Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | December 12, 2012
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Is Jamaica ready for the 'coming out' party?
George Davis
George Davis, Contributor

Those of us who are living and will die by the precepts of a heterosexual lifestyle are having to confront an unpleasant but immutable reality.

This reality is that homosexuality is now firmly mainstream after years of strategic effort to have it permeate popular media. Yes, children, the moment many would've wagered would never arrive is finally here.

Rather reluctantly, the world, generally, has seemingly agreed to tolerate this alternative lifestyle, even as Christian and other groups mourn the acceleration towards perdition. Of course, Jamaica has seemingly fallen into line, despite venomous protestations written in song and chanted in the dancehall arena.

In this reality, heterosexuals have an important decision to make. How do we reconstruct our views of this new world to survive and thrive in it, with mass suicide or, for that matter, mass murder, not exercisable options? Clearly, there's need for a whole new menu of coping strategies!

But how did we get here? How did homosexuality wriggle its way into the mainstream, to be front and centre everywhere we look? The answer is startlingly simple: television.

Television's mass appeal makes it the ideal vehicle to drive home this tolerance of the gay lifestyle. The first gay couple on screen was Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook in the 1972 ABC-produced, made-for-TV movie, That Certain Summer. The first sitcom to have an openly gay character was Soap in 1977, with acclaimed actor Billy Crystal playing the role of Jodie Dallas.

Those two programmes, especially the latter, forced the door ajar and sought to establish homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. This early momentum was particularly important, given the lifestyle's setback during the mid-1980s towards the fin de siècle when it was associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS. Several series, including the wildly amusing British comedies Are You Being Served? and Allo Allo, featured characters that were obviously gay but which were toned down by the producers as a kind of 'soft sell' to the audience.

Productions such as Melrose Place, Roseanne and Friends all cast gay characters before the ABC drama series, Relativity, turned things up a notch with an openly lesbian scene with passionate, open-mouthed kissing. Then followed Queer as Folk and The L Word. Hit sitcom, Will & Grace, about a gay 'couple' and their heterosexual women friends, mirrored the real-life experience of girls and their cosy relationship with 'guys'.

American television then delivered a poster girl for homosexuality in the form of talk-show host Ellen Degeneres, who broke ground for people like British funnyman Graham Norton. The role these persons played helped to foster gay lifestyle tolerance and helped the rest of us to see gays as being ordinary people too.

Nowadays, you can watch nothing on TV without homosexuality having some thematic relevance. Animated series such as Family Guy, The Simpsons and American Dad have gay references in almost every episode. For those repulsed by this lifestyle, there's literally nowhere to run.

SPORTS PERSONALITIES 'COMING OUT'

Television exists for news and information, but mainly for entertainment. Sport is the biggest element in the entertainment industry. Gays have not missed the chance to leverage the lifestyle through sport.

The first high-profile sportsman to admit to homosexuality was NBA player John Amaechi. The Briton wisely did so only after retiring from the game. The former captain of the Welsh rugby team, Gareth Thomas, stunned the manliest of all sports by announcing he was gay in 2009. England's reserve wicketkeeper, Steve Davies, announced he was gay in 2011 after admitting to the torture of having to hide his orientation from teammates. Only last month, the Manchester United goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard, wrote an article imploring gay footballers to come out. Those of us who support the Red Devils breathed a sigh of relief when he mentioned 'my girlfriend' in the article!

The relevant question for heterosexual Jamaicans is, how will we cope in this age of the homosexual? The joke among my friends is that in 20 years' time, it'll be us, heterosexuals, who'll be in the minority. How much do we tolerate? How do we react to the flaunting of this lifestyle? How do we raise our children? How do we respect the rights of others while enforcing our right to be respected?

This thing called life. It isn't easy at all.

Selah.

George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.

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