The story was on Kitodiaries.com; the dragging of a Nigerian man (named Passion) into the public domain because he had violated a moral standing: he had stolen from his male lover. Left alone in his lover’s apartment, this thief, the narration goes, made away with valuables. So here is his picture, feel free to access everything about his identity on Facebook. So you, the reader, can be wary of this betrayer of trust and ‘never turn your back’ the way the victim, the owner of the stolen valuables, did. Most comments in response to the post captured feelings behooving the thief’s behavior. None captured the sentiment of the comments more bluntly than Khaleesi who wrote, ‘A gay man who decides to treat another man in such a manner deserves to be thrown to homophobic wolves with no mercy whatsoever shown!’ [emphasis mine].
Zeroing in on the situation we are forced, through the lens of the victim, into a soul numbing place. Justice will not be served here, we might think. Telling the story the way it happened to those who should hear it, those responsible for bringing balance to injustice, may have to be thrown out the window; they are insensitive in their apportioning of moral decency to people like us.
We can imagine the incident:
The victim unlocks his door, welcomed by the usual crack of twisting his key through its key hole. Unlike times when the door eases open edging a yawn from hinges stiffening with age, it resists. It gives a thud instead, a hesitation to come open. Our victim eyes his door, he then uses himself to force the door open. Something is wrong. He senses it. The silhouette of chairs as it appears in his unlit sitting room appears crooked, but it’s hard to tell. So he raises his left hand to a light switch, flicking it to let white light flood his sitting room. A numbness falls upon him, inviting him to soak in the wreckage that seats before him in greater, hard to believe, detail. It’s there but a psychic wall prevents the picture – chairs turned over, empty space where his television stood, clothes hanging down his chandelier – from passing into the portion of his mind responsible for making him believe things. An urge to cry coaxes him, but it is suppressed by a part of him which suggests crying is stupid. It rouses rage. As he pulls his phone from his pocket struggling to remove it from the tightness of his jeans, this rage is replaced by the despairing feel to cry. Who will he call? He steps into a sitting room that now rejects him, tells him with its forbidding arrangement that it isn’t his anymore. The urge to cry is heavy. It pulls him to the floor to sit. Then he remembers: Passion.
Energy that had deserted him returns, propelling him into a dash to his bedroom where he had last seen Passion. But there is no one there, the space where his fridge is supposed to stand invites him to a square clearing two tones richer in color than the rest of his floor. He shouts the name. Passion!! Passion! Something in his head tells him to be quiet. What if the neighbors hear?! The rage returns but this time it is accompanied by the sadness of despair that had heated his eyes with tears. With them together he crumbles to their influence. He begins to say things he normally wouldn’t say: Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. What have I done to deserve this? A vicious part of him responds: Jesus has nothing to do with this, when you were going up and down fucking men you did not know. A more familiar self returns: what have I done to deserve this? The responder: you should call Peter, he will know how to handle this. So our victim picks up his phone to call Peter, who warns him not to call anyone, he is leaving church now, headed to him straight away.
Our victim sees the dawn of a silver lining. A need to make things tidy fills him. A guest is coming. No. He won’t be the only one to have laid witness to the wickedness of man. Someone just like him who was supposed to know better. Someone within his brotherhood of men who sleep with men. Someone who was supposed to know. What this betrayer, this thief, was supposed to know stood vague. But the world was already wicked. This man whom he shared a deep commonality with wasn’t supposed to be part of that world. He was supposed to be his brother. He had seen the suffering in his eyes on the day they met, the kind that reminded him of the one he carried. Their unity in occupying the same social space, a place where being marginalized was expected, had in some ways fueled their desire to consummate their attraction because it offered route to a liberation they both perpetually craved. It was their duty to look after one another. Why this betrayal, then? Why? For the first time, as he stretched his hand to re-position another chair, it occurred to him to call Passion. He dialed the number. It bummed, a sign that Passion’s phone was ringing. But his phone sucked the calling display. No one had picked the call. He called again. This time the bum bum was halted, followed by a repeating sound and a display on his phone that read “User Busy”. His soul sank. He became overcome by a desire to kick something. The pain from his toe made him forget fleetingly. A knock came from the door accompanied by a voice, “It’s me Peter. Open the door.” It welcomed without his permission everything he hoped would stay forgotten.
This is by no means a re-creation of the actual event. It only serves to bring to light an arguable justification for breaking that gay code considered fundamental to living in a society (hostile to homosexuals). The one that states, ‘thou shall not out another gay man’.
To get a sense of our irritation at the betraying thief, we can call up the origin of sentiments that surround Biblical character Judas Iscariot. In the Gospel of John, we learn Jesus and his disciples are in a festive mood. They have rented a room and sit in wait for the evening meal to celebrate Passover Festival. The ambiance is buoyant and cool. Jesus gives his disciples a lesson on humility. He picks a towel from his waist, stoops to his knee and begins to wash the feet of his disciples. They protest at first but ultimately give in to the lesson of getting their feet washed by their master. In all their learning they remain unaware of the Devil, who seats in the heart of Judas Iscariot. The lord of evil pulls Judas. He seduces him to leave the room and head to the temple to negotiate the exchange of Jesus. Judas gives into the pull, negotiates the exchange in the temple with despicable Pharisees, and initiates the agonizing death of his master and friend, Jesus. It is agreed, among some present-day Christian circles, that Judas Iscariot committed the worst of atrocities in his voluntary betrayal of his friend. The ingredient that made his serving of betrayal most regrettably distasteful was this: with a kiss, he brought about the end of his close knit group. For what? Pieces of coins.
Hard as it might be to believe, Judas Iscariot turned his back on his friend for a commodity he considered valuable: thirty pieces of coins. In the case of Passion, the homosexual thief who turned his back on his own fellow homosexual, the valuables were more modern: phones, laptop, office shirts. Heading back to the comments on KitoDiaries, it is clear a few people perceived indecency in the treatment of the indecent thieving gay person. Himbo captured this position writing, ‘isn’t this outing? no matter what this individual did he is one of us.‘
What those of us who frown at the dragging of Passion, with his sexual orientation plastered on his forehead, into the public domain might fail to see is how the nature of Passion’s sexuality makes him a worse human creature in the way Mandy put in a comment writing, ‘Gay guys who are thieves and betrayers of fellow gay guys are just the lowest of scums’. Is this comment, and all others which reason in its line, suggesting gay people are human-scum, and those who sink below their already low level of morality into immoral conducts are less than human-scum? The answer may reside in what we make of Judas Iscariot or any betrayer of trust. A consensus may be served like this: Anyone who exposes a group to danger deserves to be exorcised from the group through whatever means necessary, because he acts in ways below standard in preserving the integrity of the group. But as with the case of the thieving gay man, Himbo might ask, what danger does he pose to the community of homosexuals that warrants he ‘be thrown to homophobic wolves with no mercy whatsoever’?
‘We should stop confusing sexuality for personality’ a comment ascribed to Delle posited, attempting to justify outing the thieving gay man, dismissive of a post that manages to convolute the two human qualities as pointed out by another comment offered by Colossus who wrote, ‘Isn’t that what we just did? Confused sexuality for personality? He is a thief, we somehow branded him a gay thief. Because he is gay and stole from another gay person?‘
We can gain from Delle’s insightful statement – we should stop confusing sexuality for personality – that a separation of the two qualities is important, and in the context of laying judgement of who should be thrown to homophobic wolves we be careful as to not let our decision be informed by sexuality. The he-did-this-upon–the-fact-that-he-is-gay rhetoric should be avoided. Sexuality is not a predicator of personality. If anything, as most of us like to argue to our non-homosexual friends we are interested in winning over, sexuality is one of the many combinations and qualities that make up a person’s personality. One might argue that it is Passion’s personality (not his sexuality) that informed the decision to throw him to wolves. After all the act of stealing found in any person is demonstrative of a despicable soul. Then, as gay persons, who understand the value of keeping private things private, why was the thieving gay man not expose as a thief (to homophobic wolves) rather than as a gay thief? Should not our default position be the protection of those who by default request protection through the safety they find in being in their closets? We can look to true betrayers, those who pose real dangers to the community of homosexuals, in homosexuals who snitch other homosexuals. Our distaste for these folks confluences in our perception of gay men who set up other gay men (by inviting them through a tool like Grindr) with a pack of homophobic wolves, for the sole purpose of extortion and humiliation. When does it become OK to follow the lead of these questionable personalities?
Few people may find it unbelievable that some gay men consider themselves broken. But this exchange between two gay men on Grindr where one uses “gay” as a verbal weapon can dispel this disbelief:
In some ways it can be argued that the gay thief is being punished for two crimes: 1. For being a thief. 2. For being gay. The punishment for being a thief is to be thrown to wolves (anyone who to resides in the public domain). And the punishment for being gay is to be thrown to homophobic wolves (anyone who resides in the public domain and happens to be homophobic). We can make peace with the fact that a majority of gay men consider homosexuality to be a moral and sexual failing. But we, as a community, have to insist that we unlearn this premise of being sexual flaws if we are to engage with those who reside outside the community of homosexuals. If we are to insist that they accord us the dignity of being full human beings we must do away with our tendency to punish one another for being gay.
The group of people who pose a threat to homosexuals are homophobes, the set of people hostile to homosexuals. It may be necessary to never activate behaviors that break the code: that thou shall not out another gay man. But when a person occupies an existential space characterized by homosexuality and homophobia preserving the code in favour of this person begins to garner senselessness. We would expose a (non-homosexual) homophobe, exposing a homosexual homophobe should be paramount. Not just because this person poses a real threat to himself and other homosexuals but because he lacks the decency to respect his own sexuality. We do this quite well in the unveiling of public figures – politicians; celebrities; athletes – who denounce and condemn homosexuality, a fundamental quality about themselves, in public settings and embrace it in moments when they think the world isn’t watching. Our irritation culminates at their hypocrisy. Their claim at nobility is glaringly ignoble because we can perceive their dishonesty. Passion, according to what we read from KitoDiaries, wasn’t particularly dishonest about his sexuality. There isn’t anything on there suggesting he was homophobic. Why then was he treated as if his thieving behavior was a kind of hostility towards homosexuality?
Because homosexuals are at greater risk of engaging with him.
This seems like a plausible justification, but only at first blush. Our line of reason may stem from, no straight man would invite Passion to spend the night exposing the thief to make way with lot unbelonging to him. But sexuality isn’t what dictates being a thief. We can deny knowledge of his sexuality protection but to bring condemnation his way because of it lacks consistency with how we uphold our values. Our place is to rise above ourselves and hurts and biases to rally around codes we consider sacred.
Do you have comments, questions, or suggestions? Please let me know in the reply area below.