I grew up in Guyana, a small English speaking country on the northern coast of the South American continent. The culture in Guyana is an extremely homophobic and misogynistic culture which seems endemic to former British colonies (Jamaica, Barbados, etc). As a child who was sensitive and gentle, preferred reading to playing sports, and whose chosen playmates were always the girls, I was an easy target for the extreme viciousness directed at me by members of my family and community.
The word for “faggot” in Guyana is “anti-man” and I grew up hearing that word tossed at me daily. Even my own father called me that horrible word and seemed hell bent on physically beating manliness into me. I was also verbally and physically abused by my older brothers and their friends and generally became the laughing stock/convenient target for public humiliation. My mother did not really stand up for me as I believe that she did not know how to handle my situation (plus she had her own problems to deal with).
I distinctly remember when I was six years old and one of the neighborhood teenagers walked over to me as I was reading outside and proceeded to tell me how much of an anti-man I was (like I needed to be told any further). But that day something in me snapped; I had simply had enough. I don’t know what came over me but next thing I knew I was beating this much larger guy with a metal bicycle pump for what seemed like hours. He was so shocked at my reaction that he did not know what to do and basically just stood there. He eventually ran off and came back with his mom who demanded that my mom come out of the house to see what I had done to him – yeah the little anti-man had hit him so many times with that bicycle pump that he was bleeding (by the way, in no way am I condoning violence). My mom came out and said to his mom, “That will teach him not to mess with my child” and went back into the house. Mom never scolded me or punished me – she just went about her business like nothing had happened.
I focused on my education and got out of that hell hole as soon as I could. I moved to San Francisco in my early 20’s. The US gave me many opportunities to further my education and make a success of my life. I also met the most truly wonderful man and 14 years later we are still together. I have healed my relations with my siblings, and my mom and I are now quite close.
For any young people struggling all I can encourage is to focus on your education and try to get as far as possible from a physically and emotionally unhealthy environment. Therapy has helped me to sort a lot of things out and given me a healthy perspective from which I can look back on my childhood and see how it has shaped the man I am today.