Orville Taylor: Increase in gay hatred? Get the fact out!
I don't like beef, chicken, goat and pork. Cheese and milk make my stomach sick. Eating hot dogs is nasty, and I would never put even a Vienna sausage in my mouth. And yes, seafood is a big source of protein for me, but swallowing slimy oysters is gross and no one can make me suck the conch from its shell.
So, what does that make me? And I make black jokes, and fun of Jamaicans, Chinese, Africans, Indians, women, men and almost anybody or anything on creation. Indeed, I even offered my blind friend Floyd Morris my car keys. And, of course, I make gay jokes, too.
True, it is a thin line between humour and humiliation, but I'm an equal-opportunity satirist. By the way, I tell the Ras to remove the cloth from his head and stop smoking that nasty-smelling bush weed. So what if smoking the 'ishen' is an integral part of the 'livity' (lifestyle) of Rastafarians? It is hazardous activity and carries a small but significant risk of mental illness and lung disease.
So tell me. Do I hate eaters of meat or the animals themselves? And am I Rastaphobic simply because I disapprove of a something that the Natty Man does?
Last week, one of my colleague reporters cited a study carried out by the reputed Don Anderson-led Market Research Services Ltd and published a story with the headline that began, 'Study says Jamaicans hate gays ... .' However, they can be converted. The major finding reported that since the last study done in 2011, there was a 50 per cent increase in 'hate or rejection' of gays in Jamaican and, therefore, that community should expect higher levels of intolerance in the near future.
This story was very disturbing because, growing up in Catholic schools and with a father who acted as a consultant to God, I was taught that one should never hate any other human. 'Hate', a verb, is 'to feel extreme enmity towards or to have a strong aversion to.' Christians take comfort in saying that they hate the sin but not the sinner.
Being repugned or repulsed by people of the same sex 'doing the nasty' cannot mean that one hates them. It is simply disingenuous to conflate dislike for homosexual activity with hatred of gays.
As a member of the Gleaner fraternity, I got a small glimpse of the survey and saw nothing to convince me that we 'hate' gays any more than we did. Some of the findings are not surprising. Around 90 per cent of Jamaicans believe that anal sex between a man and woman is wrong. Similar numbers report the view that homosexuality is a sin. It, therefore, is not unexpected that 75 per cent of us believe that homosexuality should be outlawed. However, it is significant that the same three-quarters of Jamrockers believe that two women to one man sexually is also wrong. So what do we call this nominal disapproval of multiple partners? 'Promiscuophobia?'
Let's be honest: Hatred and dislike are not the same. Hatred must be accompanied by a feeling that something material should be done to the persons. In law, that is called malice, even if without the 'cut eye'.
In fact, there might be more evidence that we are a much more tolerant society towards gays than is being portrayed. More than 60 per cent of Jamaicans do not make any effort to avoid gays; almost 60 per cent say they would not respond violently to being approached; 82 per cent do not tease or make fun of gays; around 80 per cent do not speak bad things about them; 93 per cent have never threatened to damage property of gays; and 86 per cent say they would never stop talking to our friends if they found out that they were gay.
By the way, Jamaican employers are even more tolerant, and 64 per cent of them indicate that they have in place anti-discrimination policies at the workplace. Indeed, how often do you hear that people are dismissed based on sexual orientation? For good measure, in more than 30 American states, one can legally fire workers for being gay. Surprised?
So, tell me where is the hatred? In social research, we recognise that flawed concepts and definitions give incorrect and spurious results. The survey includes the faulty Riddle Homophobia Scale, which equates rejection of homosexual relationships with hatred of them. This is academically and scientifically dishonest.
Regarding the buggery law, less than 40 per cent feel that it either should just remain, or they were unsure or had no opinion. It would have made much more sense if we knew what actual percentage opposed its repeal.
Seven years ago, when I completed a study and made recommendations to the Government regarding protection of Jamaican workers from discrimination based on HIV status, my position was that the emphasis should be on action and not attitude. Trying to 'normalise' anal sex, which is the most efficient means of transmitting HIV (which infects 33 per cent of gay men), is a waste of good resources. True, it got my colleague Brendan Bain fired, but fact is fact. More important is to prevent discriminatory acts.
Nevertheless, the buggery law is stupid and an ass. Two men can legally do all manner of sexual repugnance, including fellatio, as long as there is no penetration. However, if a freaky pastor decides to procure entry via the alternative route, he is guilty of a crime, although it is not a sin. And lesbians are scot-free under the sheets and the law.
By the way, another major finding is that most Jamaicans believe that gay people can be changed. In another article, I will address the 'born gay' argument, but let me ask my gay friends: When you proposition someone who has been straight all his/her life, aren't you also accepting that sexuality is changeable?
- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.