A couple of months ago, I made a decision to limit my social media engagement. I wanted to focus on working on some personal projects, but I had also grown tired of engaging in frivolous activities. I was tired of the gossip, tired of the narcissists and grown folks behaving like children. I was also tired of the tragedies that flooded my newsfeed–murders, accidents, suicides, robberies, and sexual violence in all forms; it was difficult having such darkness penetrating my psyche constantly.
There was a period when one of the first things I did in the morning was check social media. Often, the first news I would become aware of was some kind of tragedy. After introspection, I concluded that for the sake of my wellbeing I had to stop doing that. Despite even the positives of social media, I needed a break.
This week, I decided that I would start posting again and on the same day as I scrolled through my newsfeed, I saw various posts about a video featuring two young men in a Giftland Mall washroom. It was not long before the video popped up in my own newsfeed and I thought, “Here we go again.”
At that moment, I was ready to take another hiatus. The judges, the jury and the executioners were in all out in full force as they condemned the young men and summoned fire and brimstone. The assumption was that they were engaged in some form of sexual activity behind the doors of the washroom, of which many did not approve. There were many who just thought it was amusing, while members and allies of the LGBT community were condemning the video and calling for its removal. I observed that the video was shared over a thousand times.
I understand if the owners of the establishment do not want folks engaging in sexual activities on their premises, regardless of sexual orientation. However, as an ordinary citizen, whatever those young men were doing or not doing, it is not my place to judge. Consenting adults have the right to express themselves however they choose to with each other while John Q. Public does not have the right to try to choreograph other people’s sex lives.
Some argue that the young man who was in the Teacher’s Training College uniform could have exercised better judgment. Yes, maybe he could have, but his image should not have ended up on social media.
Unfortunately, many Guyanese are hypocrites. We claim to be a very religious people. Many talk constantly about the love of the God or Gods they serve; they talk about loving their neighbours as they love themselves, they quote scriptures like “who is without sin cast the first stone,” but yet many of these same people call for the blood of others when they do not agree with their lifestyles.
Homophobia is embedded in our culture. As children, many are taught by the example of adults that it is okay to taunt and abuse LGBT people. We are taught that it is okay to condemn them because the idea is that there is something wrong about their existence. Many of us mature and pass the ideas along and we never stop to question why we feel the way we do towards our fellow human beings. Many point to religious texts with the many interpretations—Leviticus, Sodom and Gomorrah, we know the narrative—but isn’t God supposed to be about love?
As adults, we must ask ourselves why we believe we have the right to dictate what other grown folks do with their lives when it does not affect us directly and why we are so zealous in our condemnation of others. In the case of the two young men, why did the person behind the camera find it necessary to film them? They were caught coming out of the washroom one after the other, why could it not end there? Why was it necessary to not only film them, but then share it on social media?
The sole purpose of the video was to cause embarrassment and that is wrong, no matter which side of the fence you’re on. Yes, we are entitled to our opinions and to feel however we may feel, but deliberately setting out to hurt innocent people can never be right.
If you do not have to walk in their shoes, you cannot fully understand their struggles. I can show compassion for folks within the LGBT community but when all is said and done, I will never be able to fully fathom how it feels to be attacked and scorned and bullied and even killed in some cases for simply being who you are.
Sadly, the video probably won’t be the last. We have seen many like it before and many others of people engaged in all sorts of activities. Millions of people sit on their computers or phones or tablets and are entertained or pass judgment. Social media brings out both the best and worst in people.
Fortunately, there are many videos on social media that are just there to bring a smile to people’s faces. That is necessary to combat the unkindness we often see.
The world is changing every day. In some ways, the change is for the better and in some ways for the worse. We have to spend time educating ourselves and making the effort to understand each other. We need more love and compassion and many of us need to evaluate the way we conduct ourselves on social media. It is easy to post a mean comment or a video embarrassing another human being but we must always remember the world is a cycle. What will we do when it is a family member or a friend? And what will we do when we are the victim?