For many gay people, discovering their true identity can either be an enthralling experience, or for others, it can be a wrong turn into a life you never imagined living. This week, the story of “Kevin” will highlight the devastation many gay people face when discovering their true identity.
The interviewee asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity and possible consequences the details of this story can have on their own life. We will therefore refer to him as ‘Kevin’.
Kevin grew up in New Amsterdam, Berbice and had big dreams of becoming a Flight Attendant. He told the Guyana Standard that he recognized his sexual preference from an early age.
He noted that his feminine tendencies at a young age caused quite a controversy in his family. He recounted that at 14, his parents decided to seek the intervention of religion to remedy what they believed was unnatural.
“My parents were not religious but they would usually listen to people and one day a neighbour told my mother to carry me to some church in town that converts homosexuals and I remember her getting up early and we travelled from Berbice to town.” He recollected.
He added that at the church, (name withheld) he remembered the sermon being about homosexuality and it being attributed to the possession of demons. “The way this man described this thing, I don’t even know how I felt. I wanted to run straight out the church because I felt like I didn’t belong there,” Kevin said.
He recounted what happened when his mother “dragged” him in for an altar call. “They wanted people to come forward if they wanted to accept Christ and my mom grabbed my hand and pulled me to the front. She whispered something to the Pastor and all I remember was these other men came and started laying hands on me,” he said.
“They believed whatever they were doing was working but I was scared because they started roughing me up. I never experienced anything like that in my life,” Kevin recalled. He noted that after the Church service, his mother made a decision that would change his life forever.
Moving to Georgetown
Kevin a few months later moved to Georgetown to live with his Uncle, wife and cousins. He noted that the decision was made based on the recommendation of the church he and his mother attended. “They told her that I needed to be around more men and suggested that I move to town and they would walk me through deliverance,” Kevin said.
According to Kevin, his Uncle was homophobic. He recounted that a couple of months after living with his relative, he faced abuse at the hands of his Uncle. “My Uncle was Rasta and one day he came home from work shouting at my Aunt, asking her why she agreed to let me live there. He kept telling her that his brethren were not too pleased that I was there,” Kevin said.
Kevin said that during his stay with his relatives, he faced what he described as “brutal abuse” at the hands of his Uncle. He recounted what happened one afternoon when his Uncle and his friends gathered in the yard.
“I walked passed and because I didn’t say good afternoon he was upset, then when I did say it, I kinda sounded soft. Before you know it, my Uncle and his three friends started cuffing, slapping and beating me up. One of my Uncle’s friends was telling him that he has to constantly beat the antiman out of me,” He recalled.
Kevin said the magnitude of the blows resulted in him running to a neighbour for refuge. But that neighbour, according to him, was not at home. He said that he was later apprehended by the men who dragged him to his Uncle’s house. “My Uncle started cuffing me in the stomach and tell me if I don’t change he sending me back to Berbice in a body bag because he would murder me. But that was just one night, probably every day after that I was subjected to all kinda hard labour. At one time my ankle got sprained and I started crying and this man cuffed me to my mouth and told me I was too soft.”
What led me to the streets…
Kevin said that when the abuse became unbearable, he decided to return home to New Amsterdam. He said that while his relatives were asleep one night, he decided to escape. He said that the aim was to see if he could get a ride back to New Amsterdam since he had no money.
“I was waiting on the park to see if I had seen one of the bus men my mom would usually travel with to head back home. But I didn’t see any of them. Then the place started to get bright and I saw these men dressed like women walk up to me and ask me why I looked lost. After I told them my story they took me to this house in Leopold Street and I had breakfast,” Kevin said.
He noted that the group seemed exciting at first, as they spoke about their nightly escapades on the streets of Georgetown. “These girls talked about how much money they used to make in one night and I admit I wanted to know more so one night I accompanied them. I borrowed a wig and a dress and put on the make up and headed out,” Kevin said.
He said that on the first night, there was not much interest from “men who passed in cars”. He said that men back then, only picked up who they were familiar with, as a security measure against those who committed robberies while in female attire.
He recounted the first night he got picked up. “Well the girls showed me the ropes so I knew what to do when they pulled up. I learned that Sundays were the best nights to go out because back then, most of them do stay in to sleep because Saturday is a busy night. I’ll admit, I enjoyed it because I was making money, I was buying things and through fair picking I got my own place with another one of my sisters and we had a good friendship,” He said.
But what started out as a lucrative venture, slowly turned into a nightmare. Kevin recounted that during the period of 2011 and 2015, a number of commercial sex workers were being murdered by “clients”. “I got scared, because indeed it got dangerous. Men used to call you to the car and then when the business was done they didn’t want pay. Some of them would pull out guns and threaten to kill you just to not pay you. It was a rough time that’s why me and my other sisters used to only go with men who we knew from doing business regularly with,” he said.
Does Kevin have regrets?
When asked whether he regrets the life he decided to live as a commercial sex worker, Kevin responded, “The only regret I have is that I didn’t further my education. When I came out to the streets I was about to write CXC but I ran from something that caused me a lot of trauma and even as an adult I don’t want to remember. People do look at us in the street at nights and judge us, but they don’t know some of our stories. If some of them really told you what they went through you’d cry. We are not out here because we want to, some of us were placed in situations where we had no choice, and we had to choose because there is no other option,” Kevin said.
He was also asked if he was given a second chance to live differently, what he would do with it.
“Just like me, some of these young people that come out at nights are lost and rejected. I would usually tell the younger ones to go try better themselves. It’s not as restricted as it was when I started doing it. You might wonder why I’m still out here but the truth is, I actually enjoy what I do. To this day people ain’t know that I pick fair at nights. Not even my mother. I talk to her from time to time but it’s been years since I’ve been out here but I guess it’s because I do wear makeup at nights,” he said.
Kevin concluded that commercial sex work should not be an option to young people who faced similar trials and tribulations. “See I didn’t have a supportive family. I had no one but my sisters. And I had to make the best of this life. But it shouldn’t be the same for anyone else. It’s not easy out here at all and there are so many opportunities now for young people. Take your education and make something of yourself. Don’t allow fear to lead you to a dark place,” Kevin said.