Intolerance is still intolerable

Four years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a post about needing to be more tolerant of intolerant people. You know, the bigots, homophobes, racists, Islamophobes, condemning Christians, the KKK… The list goes on. Actually, scratch the KKK. No one needs to tolerate them, ever. Even the Doctor supported genocide when it came to the Daleks.

Being a doctor means I get to interact with a wide cross-section of society. This is both exciting and scary. I was excited to have my first lesbian patient (is this weird?) and be able to provide her with an open, non-judgmental space. (It’s probably weird). And it is scary when the brazen male patients decide they have a penis problem. (cue eye roll).

For the most part I deal with the ups and downs of this roller coaster ride. I bite my cheek when colleagues or patients are espousing homophobic ideals in group settings; I clip my words and give my best poker face when male patients make unsolicited and inappropriate advances. (This happens more often than it should).

But in a one-on-one setting with someone who is  uncomfortable with the homosexual lifestyle, I am far from tolerant. A colleague was relating an anecdote about his struggle to overcome homophobia, saying that sometimes he just has to refer a patient.

In one session he had with a male patient, the patient started flirting with him. And my colleague recalls being so upset – he had been told they have a gaydar, that they know who to flirt with and who not to, so why was this man coming on to him – he reacted like his manhood (personhood?) was threatened.

So I got angry, and I’m not sure I was very good at hiding it.

“It’s so funny,” I said to him, “that they don’t teach us how to react when a patient tries to hit on you.”

He didn’t know how to respond.

I was pulled in a lot of directions. First the blatant masculine privilege that means you don’t have to worry about a patient trying to flirt with you. Or if they do, flirtation is always welcome because the patient will be a woman. The heterosexual privilege of assuming that because a guy is batting for the other team he wouldn’t dare try anything with you.

Female healthcare staff have been dealing with unwanted advances for centuries, and I am a small enough person to say that it felt good to watch a man squirm for once.

But now that I’ve gotten that illicit gloating out of my system, how do I go about creating a more tolerant space for people who want to let go of their misguided beliefs? First of all, do I want to?

No. I don’t.

Gay people are here, they’re queer. Get over it.

All gay people are not trying to rape you. All Muslims are not bomb-toting jihadists. All black people are not here to steal your purses and live off welfare. Hijabistas are not inherently oppressed. Black people are not inherently inferior. Women are not inherently less capable than men. And not everyone has been waiting on you to tell them about your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

People are just people, not the groups they happen to belong to. Good, bad, flawed, faking it, aggressive, shy, lazy, ambitious people.

It’s 2016. Acceptance is in. Get with the fucking times.

The intolerant view of . . . intolerance?

Some weeks ago Ian Boyne penned an article in the Sunday Gleaner with this title. At the time I strongly felt that it was full of so much BS I could use it to fertilize a large farm. I am having to revise this opinion.

Everyone thinks they’re right. It’s a fundamental of human perception. If you went around thinking you were wrong all the time, you’d hardly be a functioning member of society. You have to believe in what you’re thinking and saying in order to act on any of it. And everyone always believes that their side is the right one, while everyone else is simply wrong.

Do you ever stop to consider that thinking like this makes everyone right and wrong all at the same time? Mind-boggling.

Thinking like this doesn’t make for friendly discussions. In order for us to hear each other out, we have to put aside our conviction that the smarmy know-it-all deserves to be kicked in the shins. We’re all grown-ups, right?

But this applies to everyone, not just the people I think are wrong. It means it applies to me too. And my intolerance of homophobia is exactly what Boyne was talking about. I am still fighting myself on this. The heart of the issue is not who’s right or wrong or screams louder, it’s that people need to learn to listen to each other. You don’t have to change your mind, or change their mind. You don’t have to love them. Just listen with an open mind and actually give thought to what they’re saying. They are just as passionate as us. All that separates us is the notion in our heads that they are on the wrong side of the fence.


If we can get past that – our instinctive desire to argue into submission – then people wouldn’t feel the need to defend their every belief. Maybe we’d even get along. I’m not saying I’d invite a bigot to stay for drinks, but at the very least I should be able to ask him to pass the salt without sneering.

I’ve always believed that tolerance was right, that intolerant people were just plain wrong and they had to be re-educated. I still believe that, but I’ve got to be able to deal with intolerance without feeling like damaging some property. I have got to remove my Monocle of Wrongness and consider that this person is just a person with different ideas. Just like a homosexual. Or a Christian. That’s what being tolerant is.

Tolerance is also a lot trickier than I thought it was.

homophobia at utech: my very visceral reaction

Last week the UWI allowed a group of people who believed humans were created by alien scientists to have a seminar on their campus. This wasn’t handled very well by most of the students in attendance.

Last week also, two male students at UTECH were caught in a bathroom in what is rumoured to be a ‘compromising position’. This was handled even worse.

The issue at hand is our extreme intolerance of anything different or other. It’s not that the students were right in fraternizing (or whatever it is they were doing) in a public place, but that’s not why one of them was attacked. If we’re going to be entirely honest, everyone knows that if he had been caught with a girl whoever found them would have simply looked the other way. Maybe even shared a knowing look with him afterwards. The incident would have probably sent his ratings up a bit.

But because of the who and not the what, this young man was held against his will by the same security guards he ran to for help. He was abused physically and verbally by the persons whose job it is to ensure the safety of all UTECH students. But there is something about the Jamaican mind that can conveniently separate the homosexual from the rest of humanity (aided by the derogatory words we call them) therefore making it okay to treat them like crap.

When you listen to the video, it’s all ‘battyman’ and ‘fish’ and some student telling the guards that they can’t have all the fun. All any of the observers cares about is that he’s gay, not that he was caught in a public bathroom doing something he probably shouldn’t have been doing.

On the other hand (and I’m probably going to get a lot of flak for this): these guys must have been either really brave or really stupid to do their business in a public bathroom in one of the most violently homophobic countries in the world.

Just to keep you informed:

  • There was a petition floating around to get the security guard fired (he has been).
  • Observer and Gleaner had been following the story up until three days ago, but I don’t see anything new. This is the shortest 9 day wonder like, ever.
  • The delightful Carla Moore has a (rather lengthy) spiel on the whole incident in which she tries to decode the “bun battyman” mentality of Jamaicans. And I love her for it.

the Obligatory Valentine’s Post

Exact copy of the card I'll be giving this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, imagine you have just met a stranger. He or she possesses the physical attributes and personality traits that most appeal to you. You enjoy spending time with him or her and find yourself doing so more and more. You realize that you are beginning to like this person quite a bit and you make the decision to enter into a relationship with him or her. The relationship progresses naturally and after some time you find the faintest beginnings of a stronger and deeper feeling; you and your stranger are happy and in love.

Now imagine you are the same sex.

That was written in 2007 for my oral presentation in a communications course (CAPE Communication Studies), and I dusted it off because I think Valentine’s Day should be all about love. Not hate. Let the red mean passion, not bloodshed. Let them wear pink. Let people love each other.

And maybe you’ll let someone love you.

Nickelback’s If Everyone Cared

Happy Valentine’s everyone. <3