Orville Taylor | We are still not the most homophobic
Last week, I wrote a column with irrefutable facts regarding the lie that Jamaica is the 'most' homophobic country in the world. True to form, two individuals attacked me in a fashion reminiscent of primary-school girls. However, this does not change the data.
Well, given that God only blessed me with one tongue, I will not abuse it by engaging in a 'tracing' match. Nonetheless, as disappointed as I am with their lack of understanding or patent disingenuity, I am not surprised because I did predict the tribalist response.
My article made a number of incontrovertible statements, and to aid in the comprehension, I will elaborate and hope that this simple exercise will get the point across.
First, I never said that there was no homophobia here. Doubtless, there is, but the simple fact is that we are not the most anti-gay society. Second, there are around 70 other countries where anal sex is illegal. Third, in 13 nations (clearly more gay-hostile than Jamaica,) anal sex is punishable by death.
WE ARE NOT THAT BAD
Fourth, in many countries, including the 13, any attempt to have an organisation like our J-FLAG would result in prosecution by state agents. Fifth, the fact that we allow gay advocacy, including a police-escorted gay march, is an indication that we are not as bad as we are typified.
Sixth, there is no evidence that the anti-anal sex law legitimises or promotes violence against gays. Seventh, if that were so, why is the homicide rate of LGBT people in the USA three times that of Jamaica's? Eighth, in the majority of American jurisdictions, one can be justifiably fired for being gay.
All these facts are known to my gay (former) students, openly gay colleagues, and mentees.
Nevertheless, the first respondent, a virtually unknown legal expert who is absent from the General Legal Council's list of attorneys eligible to practise, accuses me of being "quick to be critical of the local LGBT community and its activists". Then, the same individual, who months ago missed the subtlety of my mens rea reference, speaks of nuances and the fact that the case cited before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) was a decade ago and that I "didn't bother to research how the Jamaican LGBT community has evolved in our positions on Jamaica and the Jamaican police".
Furthermore, in his view, if I had paid attention, simple "... research on the work of local activists would have shown that many of us equally contest the narrative that Jamaica is the most homophobic place on earth and have put out releases saying the exact opposite".
Now, let me again hold his intellectual hand and walk him through my analysis. Nothing in my commentaries throws any criticism against local gay activists, and I am uncertain for whom he speaks. He will find alternative means of promoting himself, but this column will not facilitate it.
Anyway, my precise argument is that unpatriotic Jamaicans who do not live here and who have selfish interests in maligning their place of birth exaggerate the narrative about our being among the most homophobic countries on earth. This undermines the work of J-FLAG and other non-gay individuals who want less hostility and more tolerance.
For the record, my position regarding Jamaica not being the most homophobic country in the world was first published in 2006, two years before the cases reached before the IACHR. Thus, despite the 'nuances' and evolution of the stances of local activists, of which I am very aware, the label 12 years ago was a lie - and still is.
As for the unfortunate "butt-hurt" comment, that is not my area of expertise, and it does not occur in the literature I have studied. Therefore, the reference is lost on me.
The other, a UWI-trained individual, also not currently on the roll of Jamaican attorneys, nonetheless uses a Jamaican address. Maybe the facts have changed, but my most recent information about him is that he had residence in a foreign country. Again, the last time I checked, and yes, I did check, he had no affiliation or discourse with J-FLAG and did not speak for that entity.
He begins, "Look, I just ate a patty, so there is no hunger in Jamaica" and charges me with denying homophobia in Jamaica. Eating patties doesn't bug me, so I missed the relevance. Yet, although I think it is nasty to put it in your mouth, I have no issue with people indulging in as many patties as they wish.
Given his training in research methods in law school, I am mindful of his criticism that "... a social scientist, Dr Taylor, understands the need for representative samples before drawing conclusions. I also expect that he appreciates that he should consult with the subjects of his research to ensure an accurate representation".
Yet, his data are anecdotal as he references an individual who was brutalised by relatives, comments on social media, and policemen who were extorting men found asleep in a car. Somehow, he also missed my assertion that we are not the MOST. I never said that we do not have homophobia here.
Indeed, it is not "lazy populism passed off as research". Rather, J-FLAG's own survey showed that inasmuch as 90 per cent of Jamaicans disapproved of anal sex - even between men and women - and almost 60 per cent would allow their children to have gay friends and maintain friendships with gay peers.
Moreover, 61 per cent of employers are either in opposition, or indifferent, to the buggery law. Other research suggests that the majority of Jamaicans have no issue working with or employing gays. Discrimination in the world of work is real discrimination, not prejudices or even hateful anecdotes.
Finally, beyond the anuphilia, the gay advocates must address issues such as female-female transmission of HIV, protection of female sex workers, and discrimination in the world of work based on HIV status.
I simply want the truth to be told.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.