Anglicans in Action, BIGWU and Amalgamated Workers’ Union would all have my back.

Another video of schoolchildren gone viral. Two boys, uniforms on, doing what’s now so rare in schools that have become playgrounds of bullying and violence—being loving, playful and daring, as teenagers are. It’s elicited press, police, TTUTA, Education Ministry and Children’s Authority anxiety; when ensuring comprehensive school-based sex education would be more level-headed.

Jesus knows, every media house prints something every so often to make you want to roll up your mat and walk. Yet, I want to argue that we have changed culture, we’ve moved the needle discernibly in terms of what media says on most days that humanises sex/gender diversity. I hope this space has been a small part of that.

And we have a new President unafraid to be unequivocal about LGBTI equality—the real headline in her media interview here.


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