CommunityPam's House Blend

Gay right struggles are tough here, but in Jamaica, it's so much worse.

Anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. is in a strange, and convoluted resurgence with the election and hysteria over same-sex marriage. It’s easy to forget, however, that gay rights struggles here pale in comparison to the homophobia in a country like Jamaica, which is dealing with a life and death health epidemic. Homophobia kills, and in this instance, the fear and ignorance is so painful that the American media is actually taking note (and you know that’s bad, since the corporate driven, risk-averse media has been asleep at the wheel on most important political stories of the day). Caribbean nations such as Jamaica have the highest incidence of HIV infection outside of Sub-Saharan Africa. We should care about this, and the cultural homophobia and denial that helps the virus spread.

In the Dec. 2 NYT editorial, ‘Hated to Death’ in Jamaica, you get a taste of the problem at hand.

A disturbing new report from Human Rights Watch suggests that Jamaica cannot win the battle against AIDS until it confronts the virulent forms of anti-gay bigotry that run through the country’s popular culture, its police force and much of its medical system. The report, grimly titled “Hated to Death,” alleges that a pervasive anti-gay bias is driving the epidemic by forcing people at risk to avoid hospitals, and by making it difficult for them to acquire condoms and other things that would help them remain free of the infection.

Not surprisingly, “Hated to Death” has drawn fiery condemnations from some in the Jamaican government. But it will take more than angry denials to sweep away the distressing testimony in this report, which recounts the experiences of gay Jamaicans forced to flee their homes under threats of violence and death. One of the bedrock problems is the government’s timidity in the face of a primitive set of laws that criminalize gay sex among consenting adults. The police appear to extend their harassment to outreach workers, who are sometimes persecuted for passing out condoms.

When you read something like this editorial by Ian Boyne in the Jamaica Gleaner it makes you sick. This crap is exactly why the island nation is in the situation it faces. You get a clear-eyed view on the incredible cultural mountain that must be climbed.

Gay apologetics is simple and simplistic: “I am born this way. It’s natural. Sex is like breathing and eating so why should you heterosexuals have it and I can’t?” If culture, custom and the democratic will of the people stand opposed to homosexuality, by what moral authority does the homosexual assert the inviolability of his sexual practice? If the majority of Jamaicans want homosexuality to remain criminalised, on what philosophical or political ground do you as a gay person demand its repealing? The natural world (human and animal) is overwhelmingly heterosexual. Civilisations and cultures throughout history have been universally heterosexual (in terms of being predominant). So what gives you, the gay person, the inalienable right to the expression of a sexual orientation which the majority deems unacceptable? Only the sovereignty of your urges and desires. Nothing else. The philosopher David Hume says “Reason is the slave of passion”, and nowhere is that more apt than in listening to gays justify their sexual practice.

…Suppose I have a powerful, overwhelming desire for young girls. I find a bright, precocious 14-year-old who consents to have sex with me. What would be wrong, apart from the fact that the society believes that a man in his 40s should not be having sex with a 14-year-old? There are some people who have an overwhelming, overpowering desire for sex with eight-year-olds. Pedophiles have strong sexual desires, too. How is your strong homosexual desire different in substance from the strong sexual desire of the pedophile? Don’t raise the matter of consensual sex. For who says sex has to be consensual? What if the majority opinion is just backward and oppressive?

…Gays just want to have sex and lots of it like most of us heterosexuals. They feel it’s unfair that we should have it and they should have none. When you really press them (oops!), they have no intellectually unassailable defence. It goes back to the sovereignty of their irresistible desires. They are just helpless slaves to their passions. Their reasoning violates every rule in even naturalistic ethical construction.

It’s clear that a frank assessment of the cultural homophobia is needed or Jamaice is going to experience a devastation of its population if they do not wake up. Views like Boyne’s are going ensure a death sentence for Jamaicans.

One can hope that we don’t return to the days of this level of ignorance, even though the American Taliban would probably prefer this.

Oh, you can contact Mr. Boyne to share your views at ianboyne1@yahoo.com or infocus@gleanerjm.com.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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