Marlon James, the author of the new-ish novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings” hid himself while living in his native Jamaica. “I was so convinced that my voice outed me as a fag,” he writes in The New York Times Magazine, “that I had stopped speaking to people I didn’t know.” He was 28, well into adulthood, and by then weary of camouflage.

Now in his 40s, James reflects on finding freedom in the United States after growing up as a gay man in Jamaica. The island nation’s turbulent ’70s are the subject of James’ third novel–and also the subject of a Human Rights Watch report about anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, “Not Safe At Home.”

In the Times magazine James writes: 

…[M]y best friend, Ingrid, visited from Jamaica. She looked at my walls, covered with photos and posters, books all the way to the ceiling, four shelves of vinyl, copies of GQ, Bookforum and Out magazines scattered everywhere, my “simile is like a metaphor” T-shirt, then at my face and said: “This is so you, dude. I’ve never seen you as you before.” I didn’t even realize when it happened, when I stopped playing roles. 

Read more of James’ personal essay, here.