Dane Lewis, Guest Columnist
Kindly allow me to respond to some assertions made by Philippa Davies in The Gleaner of Tuesday, May 6, 2014 under the title 'Sexual orientation no grounds for discrimination'.
I wish to enlighten Ms Davies on the fact that although there are no binding treaties that articulate the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and there is not yet consensus among all member states, all governments are obligated to protect their citizens from discrimination and violence.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) state that every person has the "inherent dignity and [...] equal and inalienable rights [as] members of the human family [which provides] the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world".
Therefore, as stated in the UDHR, LGBT people should be afforded equal rights (Article 2, UDHR), have a right to health and well-being (Article 25), property (Article 17), education (Article 26), and security of person (Article 3). Article 6.1 of the ICCPR states that all people have a right to life and non-deprivation of such.
Ms Davies is labouring under the misapprehension that the quest for the so-called 'gay gene' refers to a singular genetic explanation for same-sex attraction. Evidently, the facts about human sexuality escape her reasoning. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."
One can, therefore, conclude that searching for a gay gene only satisfies those who are earnestly seeking an explanation for a genetic malady which simply does not exist. Homosexuality is part of the spectrum of humanity that has existed as long as there have been people and will continue to exist as long as we have breath. Rather than searching for a gene to determine the extent of our interaction, we should treat diversity with respect and dignity, as it is that same diversity from which we all have our genesis.
Similarly, their tendency/fascination to (mis)quote epidemiological data concerning HIV prevalence among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) needs to stop. Experts, including Prof Chris Breyer of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, whose data they have repeatedly misused, have provided much clarity, yet their wilful ignorance persists.
The unquestioned disparity between prevalence rates in the general population and the MSM population is evidence of our failure to adequately educate, equip, and include sexual and gender minorities in the Jamaican family. It is not indicative of any inherent dysfunction in the population and it is certainly not evidence that the retention of the buggery law is a public health tool; in fact, it's quite the opposite.
Stigma, discrimination, and disenfranchisement are counterintuitive to successful public-health efforts. Arguably, the existence of this law helps to harm people more than it supposedly 'protects' us.
The lack of comprehensive health and family life education sexual and reproductive health services because of the existence of the law has long served as a barrier to safe and healthy sexual and family life practices.
If Davies and others are truly committed to the creation of a healthy Jamaican society, they would respect the rights of consenting adults to engage in sexual intercourse in private. It is common sense among public-health practitioners that criminalising sexual intimacy exacerbates risk-taking behaviour, therefore resulting in disproportionate rates of HIV infection.
The failure of Davies et al to recognise this, and instead to zealously stoke the flames of prejudice, is a strategy that has been employed in places such as Uganda, resulting in great hostility and incivility among its people.
The 'Homosexual Lifestyle'
The 'homosexual lifestyle' is a misnomer frequently used to pathologise same-sex relationships and paint them as deviant, dysfunctional, diseased and immoral. The higher rates of depression, suicide, drug abuse and other problems that are reported by some gay people are directly attributable to the hostile social, cultural, and legal environments in which they exist in many parts of the world.
Of course, they are not intrinsic characteristics that are unique to LGBT people, but the socio-cultural hostility negatively affects the psychosocial health of LGBT people.
Further, it is reckless to matter-of-factly make reference to a supposed greater incidence of anal and breast cancers (presumably among gay men and lesbians) without citing the source of this claim. The assertion that some obscure research paper can somehow be authoritative and representative of scientific consensus is grossly irresponsible. This is nothing but unadulterated fearmongering masquerading as science, or worse, Christian goodwill.
If I were to replace 'homosexuality' with 'heterosexuality' in the way Ms Davies articulates it, the ridiculousness of her premise is exposed. For example: "Studies have shown that many adults embracing heterosexuality were exposed to heterosexuality as children, including being molested by adults."
The author, because of her own aversion to homosexuality, biases the reader towards concluding that the core issue is the immorality of homosexuality and not the evil that is child molestation. A simple Google search, or dare I say actual interaction with LGBT people, would reveal that dysfunctional home environments and/or early exposure to sexual predation were not par for the course in the affirmation of their sexual or gender identity, and certainly not significant enough to attribute a causal relationship. However, confirmation bias clouds the judgement of those who are already antipathetic towards LGBT people.
It is intellectually dishonest to create the impression that freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and freedom of
religion are limitless and immune from challenge. International jurisprudence sufficiently demonstrates this. No rights are being trampled; the rights of others are simply being respected and protected to the chagrin of those who would wish to continue their privilege of hegemony.Prejudiced people facing consequences for their hatred in a world that no longer values such points of view is nothing to mourn. Likewise, persons being removed from jobs because their personal biases are dis-enabling to their job function and the environment in which they operate is nothing to mourn.
Street preachers such as Harry Hammond and Tony Miano routinely wilfully disobey the law because they feel their Christian beliefs exalt them above it. They feel their doctrine entitles them to be disruptive, abusive, and caustic in spaces where such an approach is highly inappropriate and hurtful to others. When they are arrested, dismissed, or barred from their business of deliberate controversy, they then play victim and argue it is evidence of the secular agenda to silence them and strip them of their freedoms.
No one has, or should have, the freedom to do harm to others. I hope that Ms Davies and others of her ilk will soon realise this.
Dane Lewis is executive director of J-FLAG, an organisation promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jamaica. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.