WANJURAH: Valentine’s Day pressures and the evolving sexual identity

WANJURAH: Valentine’s Day pressures and the evolving sexual identity

At the scene of the accident, Clifford Ray Jones’ body lay a few meters from his car, now resting on its side between two giant trees with the sunroof open.

Rescuers would later recall their initial puzzle at the cause of the accident. True, the light drizzle may have made the surface slippery, and at 3 am visibility was probably poor.

But the 56-year-old was a road veteran and his car was as good as new. Even stranger, the car appeared to have veered off at a fairly straight section of the road.

Besides, apart from a few dents here and there, the car was largely intact. In fact, the engine was still running and the car stereo was belting out what was described as dirty rap music.

Yet Clifford’s head had been smashed to a pulp from an apparent bang against a tree, his death instantaneous.

Two strange things helped to unravel the mystery around Clifford’s death. First, he died with his trousers down to his knees. Secondly, his phone that survived the crash was still playing a pornographic video clip when the first rescuer arrived at the scene.

Road cameras picked him driving earlier at high speed, one hand on the steering wheel, the other apparently busy below his belly. His eyes appeared riveted not on the road ahead but on the phone perched on the dashboard.

The night of Clifford’s death was biting cold. But for some strange reason, he was driving with the sunroof open. Distracted by his pleasures and with his seatbelt off, he was tossed out through the roof when the car veered off and hit an embankment at high speed.

The death of the Detroit man has sparked a curious debate in Britain. Investigations unearthed a rather lonely existence for Clifford. Porn addiction appears to have been his only company and solace. He seemed to get his weird high from doing his thing on the highway until his luck ran out.

Loneliness is endemic in Britain. It is the growing curse of rich economies, of people increasingly stripped of physical human interaction by technology and individualism.

Often after a string of divorces, many couples opt for a life of solitary existence with a faithful pet as the only company if only to hold on to whatever remains after property divisions. Others are just too busy making money to remember to love someone.

For the lonely, Valentine’s Day tends to be their veritable day of judgment.  It can be a trying moment that serves painful reminders of what is not normal – at least in society’s eyes – with their lives. It is that time of the year when the world is united in the collective hypocrisy of loving and caring.

But the increased commercialization and unctuous “Valentine’s deals” has made it hard for even diehard haters of love and associated emotions to ignore February 14. The sight of everyone going gaga about someone special in their lives tends to stoke bittersweet emotions and a craving for a human touch that the affections of even the most loyal dog or nagging cat cannot replace.

Britain, or rather a section of the British society, is aware of this problem. There is now a fast-growing industry for helping the lonely see through the occasion with hired company. Several firms organize short-term rental Valentine pair-ups, say for a day or even a few hours. The truly lonely then can have someone to buy that rose flower for or the company for that table-for-two romantic dinner!

It is debatable which, between purely commercial considerations and genuine desire to allay loneliness, is the bigger driving force behind the hire-a-lover firms.

But there are also many “free” activities on or around Valentine that one can get himself into. But as I’m finding out, it is not all about insurance from the emptiness and loneliness of the day.

“Belly dance, pole, consent, sex positivity, mental health, debate, women in leadership, Islamophobia or something else entirely…”

Officially, that is what the agenda will be according to the email I received inviting me to the Galentine’s Day. Now with my cat-like curiosity that is not the kind of a gathering I would miss. I had never heard of such an event that happens to be a big affair here and that is marked a day to its better-known sibling, Valentine.

I am genuinely eager for some of the promised lessons. Granted, some might be of little practical use in real life. Others might simply be difficult to practice in a different culture and in circumstances that require two to tango.

But I belong to the school of thought that believes any knowledge, even if it is in such skills as painting houseflies, is useful.  With the bonus promise of a hefty, made-to-order, free breakfast to be served on the occasion, I was easily won over.

How I ended up I with an invitation that explicitly claims to target ladies and “non-binary people” baffles me. The latter is a polite way of referring to the transgender, a boisterous and rapidly expanding category in Britain.

These will understandably feel left out by the traditional male-female categorization especially in a month that is officially dedicated to the LGBT community.

Perhaps I will the find the answer to my puzzle in the event. But with the existence of incontrovertible evidence that I belong to neither of these categories, it might be more profitable preoccupying myself with seeking the services of a good lawyer for the apparent slight instead of getting excited with the gathering.

The “neutral” gender tag is also gaining popularity with rabid feminists who consider it unacceptably patriarchal to pigeonhole anyone into a male or female category. They claim this is the genesis of gender profiling; that credible research proves that such forms are almost always designed by men with an obvious or subtle intention of discriminating against women.

The argument is winning followers. Now many forms harvesting personal details have a section that provides the option of not being either male or female. That could be as simple as listing yourself under “Others” or boldly stating MS for mixed sex!

The sensitivity extends to personal details such as race, height, weight, religion etc. To avoid expensive litigation for occasioning individuals duress with reminders of their skin colour or how fat, short or irreligious they are, personal details forms increasingly have a standard entry offering the option of not telling if you don’t want to.

Avoiding offending can get to some absurd levels. Even simple questions such as marital status have an inbuilt potential to offend. The underlying argument is that asking someone, for instance, their marital status could result in an emotional distress for an unmarried person who has been “unlucky” enough not to get married. Or even to someone in a bad marriage. It might feel like it is a mockery of sorts. So, again, such sections must include an opt-out proviso for sensitive respondents.

Small wonder the Galentine invitation was careful in its wording urging participants to turn up alone. It asked us to preferably avoid tagging along “partners of any or no gender” to the event.

Personally, I did not need the advise. But it nevertheless got me thinking how useful the diction could be back Kenya. To appreciate this, imagine the nature of the conversation that would follow if a confessed member of the LGBT community turned up at the reporting desk of the Central Police station in Nairobi.  Suffice it to say there will likely be more laughter and ridicule than help from duty officers!



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