Marrs Attacks: Faggots of the Caribbean

Have you ever been so entrenched in gay society that you forget some people can actually reproduce by accident? Have you ever then been yanked out of that bubble and thrust into a world where everyone thinks your “Pitcher” t-shirt is legitimately sports-related? OK, well, this is how it feels.

For the past six months, I have been touring the Caribbean on a cruise ship, performing as an actor and improv comic. The gig has its ups, like parasailing around the Virgin Islands just to pass the time, and its downs, like being around 2,000 new people each week who’ve replaced north, south, east and west with breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Then there are some up/down combos, those nebulous truths of the territory that aren’t as easily labeled. One is being the only queerball in Straightsville.

At first, I thought it was Hell. The bulk of the crew come from countries that aren’t gay-friendly, and the bulk of the passengers are straight families. I quickly befriended the small handful of out performers in the ship’s production company, and we banded together like colors beneath a rain cloud, playing Find the Friends of Dorothy with a new herd of guests each week.

It was a far cry from the American urbanity I was used to, where a city with “only” four GLBT publications was too small for me. Still, our little group succeeded almost every voyage in forming a small clique from the stray same-sex couples and random Marys traveling with their moms. More than once we were even the “it” group of the cruise, turning heads and our own opinions that it’s lonely being gay.

In St. Thomas (a U.S. territory) I was bold enough to ask the bartender at a local joint where a gay bar was on the island. He gave me a serious look, then replied slyly, “Hang on. I’ll be back.”

I knew that was a “no.” After he left, a swarthy old man next to me looked up from his beer and asked what I needed. “Never mind,” I said, assuming he was trying to sell me drugs. But he insisted, so I proudly replied, “I asked the bartender if he could point me to a gay bar.” The noise this guy dismissed me with sounded like it should have come out of a horse. When the bartender returned, he pulled me closer and said, “The woman you want to talk to is down there with the white headband.”

The woman I wanted to talk to? That ended that. Campy as it sounded, I wasn’t up for chasing clues to some abandoned rum shack where, once a fortnight, Roger and his pal Toothless Todd hosted an GLBT summit and treasure hunt.

At that, I wrote off my time in the Caribbean as a straight sojourn I would later look back upon the way the Amish do Rumspringa. Then the ship changed itineraries and headed full-motor (since steam is outmoded) toward the one piece of booty any gay pirate would kill to lay his remaining eye upon: the Mount Gay Rum distillery in Barbados. Distill my beating heart!

Thanks to ancient volcanic activity and shifting tectonic plates, the island nation of Barbados is shaped like a giant penis. This penis is relatively erect and points north, but the bulk of the country rests in its generous ballsack. To the casual eye, Barbados is circumcised, too, as evidenced by the tiny fold of land at the tip of St. Lucy, its northernmost parish.

It’s hard to suppress a good, girlish giggle at this undeniable imagery—especially when the words MountGay are written over it—so don’t feel bad for laughing. One’s mind, however advanced, will briefly bounce back to grade nine each time it sees the logo of Mount Gay Rum.

I had seen this paraphernalia at bars and in people’s homes for years without knowing it was a real product. I thought it was like the Co-ed Naked label for those of us who prefer no “co-”. It just seemed too funny: mount and gay in the same phrase, as if it were an instruction, superimposed on a land mass that was pretty darn phallic. Imagine my delight to learn that not only was Mount Gay real—or at least a real company—but that it was hiding in a closeted country I would soon visit.

Quickly, the Dorothys and I donned our ruby-est slippers and skipped to our new Oz, where no part of the tour or any of the souvenirs suggested a tip of the hat to the authentic queer consumer. It was like they didn’t even get it! And that’s what made it so cool—the knowing wink each homo saw beneath every logo, even if its makers didn’t.

The knowing wink God put in the Caribbean, a part of the world not known for its gay-friendliness, when He put the distillery there three hundred years ago. His little way of hiding something awesome, of burying some treasure for gay pirates to discover centuries later and realize they’re not in the exile they think they are, and that it won’t be long before they’ve conquered the world.

This article reprinted with permission of Envy Man magazine.

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