Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Get off anti-gay bandwagon

Published:Sunday | November 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jamaican churchgoers protest against calls to repeal the buggery law while attending an anti-gay rally in Kingston on June 23, 2013. -AP

Patrick White, GUEST COLUMNIST

The Gleaner reported on October 6, 2014 that a whopping 91 per cent of Jamaicans support preserving the buggery law. We are, after all, one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

That said, we do know that in spite of the zeal reflected in the poll, a similar majority would have gladly walked away from the buggery law for the mere promise of a better economic opportunity. For example, had the pollster asked whether we would prefer living in the European Union (EU) or North America, where buggery is legal, to living in sub-Saharan Africa, where buggery can be a serious crime, nearly everyone would pick Europe or North America. Homophobia obviously has practical limits.

And this preference would hold, in spite of hatemongers using the Sodom and Gomorrah myth from the Bible to prophesy divine vengeance against countries normalising the treatment of gay people. What must be maddening to these haters is the large number of people implicitly rejecting this silliness.

People seem to realise that predicting an unspecified evil during an indefinite period is about as meaningless as predicting the sun will rise in the morning. This is why an increasing number of people view these prophecies as examples of irrationality, especially when they are tied to human conduct.

HOMOPHOBIC UTOPIA

The goal of the hater community seems to be to transform this island into their version of a homophobic utopia, a place where buggery not only remains illegal, it is strictly enforced and severely punished.

The intellectual basis, to the extent one can be thought to exist, is the loony idea, rejected decades ago by science that being gay is a lifestyle choice that can be cured with intervention. The medical community has given up. The haters, on the other hand, have not. They seem to feel legal coercion can be an effective 'treatment', substituting their ignorance for the unanimous conclusion of all major medical organisations that being gay is "not an illness or disorder, but a form of sexual expression".

If the hatemongers spent any time reviewing the economic performance and the quality of life in countries that come closest to their homophobic utopia, they would see that as a group, destitution is the norm, except in the few cases where there are valuable commodities. They would also see in these countries, levels of ignorance and repression remarkably similar to the early Iron Age cultures these countries use for "divine" inspiration. These are places few of us would voluntarily visit, much less live.

In Jamaica, our policymakers have decided to straddle the fence between a light version of homophobic utopia and the progressiveness of the EU and North America. They retain the buggery law, perhaps to appease powerful hatemongers, while closing their eyes to the damage, especially the second-class status it explicitly conveys on gay people.

And they minimise enforcement to avoid the descent of the island into the police state that would be required. Our policymakers know Jamaicans would never tolerate any move to further empower the police to use informants and undercover officers to track associations, movements, and to electronically monitor bedrooms to verify the religious acceptability of any sexual activity.

Obviously, this straddle cannot go on indefinitely, because there is no identifiable upside. Our actions towards gays will neither encourage nor deter disasters. Everywhere on Earth will experience disaster if the wait is long enough.

And contrary to the implications of the Bain affidavit, the buggery law is unlikely to reduce HIV infection rates because we will not compromise clear privacy rights for dubious religious goals.

SELECTIVE HUMAN RIGHTS

At the same time, we know the straddle hurts the majority. The homosexual community is the most obvious. Their right to equal protection under the laws, that most basic of human rights, is denied to them.

As for the rest of us, we need to get past the lie that we are not affected. When hundreds of otherwise productive youths are sidelined, left uneducated, and treated as outcasts for merely being gay, the society (you and me) must foot the bill for the lost productivity, plus provide their support.

Similarly, when investments and tourism are reduced because of our stance on gays, we must pay for the resulting joblessness and the currency devaluation.

The sole winner is the hater community - at least in the short term. Regrettably, blatant homophobia does attract the gullible and the superstitious, increasing revenues. But over the longer term, if haters continue to live here, they, too, will face the same economic loss as the rest of us. Ultimately, everyone loses. Why are we continuing this foolishness?

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 columns@gleanerjm.com and pew_com@me.com.