UPDATE: The Capleton show scheduled for this weekend at the Kinetic Playground has been canceled. I’ll have more on this, and on reaction to it, tomorrow.
This past weekend, a young friend of mine posted this status on Facebook: “I think I’m gay.”
The announcement made me both proud and sad.
No, my young friend was not actually coming out of the closet, or even so much as doubting her sexuality. It was, instead, a gesture of solidarity, a nod to the fact that, in the last month alone in the U.S., there have been headlines around five different suicides by young queers, all victims of bullying.
I was proud of her, not so much for her courage but for her compassion. And sad not just because of these senseless deaths but because, in the hours that followed her status update, her Facebook page – usually a hive of activity – was deadly silent.
Were her friends left speechless that it might be true? And what if in fact that was the case? Would it make a difference to them? Why no reaching out to her for support – either to help her through whatever she was going through, or in solidarity for those who figured out the purpose of the post?
If she – gorgeous, crazy smart, popular, frankly heterosexual – met such silence about even the possibility of gayness, what does it say for kids needing support who are really gay?
Think these five dead queer kids in one month is an aberration? Think again:
• Queer kids are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. Four times!
• 9 out of 10 high school LGBT kids were harassed, and two-thirds felt unsafe in school, according to a nationwide survey by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. A full 40 percent were physically harassed and almost 20 percent were assaulted in school – in school, people!
• Almost 30 percent of queer kids missed at least one day of school because of safety concerns, compared to 8 percent of non-queer secondary students.
• The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1).
Here’s the thing: This particular issue isn’t about homosexuality. It’s about decency. Is it ever okay to bully anyone?
You’d think then that, in the midst of all this news about queer kids killing themselves all over the country, the appearance of a virulently anti-gay performer in the very heart of a very gay and gay-friendly neighborhood might seem, at the very least, like a very bad idea.
But, alas, no.
This Saturday, the Jamaican reggae star Capleton is scheduled to perform at the Kinetic Playground in Uptown.
Just how outrageous is Capleton?
Well, at a concert in Jamaica last year, Capletown urged the audience: “All who a bun battyman and sodomite, hand up!”
Translation: “All who have burned gays and sodomites, put your hands up!”
Needless to say, the Gay Liberation Network claims that, unless Capleton’s show is canceled – and an announcement about it made to the press – they’ll be out in force to protest.
“We’re not going to permit the performance of a man who calls for the murder of gays without protest in the gay community,” says GLN’s Roger Fraser.
The Kinetic Playground is not only in a neighborhood where same-sex families are a common sight, but just blocks from a number of gay youth outreach services that have as part of their missions dealing with victims of homophobia and bullying.
What Jim Gouskos, the club’s owner, has been telling the media is that he didn’t know about the reggae singer’s anti-gay message and claims he’s locked into a contract worth about $11,000.
And I’m thinking, Okay, you made an honest mistake. And ’m not going to argue that you’ll probably lose far more than $11,000 if your club is the target of a boycott.
What I’m saying, Mr. Gouskos, is that it really isn’t about your financial loss or your attitude toward gays. This is a matter of decency.
Because when is it ever okay to pay somebody to sing a song urging the killing of another human being?
Five queer kids have died this month alone because of attitudes like Capleton’s. Think of your $11,000, Mr. Gouskos, not as a business loss but as an investment in your soul. Yes, maybe even consider posting “I think I’m gay” on your club’s Facebook page. Surely, if a 16-year-old girl can stand up and take the hit, you can too.
Because now, contract or no contract, Mr. Gouskos, you know what Capleton’s message is.
In fairness, Capleton has complained about translations of his songs before, saying that his lyrics are metaphors and shouldn’t be taken literally.
So what exactly is the translation of “Sadomite and batty man, mi shoot up” or “Shoulda know seh Capleton bun battyman. …Dem same fire apply to di lesbian”?
A bunch of really vulnerable kids are dying to find out.