Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Mark Wignall | Holness to welcome gays in his cabinet

Published:Thursday | April 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The short lifespan of a human being is woefully too brief to adequately witness species change on the evolutionary ladder but socially, it is much different.

In 2008, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, responding more to his base at home than to his conscience, declared on the BBC's Hardtalk that he would not allow gays in his Cabinet. In 2018, Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness, a more progressive man than Golding could ever be, has declared:

"Certainly it's not my business ... Whatever is in my interest to distribute politically, a person's sexuality, sexual orientation is not a criterion for the use of my discretion. It's not an issue that we are afraid to address. The truth is that in the past, like many developed countries, there was a very conservative view on the matter ..."

At the time that Golding made his declaration, some believed that he had been hijacked by a 'gotcha' question from which he could find no way to squirm himself out of answering. Luckily, the PM in 2008 was not asked the follow-up, killer question, "What sort of committee would you form, PM, to decide who is homosexual so that you can do a proper screening?"


Antagonistic views


In my teens and early 20s I harboured antagonistic views towards homosexuals. In time I recognised that the vast majority of those who were so did not have a choice in their orientation, especially in a country like Jamaica where violence towards them is always just two lanes away.

Heterosexuals who labelled it a lifestyle were off base as gays could not switch on and switch off what was naturally their sexual orientation. Most Jamaicans are very ignorant of sexuality being on a spectrum from very straight to very gay with many combinations in-between. It is my belief that if more of us understood this, through proper education, the nation would see a significant decrease in hostility towards gays.

Many years ago the late, iconic talk show host 'Motty' Perkins stated on one of his programmes that he had gay friends and he declared 'it is not catching'. I have acquain-tances who are gay and I know, as Motty did, that one cannot catch it like one would the flu.

Is Holness taking a political risk as he heads towards a general election in 2020? That would only be so if the People's National Party (PNP) used the term gay as a negative slur, and the PNP would not dare do it and would be utterly foolish to attempt it, knowing that the party has always welcomed gays it pretends that it does not have in its ranks.

Prime Minister Holness is correct in that one cannot simply set a date for something, like say, the striking down of the buggery law until the nation has evolved into that position. Education is key. We cannot declare that our sister island Trinidad has done it so it is now our time. We have to reach there through social evolution, leadership and, of course, quality education, factors that have eluded us for too long.

A person's sexuality is the business of no one else except one's bed partner. Foolish men who claim they are solidly straight and take a position that all other men in their orbit must be arrow-straight or they will be subjected to acts of violence, are not only stupidly barbaric but sometimes, someone else needs to question their shaky sexuality.

The prime minister has signalled his progressive bona fides but I expect that he is prepared for the slings and arrows headed in his direction. It is called leadership.