Gays are the blacks of yesteryear
In the ongoing debate over the buggery law, rekindled by Randy Berry's visit, one fact is consistently ignored: The overwhelming majority of gay people deny their orientation is a conscious choice. They became gay the same way everyone else became straight, through providence.
And behavioural scientists agree. While they have yet to identify the precise biological and environmental mechanisms that give rise to homosexuality, they know being gay is not the 'lifestyle choice' homophobes claim that it is. They know it is not caused by abusive parenting, nor childhood sexual abuse, and they know being gay is not a precursor to antisocial behaviour.
Obviously, these facts do not sit well with homophobes, especially when they see fomenting hate against this small, typically defenceless minority as the pathway to power and wealth.
At the same time, it is hard to imagine their conscience are not impacted, particularly when some of them claim to be Christians. If being gay is as durable, and as innate, as gay people claim, and science confirms, how are our anti-gay policies, like the buggery law, or the prohibition against gays serving in the Cabinet of a former prime minister, different from any other form of government-sanctioned racial discrimination? Apartheid? Jim Crow?
If homophobes were objective, these facts would be sufficient to end the discrimination, as they have in all leading Western democracies, including Ireland, which maintains a strong church influence. Instead, our homophobes have decided to double down, imitating their colleagues in other educationally challenged societies dominated by superstition.
One of their emergent strategies is to pretend the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of all Jamaicans. This is unlikely to be true, because the charter has a clause grandfathering colonial-era discrimination, the second-class citizenship accorded gay people. The buggery law, for example, requires celibacy for gay men; heterosexual men are left free to pursue their sexuality.
Incredulously, one commentator in The Gleaner, Dr Kay Bailey, saw nothing wrong with this unequal treatment. She writes, "No one can deny that all the genuine fundamental rights of LGBT persons are already guaranteed and enforceable under Jamaican law." Can she really mean heterosexual men have a 'genuine fundamental right' to be sexual, while this right is not so 'genuine' for gay men?
Another strategy is to pretend there is a conspiracy in the scientific community to advance the aims of a 'gay lobby', a fictional advocacy group. If homophobes were more familiar with the scientific process, they would know conspiracies of the sort they imagine are incompatible with the scientific process. Scientists, unlike clergymen, would be castigated if they were to robotically embrace doctrine. Instead, they are rewarded when they advance knowledge, especially by overturning an established viewpoint.
But perhaps the most despicable strategy is to pretend the buggery law protects the public from HIV/AIDS, when the evidence suggests it may not.
This claim is often justified by the following statement from an affidavit written by Professor Brendan Bain for a court case in Belize:
Some public health practitioners and agencies have hypothesised that decriminalising the practice of anal intercourse among consenting adults would lead to a reduction in the incidence rate of HIV infections among MSM. To date, published data have not substantiated that hypothesis.
Regrettably, the professor did not bother to explain why the published data failed to support the hypothesis held by "some public health practitioners and agencies". This freed local homophobes to conclude, overlooking the circumspection in Professor Bain's language, that science vindicated their argument that the buggery law was effective in controlling HIV.
What they consistently ignore is that reported HIV rates are low in all leading democracies where the buggery law is repealed. It remains embarrassingly higher in most countries like ours, where the law is retained. Perhaps, public health practitioners and agencies may be right, after all, about the negative consequences of the buggery law, the lack of literature support notwithstanding.
Yesterday, slavery was justified by the scientific fiction that black people had the smallest brains, so they were subhuman. Today, we have the scientific fiction that buggery laws control HIV, so it is appropriate to accord second-class citizenship to gay men.
Yesterday, slavery and Jim Crow were justified by the religious fiction that black people are the descendants of Ham, who was condemned, with his descendants, to serve his brothers. Today, we have the religious fiction that being gay is an abomination, so discrimination against LGBT is appropriate.
Yesterday, we saw questionable statistics used to 'prove' black people cannot learn, so society should stop wasting money trying to educate them. Today, we see the same questionable statistics used to 'prove' all gay men have disgusting lifestyles, so it is reasonable to deny them citizenship, education, housing and employment.
The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same?
- Patrick White, PhD, is a member of the Advisory Council at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences, and consultant on communications strategy for the CEO of Goodman Networks in Plano, Texas. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.