Postcolonial Text / Author

Reading Queer Caribbean Identities: Faizal Deen's land without chocolate and the Gay Caribbean Canon

Kofi Campbell
Wilfred Laurier University

The label of "homosexual" or "sodomite" in the Caribbean today remains both a marker of absolute difference and a magnet for violence. It is partly for this reason that there is very little gay Caribbean literature being produced; such a literature can often only safely be produced from exile, and even then the exilic writer is forced to negotiate a history of cultural associations which inform even his own perceptions of his sexuality. Nevertheless, gay Caribbean writings have begun to appear with increasing frequency, from the character of Harry/Harriet in Michelle Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven (New York: Plume, 1987), to Lawrence Scott's Witchbroom (London: Heinemann, 1993) and Aelred's Sin (London: Allison & Busby, 1998), to H. Nigel Thomas' Spirits in the Dark (Toronto: Anansi, 1993) and Behind the Face of Winter (Toronto: TSAR, 2001), to Patricia Powell's A Small Gathering of Bones (London: Heinemann, 1994) and Me Dying Trial (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003).[1]

Among this body of work is the Guyanese-Canadian writer Faizal Deen's important coming-out memoir, land without chocolate (Toronto: Wolsak and Wynn, 2000). In this paper I will argue that in his memoir Deen seeks precisely to reconfigure his own cultural experiences of Caribbean homosexuality. He does this by attempting to establish a new form of homosexual identity capable of being deployed against the history of signification which the label "homosexual" has developed in the Caribbean. In order to do this he begins by attempting to alter his and the reader's understandings of the nature of his identity, a rhetorical move he accomplishes from within the symbolic space of the map topos. As we will see, identity in this memoir is figured in terms of maps, and as a corollary to re-creating his identity, Deen simultaneously seeks to re-create the map topos. At the same time, I will attempt to locate Deen's collection in relation to some other texts from the relatively sparse body of gay Caribbean literature, thus providing as well a brief introduction to some of that body of work.

The map topos is a prevalent one in postcolonial literature. This is not surprising, as the map is perhaps the ultimate pictorial and rhetorical representation of a colonialist way of viewing the world. As Graham Huggan puts it, cartographic discourse "uses the duplicating procedures of mimetic representation and structuralist reconstitution as strategic means of stabilizing the foundations of Western culture and of ‘fixing' the position (thereby maintaining the power) of the West in relation to cultures other than its own" (126). Thus maps, and the larger geographic discourse of which they are a part, locate the culture which produces them as the centre of their world view, and construct other cultures as peripheral, marginal. This is perhaps inevitable for, as Sylvia Tomasch has argued, all such geographical representations are guided by what she refers to as "geographical desire"; through the use of this term she argues that the function of geographies and maps is never simply to produce knowledge or describe physical terrain, "but to penetrate interior enigmas, to master, to possess" (Tomasch and Gilles 3). This desire for mastery is an unconscious element of colonial cartographic deployments of power. Tomasch is here echoing Homi Bhabha's assertion that colonial discourse operates both in terms of conscious technologies of power and of unconscious desires and fantasies.[2] As Jan Campbell explains it, "as with the Freudian dream, there is a manifest or overt colonial discourse of instrumental power and a more hidden, unconscious or latent phantasmatic desire" (194). Colonial cartographic representations, then, tend to be heavily invested with colonialist ideologies and desires, both conscious and unconscious. Predictably, the map topos in postcolonial literatures is often the subject of re-imagination, of re-writings which seek to loosen its colonialist implications and allow for a more open-ended and egalitarian worldview.

Huggan goes on to suggest that contemporary postcolonial re-imaginings of the map topos indicate:

a resistance to the notion of cartographic enclosure and to the imposed cultural limits that notion implies. Yet the range of geographic locations and diversity of functions served by the map metaphor...suggests a desire on the part of their respective writers not merely to deterritorialize, but also to reterritorialize, their increasingly multi-form cultures. (124)

The diversity of those multi-form cultures, and the speed with which they can become even more complex and thus continually demand more and more reterritorialization, can be seen in an observation Huggan makes later in the same paper. He writes that "these territories correspond to a series of new or revised rhetorical spaces occupied by feminism, regionalism and ethnicity, where each of these items is understood primarily as a set of counter-discursive strategies" (127). Leaving aside for the moment Huggan's dismissal of the cultural and personal realities described by terms like "feminism" and "ethnicity" in favour of their counter-discursive function, his list of these terms demonstrates the speed with which new counter-hegemonic voices can emerge, for few critics today would list feminism without also listing its theoretical and material cousin, queer studies. Queer studies of Caribbean literature are understandably sparse, for as I have noted gay Caribbean literature is likewise sparse. Yet what little exists shows us the capacity of postcolonial discourse to accommodate the multiplicity of voices which it has itself allowed to emerge. That postcolonial re-imaginings of the cartographic discourse are capable of allowing a greater multiplicity of voices - and thus a greater range of counter-discursive strategies and identities - than their colonialist counterpart, is demonstrated in land without chocolate.[3]

Indeed, Deen's memoir exemplifies Huggan's contention that postcolonial revisions of the map topos consist

in the implementation of a series of creative revisions which register the transition from a colonial framework within which the writer is compelled to recreate and reflect upon the restrictions of colonial space to a post-colonial one within which he or she acquires the freedom to engage in a series of ‘territorial disputes' which implicitly or explicitly acknowledge the relativity of modes of spatial (and, by extension, cultural) perception. (127-8)

The narrator of land without chocolate moves precisely from a colonial to a postcolonial register through a creative revision of the map topos, a revision which in this case focuses on the transformative and creative power of sexuality and sexual desire. This attempt to create a more open-ended and less restrictive perspective on the world is the focus of the first half of Deen's collection, and particularly of the two poems upon which this analysis will mostly focus, namely "Reason: a Guyanese Coming Out" and "Maps." The narrator, to whom I shall refer for convenience's sake as Deen, is attempting throughout the first half of the memoir to conceive of a new identity which is grounded in the notion of home, and specifically of a home visualized as a kind of nation. That the notion of home/nation to which he refers is grounded in a notion of sexuality is demonstrated in the first stanza of "Reason," where Deen writes of a reality in which "touch becomes a national gesture" (21). But this is an end point; to understand the process whereby sexuality becomes home/nation, we must begin with Deen's initial attempts to define his identity.

Both poems on which I will focus begin by showing us how others seek to define Deen, and indeed, how he initially seeks to define himself, in terms which mimic the static power relationship of the colonial cartographic deployment of power. Deen begins by describing his lack of identity from firmly within the map topos. The first line of "Maps" reads, "once there were no roads into me found on any map," and later the narrator reiterates that "there were no signs of me / anywhere there were no roads into me found / on any map" (29). Identity is figured here precisely as a location on a map, without which there are no signposts which have the power to name and thus define. This lack of signposts or naming is an important fact for Deen, for without them, as he explains in "Reason," the colonialist discourse still has the power to "write you / clean off these maps" (21). So the narrator here can be seen to be operating within a colonialist framework, as per the paradigm set up by Huggan; he still perceives of himself and his identity in static terms, recreating what Huggan calls "the restrictions of colonial space." It is perhaps inevitable that he sees himself in this way, for as both poems also demonstrate, the society in which he is raised has conditioned him to do so by interpellating him into hegemonic colonialist and heterosexist discourses.

Those around Deen teach him to see himself in terms of the old colonialist cartographic deployment of power; that deployment constructs the producers of the discourse as central, prior and superior, and those outside as marginal. This is precisely how his relatives and society construct him; each time they name him, they do so in ways which underscore his status as outsider. He is, in the first place, constructed by society as a "sodomite": "And so dem say sodom / a sodom so dem say" ("Reason" 22). That this is a peripheral position is emphasized by the threat which accompanies that naming: "that sodom in me so sweet no broom / can beat it out" (23), a statement which, of course, implies that someone has tried or wants to beat it out of him. The reality of this threat is emphasized in the poem immediately following, "That Part of the Story," where he writes "when you came to this part of the story you might / have fetched the broom thinking you could beat it out / into the trench" (26). Kevin Cryderman has correctly noted that Deen reacts to this naming as "sodomite" in two distinct ways; he reacts first with confidence and assertion - "But they cannot blame me best not blame me / for the cursing will begin again and dem / will catch fire" - and then with a fearful voice which emerges from within closed parentheses - "(But I cannot talk about dem in this way dem is your blood and blood is thicker) / (I am beaten every time I talk about them in this way these people who hold memories longer than you) / You have heard them say this: sodom" (23). Cryderman argues that the movement from "they" to "dem" in the confident section, then back to Standard English "them" in the fearful section

connotes a capitulation to the threat of physical violence and the figurative violence of those who hold the power over official history, those who "hold memories longer than you," and threaten to bracket off one from speaking out or coming out as a homosexual. There is trauma and violence in the very act of being inscribed with the word "sodom," a denial of the validity of the speaker's lived experience, as well as the colonial and heterocentric "ownership" of memories. (26)

In Cryderman's analysis the physical violence fades into the background as he focuses on the violence of rhetorical erasure, but physical violence is perhaps the single most persistent and ubiquitous factor in a Caribbean homosexual's life. All homosexuals there must encounter and deal with it in their own ways as a part of the process of establishing a gay identity. The ubiquity of the violence towards homosexuals in the Caribbean which guides Deen's fears is attested to by numerous other sources, both literary and anecdotal.

That much of the evidence is anecdotal, of course, speaks to the violent cultural erasure to which gays in the Caribbean are subjected. The largest and most effective anti-homophobia organization in Jamaica, J-FLAG, for example, has this notice on its website: "Due to the potential for violent retribution, we cannot publish the exact location of our office." The threat of violence and the consequences of speaking out are so ubiquitous and dramatic that "official," literary, and scholarly sources are often difficult to find, although not impossible. There are several "official" publications which also address the problem of violence against homosexuals in the Caribbean, but this is a fairly new phenomenon. Until recently, with the growth of anti-homophobia movements world-wide and the concomitant media interest in news relating to this also relatively new movement, the only news and information about the gay community in the Caribbean was available solely anecdotally or through popular cultural forms. Because the generation of writers we are examining would largely have been informed by such more popular forms of knowledge, it is mostly upon these that I shall focus.[4]

Makeda Silvera, for example, recounts a story told her by an old family friend concerning a neighbourhood man who was suspected of being gay: "every night when he was coming home, a group of guys use to lay wait for him and stone him so viciously that he had to run for his life. Dem time, he was safe only in the day" (511). Numerous official publications also underscore the immediacy of the threat of violence, such as the following excerpt from an article by Kelly Cogswell in The Gully:

In one case this summer, a group of gay men were assaulted by their neighbors. It was a family affair. Both parents and children attacked using stones, a knife and a machete. "They were calling us names and threatening us so we ran. They chased one of us down, Lenni [not his real name], who has now moved to another country. When we met up with him later in the night, we saw that he was chopped on his face, neck, hand and back. He was bleeding bad, but just bandaged it up himself. The next day, we all went back to our yard and the neighbors tried to attack us again. We called the police. When they arrived we told them how we had been attacked and chased, but the neighbors began telling the police that we were battymen and that we had to leave or they would kill us. (11/03)

One need only turn to much contemporary reggae music to find uncounted other, and far worse, examples of explicit threats towards homosexuals and those who associate with them.[5] Here, for example, are some of the lyrics to Buju Banton's (one of reggae's most popular stars) infamous song, "Boom Bye Bye" (the "boom" in the title is the sound of a gun being fired):

Two man hitch-up and a-rub-up
And a-lay down in a bed
Hug-up one another
And a-feel-up leg
Send for the 'matic [automatic gun]
And the Uzi instead
Shoot dem, no come if we shoot dem.

As has often been noted, the song literally incites murder against homosexuals, constructing their sexuality itself as sufficient and necessary reason to get a gun and kill them. The systemic nature of these attitudes and the violence they produce is encapsulated in the final line of the above quotation; it is directed to the police, exhorting them either to kill the homosexuals themselves, or at least not to show up if those killings are carried out by ordinary citizens. And of course, they often do not show up, or if they are present, often become complicit in the violence, a point noted later in the Cogswell article quoted above:

a group of victims sought refuge in a police station from an armed crowd only to report to J-FLAG, "When the police realized it was a ‘batty judgment' they began to call us battymen and told us ‘battyman fi dead' [Faggots should die] and shouted at us to leave the compound. We were terrified for our lives as the group of armed men were waiting for us across the street from the gate to the police station." (The Gully 11/03)

The level of violence advocated by reggae stars is quite extraordinary. Banton's song continues: "Guy come near we / Then his skin must peel / Burn him up bad like a old tire wheel." Even being associated with gays is sufficient reason to incur such violence; the group T.O.K warns:

Cause dem a park in a chi chi man [gay man] car
Blaze de fire mek we burn dem!
Cause dem a drink in a chi chi man bar,
Blaze de fire mek we burn dem! (Burn dem!)

That the attitudes which these songs represent are systemic and widespread is proven by the fact that, when these artists perform these songs throughout the Caribbean (and the West), they do so to packed stadiums and clubs. Jamaican men interviewed by Tracey Skelton suggest that the "batty-bwoys" (homosexuals) trying to get Banton's music banned "should be shot, ‘boom, boom!'" (265). Thus to be the object of their hatred, to be a "batty-boy" or a "chi chi man" or a "sodomite," is automatically to be marginal and to be deserving not simply of violence, but of death.

It is a violence which is often accepted as a necessary part of the lifestyle even by homosexuals themselves; Deen fully understands the violence to which he could potentially be subject, but his exploration of his sexuality takes precedence. This taking for granted of the violence inherent in being a homosexual, particularly an open one, in the Caribbean is demonstrated clearly too in Patricia Powell's A Small Gathering of Bones. At one point the protagonist Dale is lecturing his friend Ian about the dangers of picking up strangers in a park: "you don't know is who you following into the bushes. Suppose is a straight man who hate people like us. Suppose is a ploy to get you into the bush so him can cut your throat, bust your head. Suppose is a police-man" (81). But his friend Ian simply replies "Lord, my love...You have to take chances" (81). Ian, of course, pays the price for his carelessness. He is badly beaten one day, to which his former lover Nevin says, "whatever a man sow, him bound to reap it" (3). Like all of the other characters in the novel, including Ian, he accepts the threat of violence as the price of freely expressing his sexuality within this society.

The peripheral position immediately inherent in being named a "sodomite" also proceeds from the fact that in Caribbean culture in general, homosexuality is seen as something which is, by definition, non-Caribbean. Silvera tells of coming out to her grandmother, whose response is "‘this is a white people ting' or ‘a ting only people with mixed blood was involved in'" (510). Skelton reports a conversation with a Jamaican man who assures her that "Jamaica did not have such men and if they were there in Jamaica, real Jamaican men knew what to do with such ‘anti-men,' ‘kill them'" (265). Another man calls homosexuality the "white man's disease," suggesting to her that "Because all of the white men in those places, New York, London and so on, are homosexuals, you women have to come down to Jamaica to find some real men, to find some real sex" (266). The idea that homosexuality is by definition not Caribbean is a concept which originates with Frantz Fanon, who argues in chapter six of Black Skin, White Masks that because the Oedipal complex is culturally and psychologically foreign to the Antilles, there are no homosexuals in that part of the world (180). He does, as Sonia Otalvaro-Hormillosa notes, acknowledge "the presence of men who dress like women, [and] who date other men (but who cannot resist other women)," but is quick to point out that they are really masculine and straight and can "‘take a punch like any he-man' as a contrast to the more neurotic cases of homosexuality in France" (101), a rhetorical move which emphasizes starkly that homosexuals are, by definition, not Caribbean. Thus the name "sodomite" is, in the Caribbean context, a marker of absolute and ultimate exclusion; if you are homosexual you are not Caribbean. The word "sodomite" immediately and irrevocably marks Deen as peripheral, with all of the dangers which inhere to that status.

The peripheral position assigned Deen by these namings, though, is not always emphasized only by violence. In the poem "Vertigo" he writes, "But your mama laughed and called you her third daughter / Your mama laughs and says you are a daughter now" (45). Here his marginalization is underscored by laughter at him, and the mocking assignation to a different gender. That violence is an inescapable part of life for the Caribbean homosexual, though, is attested to by the fact that in the literature laughter often quickly turns to violence. Deen's mother's laughter is itself, of course, a kind of violence, an erasure of the legitimacy of his homosexuality which leaves him "lost in the dizzying eyes of / backwards-reaching songs" (45). The movement of laughter into violence seems to be a trope within the currently-sparse corpus of Caribbean homosexual literature. In H. Nigel Thomas' Spirits in the Dark, for example, the narrator Jerome recounts a story involving a homosexual man who works in his office. The man, Albert, is harassed one day for no apparent reason by another office worker, Brill Jones, who says to him, "I hear yo' does back up man shit." Albert responds with "Oh yeah, I guess you want me to open you up so yours can flow?" (199). The office workers laugh at both men, but when the laughter is directed at Brill because of Albert's comeback, he walks over to Albert and slaps him; laughter quickly becomes violence when the homosexual threatens to occupy a space within the office culture, rather than being the object of that laughter. Brill's violence immediately re-draws those boundaries, starkly marking the homosexual as outsider whose body is subject to violent discipline by the dominant group at any time, and particularly if he attempts to challenge the system which assigns him his position as outsider. Thomas too stresses the systemic nature of the problem. When the protagonist tells the truth about the incident to his superiors and Brill is consequently fired, he is ostracized, his co-workers exclaiming incredulously, "Imagine that, losing his job cause he slap a buller [homosexual]" (200). Laughter and violence, then, are two aspects of the same exclusionary process, and both are part of the process of construction which Deen, growing up as a homosexual in the Caribbean, has experienced. In both cases, his status is affirmed as other, as inferior, as outsider.

Consequently, he finds that he has no identity - no place or nation - he can call his own. He has been brought up and interpellated into a discourse which actively marginalizes him and which assigns him no real space of his own, and this is what he seeks through a revision of the cartographic discourse and its power relationships. He has been taught the power of names and of having a place, things he understands and represents within the map topos. Thus, although there are no roads into him found on any map, he initially begins to seek a way into himself through that medium. Having no identity of his own, he seeks first to appropriate one: "i once traced maps hidden / inside an atlas stolen from school" ("Maps" 29); still linking identity with maps, Deen assumes a stolen identity. The problem, of course, is that this stolen identity is still a static colonialist one, firmly grounded in the notions of maps and naming, and not his own. It is only when he begins to creatively re-imagine the map topos that his viewpoint expands to allow for the multiplicity of voices and perspectives which Huggan characterizes as specifically characteristic of postcolonial writings.

For Deen, that creative re-imagination is accomplished through the transformative power of sexuality. Cryderman argues that Deen's body, in the poem "Maps," "is a place he wants to keep from the ordering and ratiocinative gaze of colonial authority" (paragraph 40). Cryderman is correct to a point, but rather than conceiving of his body only as a necessary point of erasure or refusal of the colonial discourse, Deen also positively constructs that body as an active site of resistance. As these poems progress, the map topos is re-imagined not as maps of physical terrain, but as somatic maps of desire; in other words, maps come to represent not physical terrain, but the physical body, and the geographical desire described by Sylvia Tomasch is transformed into sexual desire. That Deen's conception of the world is about to become unabashedly rooted in the body is hinted at in lines 2-6 of "Maps":

i know because i once traced maps hidden
inside an atlas stolen from school
i told myself that the only way here was
through my intestines but I would keep
these hidden forever. (29)

If a physical map cannot lead him into himself, then, he comes to realize, he must find those routes on/in his own body, a notion he explores through that body's sexuality.

We first glimpse that sexuality in the poem "Reason" through an image so subtle that it becomes clear only in the last lines that the original image was sexual. Deen tells us "I will turn him into sugar" (24), an image he expands in the final lines of the poem to read, "i will catch / it in my mouth all of it and turn him into sugar" (25). This image of transformation (semen/salt into sugar) is symbolic of the larger movement of the text, as sexuality transforms his colonialist outlook into a postcolonial one. The beginning of the transformation in "Reason" occurs at the beginning of the penultimate stanza. Describing a past encounter, Deen writes:

Said he wanted to go inside and reason
tongue moving over lips cracked and thirsty
hands lost squeezing his thighs for affirmation
touch that bursts into the within passporting
through those borders. (24)

Here we see the first move towards a re-imagining of the map topos. As the sexuality develops in this stanza following closely on the first sexual image, his view of maps also begins to transform; they become entities which reflect a porous view of the world. As his identity becomes bound up in the body, he comes to understand that maps are not purely confining; borders can be crossed, thus transforming static representation into a flow between at least two different spaces. Touch and sexuality are the means of that transformation, for it is they that allow a "passporting through...borders," an awareness of boundaries as fluid and changeable. Because his sexuality is on the margins of the dominant hegemonic world view, a space which defies the notion of centrality and control, he begins to re-work the map topos with which he links his identity in a way which allows it both to represent those marginalized spaces, and to acknowledge possibilities of transgression.

That he has first had to pass through the process of naming himself according to colonialist cartographic power deployments, and using cartographic imagery, is perhaps unavoidable for, as Paul Carter has astutely asked, "how, without place names, without agreed points of reference, could directions be given, information exchanged, ‘here' and ‘there' defined?" (46). In other words, mapping and naming are important parts of any exploratory venture, for it is in those things that progress can first be seen and understood. According to this view, then, it is not so important that Deen originally subscribes to a colonialist way of seeing himself, but rather that he learns to eschew those old maps and name himself anew. In light of this we can re-read the opening lines of "Maps." Deen writes that there once were no maps found into him, not even his own. He does not, then, dismiss maps altogether, for he acknowledges that his own maps might serve a purpose. What he comes to understand in the poem "Maps," continuing from his revelation in "Reason," is that maps, of the right sort, can indeed be very useful.

As in "Reason," transformation in "Maps" is signaled by the entry of images of sexuality into the poem. After the final repetition of "once there no roads into me found on any map," the narrator explains that he is "ravenous for paper chewed and sucked on / into fine creamy balls that slide smoothly / down the throat" (29). Here we are given the same fellatio/sperm imagery that we saw in "Reason," and again that image is one of transformation. In "Reason" the imagery is of turning his lover's sperm into sugar. Here paper, a material necessity of the very maps he has been discussing, is transformed into a sexual image. That he focuses on paper is significant, for the transformation that occurs in this poem is a movement from maps drawn on paper to spoken maps. This is important because the body/sexuality in these poems is often allied with notions of creativity and art. The sexuality in "Reason" is ultimately explored:

so we can
carry me down to the book that might write me so we
can carry me down to this boy who might fuck me on this very
corner where my love waits for you patiently
...where i will catch
it in my mouth all of it and turn him into sugar. (25)

Here sexuality, literature, and transformation are all present in the same passage, linking the creative/transformative power of sexuality with the creative power of art; all are interconnected.

This interconnectedness is exemplified in "Maps," where the body / sexuality become associated with a more visceral and creative way of looking at the world, a way which resists naming. Immediately after paper maps are consumed in his sexual imagery, Deen offers us another sort of map:

i'll tell him about the devils
about the trench about the ocean about
my stomach i'll take him to the grave
and show him the bones parts hearts of those boys
who struggled to find some crooked road
into the darkness of my body. (29)

His maps are not colonial paper representations of eternal concrete phenomenon, but rather a poet's speech, an ever changing representation of a specific and historically grounded personal reality. Only he can show the trench, the ocean, his stomach. Paper maps cannot show others the crooked roads into him; those who rely on the old maps lose their way in him, leaving only skeletal remains behind, individual body parts as discrete and eternal as names on a map: bones, parts, hearts. Thus he re-writes completely the map topos, imagining maps as stories, as ever-changing phenomena which can and must mirror the multiplicity, the fluidity, of his identity. His focus on the body and sexuality have led him to a new way of conceiving reality, and to maps which have the potential to represent "the opacity and inexhaustibility of a world that resists systematic construction or transcendent meaning" (Dash 335).

The new type of map which Deen speaks in "Maps" allows the transformative power of sexuality, which led him to his revelation in the first place, to become associated with the poetic act itself; Deen and his poetry themselves become transformative. Those boys who tried to find a way into him through crooked roads on a map "learned the hard and strained way that i am not a location / but learned the hard and strained way the sting i crave / the jazz i love" (29). In "Reason" he is carried down simultaneously to "the book that might write me" and to "this boy who might fuck me" (25). Here the images of sexuality are coupled explicitly with the realization of himself as transformative, free-flowing, creative, not static, and certainly not a location on a map; the image of jazz is the ultimate representation of this way of being, with its completely improvisational nature. Likewise, his maps write him as much as he writes them, as his book writes him, thus allowing for an identity which engages in a fluid relationship with the reality it negotiates, and which transforms that reality as much as that reality transforms it.

This new identity is spoken, felt, expressed through creative media such as the act of love, as in "Mango Season":

wrong of me to lay down my claims to
write you into a somewhere near the ribs
of it all where my touch triggers those
twist and shout memories of desire
inside where we tasted each other for the
first time your body in limbo defiance against
a closure. (19)

Maps, history, identity, are written on the body itself, where there is no closure, only a fluid and visceral reality. With this realization, Deen's memoir undergoes a change. After the poem "Maps" Deen for the first time begins to look outwards, rather than being only inwardly focused. He begins in the second half of his memoir to talk about other people and other places; he has found a root of identity in himself that he can use to more effectively mediate and interact with the world around him. As Carter has described it, he can now move from "here" to "there." In this way his revisioning of the map topos into a new form performs at least one function which the old colonial maps did as well; maps, Carter writes, "embodied the traveler's directional and territorial ambitions: his desire to possess where he had been as a preliminary to going on" (48). Deen has come to an understanding of the restricting tendencies of colonial cartographic discourse, as a prelude to subverting and re-imagining that discourse.

Thus sexuality transforms Deen from a "map" or a "sodomite" into a "perfect fire," into "jazz" (29), which cannot be inscribed, fixed, but must be told and demonstrated time and again. Now, the body/sexuality allows him to speak his maps, to tell about the trench, the ocean, his stomach. His maps are maps of the body, of sexuality, of identity. In this way, maps do finally lead Deen to a nation; the body and sexuality become his nations. In "Reason," "touch becomes a national gesture" (21). In "Maps," his lovers learn "the hard and strained way / i scratch, shave and suck them into those swelling spaces the exile calls home" (30). In a reality without static maps, the body/sexuality becomes home for Deen. It is a point he makes most forcefully and emphatically in the final lines of the poem "Burials," immediately before his epilogue:

I found these funny metaphors of the soul
and they looked good mama in the rattle
of my burning frontiers and they looked good
in the national gestures of my revolutionary touch
and they looked good in the pleasures
of my backyard blues and they looked good
in these parts of us I touched for the first time
on him who taught me to truly love a nation. (63)

Here we can see an encapsulation of Deen's re-vision of the map topos into a means to identity and place through the power of sexuality: his emphasis on creativity and art ("metaphors of the soul," "the pleasures of my backyard blues"); the resulting disavowal of discrete borders and boundaries represented by names such as "sodomite" ("burning frontiers"); and his formulation of the body/sexuality as both nation/home and transformative, ("the national gestures of my revolutionary touch"). His maps are now somatic maps of sexual desire and transformation. In the final two lines, home/identity/the nation are located precisely within his sexuality, with all its potential for multiplicity, subversion, re-naming and transformation.



There is also an established and growing body of Caribbean lesbian work, including the groundbreaking anthology Tongues on Fire: Caribbean Lesbian Lives and Stories, edited by Rosamund Elwin (Toronto: Women's Press, 1998).


Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994).


On the tendency of colonialist discourse to mute "other" voices, see: Gyimah, Miriam. "Speaking Texts Unheard" Crossings: A Counter-Disciplinary Journal 1:2 (Fall 1997): 57-81; McClintock, Anne. "The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post-colonialism" Social Text 31/32 (1992): 84-98; Mohanty, Chandra. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses," in Mohanty et al., eds., Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991); Spivak, Gayatri. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Cary Nelson & Lawrence Grossberg, eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (London: Macmillan, 1988) 271-313; and Said, Edward. Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1978), especially the introduction.


Numerous sources and examples, beyond those discussed in this paper, can be found online on the website Global Gayz:


On this topic see Skelton, Tracey. "‘Boom Bye Bye': Jamaican Reggae and Gay Resistance," in David Bell and Gill Valentine, eds. Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities (London: Routledge, 1995) 264-83; and Chin, Timothy S. "‘Bullers' and ‘Battymen': Contesting Homophobia in Black Popular Culture and Contemporary Caribbean Literature." Callaloo: A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters 20:1 (Winter 1997): 127-41.

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