We spent Tuesday in my class (AAAS 171a: Reggae Representation, Race and Nation) discussing sexuality and homophobia in Jamaica, and I wish that I had stumbled onto this in time to bring it into the conversation. One of the things we talked about was the potential for YouTube-mediated, diasporic expressions of masculinity to (re)animate discussions among Jamaicans about sexuality and community.
In contrast to the ways that Brooklyn-Jamaican hipster kids (sorry to invoke the h-word again — it likely obscures more than it reveals) are challenging more “trad” notions of macho respectability, the YouTube performances by self-proclaimed “gay boys” (or even “bati boys”) like sexysupacat are perhaps inherently more confrontational as putative outsiders attempt to negotiate their love of dancehall (or other genres) against the sometimes extreme anti-gay sentiments located therein.
“Gay Asian Boy Dances Dancehall” is a fascinating text/intervention, obviously enabled by the power of YouTube to project and affirm one’s self & identititity without much danger of face-to-face encounter. Suffice to say, the video has generated a lot of heat in the comments, though, remarkably, there appears to be a preponderance of positive, encouraging words —
Though his words may seem a bit hyperbolic in places (“causing AIDS”?), his concerns are not by any means misplaced. Whether this sort of thing serves to change some Jamaicans’ minds about the issue is an entirely ‘nother question of course.
Beyond that, though, what also seems significant here is the way that YouTube’s mirror/stage is facilitating not just inter-group conversations (say, between gays and homophobes) but, importantly, intra-group exchanges as well. The videos from sexysupacat leads to tons of “gay boy dancing” vids, and I can only imagine that certain “gay boys” in isolated parts of the country/world find solace, comfort, and other things in the unprecedented ability to watch and share with other gay boys.
10 years ago, maybe even 5, that would have been a lot more difficult. I’m not sure we can underestimate the importance of these new public/private spheres. One of these
days years, the Prop 8s of the world will surely fall (black people aren’t the problem — old people are), and then we can all share videos where we dance in jubilation — to dancehall or not.