Jermie Thomas

Jermie Thomas / ,

“Growing up as part of the LGBTQ+ community in Jamaica was not easy. I lost count of the days I’d show up to school late because taxi drivers refused to take me. Apparently if they did, they were running the risk of losing a ton of other clients. I remember how my mom would threaten to have her boyfriend keep me in line or she’d just get rid of me herself…but that she was afraid of going to jail. I remember when my baby cousin was frantically pulled from my arms by another cousin who thought that being gay meant that you were also a peadophile. These are people I grew up with and I thought knew me better than anyone. I had to learn that in Jamaica any kind of bonds, familial or otherwise, could immediately dissolve the moment the other person even suspected that you may be gay. I remember waking up everyday knowing that when I walked into work I’d be bullied until I made it back to my room. I worked at a hotel and because of my job, I also had to live there. You can understand why when I was offered a Job in Mexico, a way out of Jamaica, I didn’t even have to think twice about it. For all the obvious struggles I faced in Jamaica, they were only results of a society that thought being gay was literally the worst thing in the world. I thought moving to a gay friendly little town in Mexico would solve my problems. You see, being from a country with a black majority, direct racism was never something I could say I’d ever experienced. In Jamaica, I was a very average person (expect for the whole gay thing) but when I came to Mexico I was stepping into a city where black men were the ultimate fetish for many people – and as I would soon learn, most of the other gay men. 

I landed in Mexico and expected a bit of culture shock and whatnot. I was in a small city tucked away almost in the center of the country and given where I was coming from, I thought it was heaven. I could find cool gay bars and clubs on many streets and many gay couples out and about. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole new world for me. When women asked me out, I never felt weird saying that I wasn’t interested (back home turning down women is a near the same as having a gay flag over your head).  What made people interested in me was the fact that I was a black man – and this didn’t pass anyone.

I’ve had a very interesting experience as a black man living in Mexico. Being black was never something people focused on much in Jamaica.  However, being one of the few black men in this country, and being one of the VERY few black gay men in this city, I had to accept very fast that the color of my skin would pop up (quite casually) in near every conversation I had with a new person. Let me make it clear: I almost never receive ‘negative’ comments from anyone about being black. On the contrary, everything has been very ´positive’. The problem is it’s been a little too ‘positive’ like… creepy ‘positive’. 

Now, I hear ya! how’s that a bad thing?  I’ll explain why it’s so weird. Imagine taking a walk through the park then out of nowhere someone is asking you to stand with their six year old daughter for a pic. Of course you could deny it… but the kid really wants the pic, she is almost as excited as the dad, so you do it thinking, ‘well, it’s just one picture’…but then not long after that you’re posing for a picture with a random girl while her boyfriend snaps away, and again when a group of five women crowd around you, phone cameras ready. Imagine going to the supermarket and after taking a few pics with some random kids and their moms, there are other even more random people offering to pay for your groceries at the cashier. Imagine if every time you go out you almost never have to spend money on drinks…but you leave drunk. Imagine being offered better jobs for no reason. That being told, it would be cool to be your friend just so they could show you off to their other friends. Imagine photographers wanting to work with you just because of your color. Imagine universities not just being eager to accept you but also offering huge discounts in tuition.  Imagine your Uber driver buying you dinner before taking you home, etc. Well this was suddenly my life. While I understand that me working as a model in the city played a part in how people reacted to me (people take pics with me because they recognise the black guy from the commercials, or when I go to government offices I am told ‘Oh! I know you!’) it is always in conjunction with me being black, which they would always talk about while they tried to rub my skin or touch my hair.  

Now I won’t lie, some of those things are pretty nice. (University can be expensive).  I got very annoyed however when it started with other gay people. After around five months the questions and comments started repeating. It was scary how everyone asked the same questions, like exactly the same wording and everything as if they had been reading them from the same edition of some weird book: ‘Is it true that people like you have bigger…?’, ‘I’ve never met someone like you in person before. Could I just taste it? – just to see what it’s like’, ‘I love the tone of your skin, I always wished I was born black’, ‘I’ve always wanted to…’, ‘you’re like a fantasy to the men here, I bet you’ve been’, ‘this dark skinned guy is like a god’, ‘I thought your profile was fake, I need to have sex with you’, ‘I can’t with anyone else, no one here is like you and I might never get this chance again’….NEED I GO ON? 

Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few of the racist comments that fit the norm (of what I saw in movies). However I really only experienced it online and I’m pretty sure it was the same person each time: ¨You can’t refuse me, you’re black… all your people are good for is breeding and giving to pleasure to others …don’t pretend like you’re not in my country to rape our women…¨ or they tell me to name my price…if you know what I mean.

Overall, I’m definitely no expert in race or racist things, but I think it’s safe to say my experiences with racism and racial discrimination have been a little strange. In general, I love the city and I could stay here a while but it will take some getting some getting used to. And even after 2 years it still feels alien to me sometimes.”

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