Mark Wignall on “Jamaica’s culture clash with homosexuality”

“Not in my Cabinet,” was the strident answer given by Prime Minister Golding in 2008 when asked by the BBC’s Steven Sackur on its programme HARDtalk if he would appoint gays to his Cabinet.

The beautiful luxury of hindsight affords us the opportunity to see that in the interview Sackur was setting up Golding for the simple question and the problematic response, but Golding blew it. Prior to asking the direct question, Golding had touched on Jamaica’s culture in relation to homosexuality, and in answering it, he should have reverted to the culture line but with an expansion of his position, the country’s position.

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Even though we know that Golding was playing to the wider Jamaican anti-homosexual constituency, the full import of his response signalled that the leadership of the country was in the forefront of those who probably wanted to say, “Boom, bye, bye” to those openly flaunting their lifestyles on the down low.

In the previous PNP administration there was at least one powerful Cabinet member who was homosexual. During the PNP’s run I had two luncheon meetings with him to discuss policy matters and while seated across the table from him, his lifestyle was the last thing on my mind – in fact it never even featured in my thought processes.

I am not aware that the normal, heterosexual PNP Cabinet members caught his “malady” and neither did I contract anything from proximity to him.

That said, I can empathise with TVJ for not wanting to air the pro-tolerance, pro-love public service announcement in which a former Miss Jamaica World expresses love for her homosexual brother. An indication of the virulent intolerance that Jamaicans have for those practising the lifestyle was seen in a Facebook post where one woman lambasted the former beauty queen for loving her own brother. Utterly amazing!

I have a relative who is lesbian and she has a bubbling, go-getter personality. Did I raise my hands to the heavens when I found out and say, “Oh, Lawd, what is this?” Absolutely not! I simply shrugged it off and made the decision that when next we meet I would give her a special embrace to indicate that I have no less love for her.

As a Jamaican I have to be true to my culture. It is what I am. For example, I could not have in my small circle of male friends one who openly practises the homosexual lifestyle. I wouldn’t know how to relate to him or what to say to him. Do I say, “So, how was it with you and Big Moose last night? Did he rock your world?’ The fact is, in a country where we are highly intolerant of what is euphemistically called “gay”, while we cannot awake the next morning with a “Love gays” label emblazoned in our hearts, the decision to be more tolerant is something that civilised people ought to make, if only for the reason that homosexuals, like the poor, will be with us forever.

That said, I have remained puzzled for many years as to why a male would find another male sexually enticing. No so-called gay gene has been identified and the world accepts that homosexuality is a “lifestyle”. In other words it is largely a choice, but, what is it that triggers that decision to go on the down low?

On Monday I telephoned a well-known doctor who has spent many years trying to unravel this phenomenon. “Only a very small percentage, much less that one per cent, of children born at Jubilee Hospital are born with what we refer to as ambiguous genitalia. That is, a vagina and a penis, maybe a vestigial one. It is always a difficult call for the surgeon to make a decision on what to do. It is usually best to wait for a number of years after which one can get an indication as to what particular sexual direction the child is headed, along with a consideration of the physiology on the inside. Then along with the parents’ consent we can do the ‘repair job’ if you want to call it that and apply some hormone therapy.”

Then I asked him the question, “Outside of that, what is it that would make a male later on in life want to have sex with another male? Personally, I find it repugnant, but it happens. What causes it?”

His answer shocked me. “To me, it is choice. They could be socialised into it or, as you ought to know, many of our poorer young men are driven to it by poverty.”

“But how does that explain, say, San Francisco, or even some of our local homosexual politicians? Poverty was not a factor there. Could it be a mental imbalance which manifests itself into this social deviance? I know that it is no longer classified in medical literature as such, but in the end, what is it that is the main causal factor?”

“Medical science is still struggling with that. The fact is, people for whatever reasons make a choice at some stage of their lives that they want to express their sexuality in a particular way. If they want to do so, it is their right.”

Whether it is triggered at birth or later by some hormonal imbalance, or it is strictly choice, the fact is it is here. Our “friends” in the powerful US and EU countries have fully embraced the right of their people to adopt the lifestyle, and thinking of us as savages, they believe that the time is right, considering how parlous our economic state is, to ram home their culture on us.

It cannot be as simple as that. While I would agree that our law on buggery is an ass, the US and the EU must recognise that culture changes do not occur in a flash, by fiat or by money coercion. To me, if two men want to get it on in the privacy of their bedrooms, it is up to them. All I would ask in return is that they keep it where it belongs – in private.

Many Jamaicans are of the view that what these latter-day foreign “invaders” with their money bags are doing is forcing on us a process which may begin with a repeal of the buggery law but may end up with Jamaica endorsing gay marriage. After that, what is likely to follow would be the sick scenario of gays in such a union adopting children!

This is by no means a perfect world and Jamaica has never been anywhere near independent. In the mid-1990s a snotty American teenager named Michael Fay visited Singapore. While there he decided one late evening to spread his US-learned nastiness by using a can of spray paint to despoil dozens of cars. He was held and sentenced to receive six lashes of the bamboo cane.

Even the then US President Bill Clinton intervened. In the end, Singapore did not cave in, but compromised and applied four strokes of the cane to the young man. Singapore was able to do so because it did not have its hands out begging anyone.

We are in no such position so we will always be forced to bend over and accept what is coming.

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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