“Usually what people don’t understand they try to destroy.”
— Damien Eckols, one of the West Memphis Three, at age 18
High-fives all around. Thanks to our dogged persistence, homophobia is now a part of our global brand, a little smear of hate across smiling images of Tessanne, Shelly-Ann, Laurie-Ann and the gang. While America and Europe move with haste towards equality, we’ve cemented Jamaica on the list of places with terrible human rights records — countries like Egypt, Uganda and Ghana. According to a recent study by Pew Research, this split is no accident — richer, developed nations are generally more tolerant of gays. In addition to poverty and geography, they found one other attribute to be a ‘strong’ predictor of prejudice — religion.
Religions are natural hosts for the virus of discrimination, since by definition they divide people into two camps — believer and non-believer, disciple and heathen, the chosen and the damned. Inevitably, whoever has the power gets to decide who’s good and who’s evil. In Jamaica, that’s the fundamentalist Christian churches, subsidized and guided by their American counterparts. These hard-line denominations — our Adventist, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of God, Church of God of Prophecy, New Testament Church of God, Pentecostal and United branches — focus on baptism, an individual relationship with God, the infallibility of the Bible… and the sin of homosexuality.
Seen in that context, the deleterious climate for gay rights is hardly surprising. More unexpected is that the perpetrators of prejudice have developed a fetish for cross-dressing as its victims. Mark Wignall, Alfred Sangster and many others continue to conjure the boogeyman of ‘the gay agenda’ — an imaginary conspiracy of powerful homosexuals lurking in the shadows, bent on unraveling the moral fabric of our wholesome family-based society with their deviant practices.
Heterosexuals control every sphere of influence in Jamaica
Let’s start with the obvious. Heterosexuals control every sphere of influence in Jamaica. The Prime Minister is a heterosexual. The Leader of the Opposition is a heterosexual. The Minister of National Security is a heterosexual par excellence. So, too, the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Finance, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the recent Commissioner of Police, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, the Vice-Chancellor of the UWI, the General Manager of TVJ, the CEO of Digicel, the CEO of GraceKennedy, the CEO of Sagicor, the Managing Director of Wisynco, and whoever else runs our little republic. Okay? The portals of power are in penovaginal hands. The revolution is not happening tomorrow.
Kingston is a city of roughly a million souls, with a large natural bay, a 19th-century newspaper and vibrant art. What if we could snap our fingers and turn it into the devil’s playground, with homosexuals free to do as they please? What would our beloved capital city look like?
Probably a lot like San Francisco — a city of roughly a million souls, with a large natural bay, a 19th-century newspaper, vibrant art and the highest gay population, by percentage, of any American city (an admirable 15%). Sadly for evangelicals, though, San Francisco also has the fastest-growing economy in the US, is a global center of innovation, finance and technology, and would be as rich as Sweden if it were listed as a country. To top it off, it recovered from the global recession faster than anywhere else. If that’s hell on earth, I’d like to fit my horns and pitchfork now, please.
‘The gay agenda’ is a boogeyman that makes the perpetrators of prejudice look like its victims
But maybe you think no amount of material wealth can offset the immorality of homosexuality. Fine, let’s trade a large-scale experiment for a small-scale one. What if we took a regular God-fearing Jamaican, some Mr Williams or Mr Brown, and gave him a gay child? Would the reality of knowing and loving the person cause a more balanced outlook? Let’s raise the stakes and make it a clergyman. Better yet, from the most pious town in Jamaica. How about then? No need for sorcery. Here’s Pastor Browne from Mandeville earlier this week:
“My daughter’s sexuality has not changed anything about her; she is still just as ambitious and intelligent and still has the same dreams and hopes as any other young woman. Gay Jamaicans do not want anything but the right to live, work and spend time with their loved ones.”
To call an insistence on dignity and respect ‘the gay agenda’ is to call the body’s need to respire and pump blood ‘the anatomical agenda’. Every human being deserves the same freedoms that fundamentalists are now abusing. How warped has the Jamaican church become? Under current criteria, Jesus himself wouldn’t qualify for salvation — he was infamously gentle, kissed his countrymen and supposedly never had a girlfriend.