Loneliness does not come from having no
people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that
seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others
—Carl Jung; Memories Dreams and
In London last Sunday, in the humidity
of a heatwave, I decided to walk through the park to the National
Portrait Gallery. I walked slowly, stopping first for a takeaway coffee,
I noticed a man and woman sitting across from one another because they
were holding hands, not across the table, not under the table, but
slightly suspended over the table, making an arch. She was of Indian
origin. Dark, short hair. He was slightly overweight, with white, blonde
hair leaning into her as she was to him. They saw no one. They looked at
one another as if trying to memorise the other. I looked away. Even
though it was a public space, I felt I was intruding on a private
It is these moments, I thought, walking
down my secret steps to the park, that make all the frustrations of the
world bearable. Connecting with somebody so completely that you shut the
world out. As I walked through St James park, the courtyard white with
sun, the palace guard soldiers, stoic in red uniforms, unsmiling,
impervious to the antics of tourists who tried to break their veneer by
making monkey faces at them, I thought of dignity. Then I saw dignity;
the gay and lesbian couples.
We were walking in sunshine, looking at
the profusion of summer flowers, the daisies sloping by the lake, the
formal bluebells in the garden beds, heavy green branches dancing in the
sun, throwing its shade about here and swans gliding by the willow.
It was a day to be in the open with
someone you love. It was not a day to be holed up in a closet. I saw
them then. Same-sex couples holding hands. Unlike the couple in the
coffee shop, these couples looked up at the passersby to see their
reaction. You could see the hesitations. This was new to them. This
time, I didn’t look away but spoke to them, the women holding hands with
women, the men with men, with my eyes, with complicity.
“I’m so glad you’re free.”
I thought of the idea of a closet.
Airless, shut, dark, secret, menacing. I thought of the hate crimes
towards gay and lesbian people in Jamaica; that homosexuality remained
illegal in T&T; of the gratuitous cruelty towards the gay and lesbian
community with derogatory remarks the homophobic wouldn’t use towards
In London, the community was speaking
with their eyes. Once I began looking, I saw them everywhere that
Sunday. Gay and lesbian couples walking hand in hand, heads held high.
It was new to them to be demonstrative in public. They were exuberant,
sheepish, defiant, emotional, relieved.
It wasn’t the unselfconscious tableau I
witnessed in the coffee shop because the dominant emotion was relief.
The freedom was so fresh, so new. The US Supreme Court made marriage for
same-sex couples legal nationwide the Friday before, declaring that
refusing to grant marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples violates
The majority opinion in the five-four
decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. “No union is more
profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love,
fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,”
Kennedy wrote. “As some of the
petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that
may endure even past death.”
The Whitehouse was awash with rainbow
colours. In Trinidad, there is a taboo associated with writing about the
gay and lesbian community because homosexuality is still illegal here.
We are that backward. I sense the anguish, the loneliness, the
persistent sense of being outsiders in the gays and lesbians.
In our crude, largely illiterate society
where machismo has destroyed so many boys, sent them to prison, and
abandoned girls to early pregnancy, it’s time we stop being bullies,
look at our own infractions and allow equal rights to all our citizens.
Because I’m telling you, if the gay and
lesbian community is not being treated equally, well, neither are the
poor, nor are domestic workers, nor are the ill, nor are the elderly,
nor are the lonely, nor are people in remote rural areas, nor are the
illiterate, nor are the disabled.
Our brutality breeds brutality. Our
attitude towards the gay and lesbian community shows intolerance for
everyone who is discriminated against. The forgotten, the spurned, the
invisible amidst us need healing hands. They have been suffocated,
judged, ridiculed. That tells us everything about us. Can we look within
our hearts and unlock the prejudices within us that will ultimately make
us all free? I was thinking all this and when I arrived at the National
Portrait Gallery, I saw a flag above it; it had rainbow colours. Art is
the embodiment of freedom of expression.
I remembered Obama
saying, “When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.”
Once we help our lonely friends out of the closet we celebrate with them
because even as they emerge from darkness, they will allow each of us in
our own way to confront and free ourselves from the loneliness of the
skeletons in our own cupboards.