We Can’t Legislate Sexuality

by Garth Rattray

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to cut off financial aid to countries that fail to uphold human rights, including the oppression of homosexuals, had me taking another look at the relevant section within The Offences Against The Person Act.

Jamaica Gleaner Company

The section dealing with ‘Unnatural Offences’ (Section 76) reads: “Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding 10 years.”

Naturally, I have no problem with criminalising bestiality; after all, lower animals do not possess the capacity to consent to copulation with human beings. And, the very idea of trans-species intimacy is warped and absurd. However, I wonder, how it can be an offence against a person if the persons involved not only agree to but also desire intimacy from one another.

Does the act, therefore, speak to an offence against society, even though it is a totally private matter only between two consenting adults? And, regarding the word ‘buggery’, it is oftentimes used interchangeably with ‘sodomy’, and sodomy is defined as ‘anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite gender’.

I assume that, for whatever reason, the spirit of the law was intended to criminalise peno-anal acts between two males. However, technically, it could also end up criminalising any sexual act between a male and a female, other than peno-vaginal intercourse, because such acts are viewed by some as ‘unnatural’ or ‘abnormal’.

The issue of fairness

Furthermore, even if our laws label any benign and non-violent act that takes place between two consenting adults behind closed doors as a ‘crime against nature’, that will never alter anyone’s sexuality. And, to be perfectly fair, shouldn’t other ‘unnatural’ sexual acts like intimacy between two females, such as ménages à trois and orgies, be criminalised abominations also? They are not as uncommon as some would want to believe. Perhaps, therefore, the act is a relic that was formulated secularly but on religious grounds. Shades of Shari’a law?

I do not agree with Britain’s arm-twisting tactic; but, that aside, our anti-buggery law (as it relates to intimacy between two people) does seem a little strange to me. Whatever intimate acts mentally competent and consenting adults do with each other out of the public view is between them and their individual morals. I belabour the point because too much time and effort is dedicated to a small section of a law that can never regulate intimacy. It can only drive such issues underground.

Heterosexual abominations

There are innumerable heterosexual abominations being committed constantly, but people are rarely consternated by them. Many female spouses from every stratum of society submit to their male partners out of need and/or fear every day. They give in to ‘normal’ and ‘legal’ (peno-vaginal) intercourse out of financial need, under duress, coercion, threat of violence or fear of physical and/or psychological abuse – yet hardly anyone speaks to those common wrongs.

Many victims of peno-vaginal rape, under a variety of circumstances, are eternally devastated and scarred – yet the sentences remain out of keeping with that dastardly crime. Many men who father children simply walk away, leaving their progeny at high risk for a life of crime which severely impacts all spheres of society – yet, our legal system does not adequately address that injustice.

Politicians don’t really care what individuals do behind closed doors; the prevailing public sentiment and powerful religious groups dictate that they maintain an Old Testament-inspired law in a vain attempt at legislating sexuality (which dictates sexual practices). We should concern ourselves instead with educating everyone about the individual and community health risks of those and other sexual activities.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.

The Dance of Difference, The New Frontier of Sexual Orientation part II

In part one we looked at the book below on sister blog Gay Jamaica Watch where a preview of the first chapter can be seen via Kindle, also see the Smile Jamaica interview HERE – See the TVJ interview HEREAuthor Shirley Anderson-Fletcher, is a consultant with more than 30 years’ experience as an applied behavioural scientist, organisation systems analyst, executive coach and group facilitator.

Shirley Anderson Fletcher continued her promotional tour of sorts of her book The Dance of Difference where it was launched in Kingston Jamaica at Bookophilia   Thursday November 17.  She pushed the need for heterosexuals to rethink their stance on homosexuals and the associated stereotypes while speaking to Profile host Ian Boyne on Sunday November 20, 2011. Among other things she commented many of the points already outlined by advocates and independent LGBT voices over these many years.

I have been concerned about the oppression of racism and sexism for most of my adult life. However, I turned a blind eye to the oppression of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals until my fourteen-year-old son confronted me. I was forty-one years old at the time. He had overheard his dad and me laughing at a so-called ‘gay joke.’ He looked us in the eye and asked, “Would you really be laughing if there was someone gay in this room? Do you really think this is funny?” He looked at us long and hard before striding out of the room. I was mortified.

That was twenty-nine years ago. We made a commitment then to monitor our own prejudices and biases regarding gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. We’ve been intentional about building our awareness. And the reality is we still have a long way to go.


Shirley then employs a model called “Dialogue with Difference” for exploring this prejudice by presenting a transcript of a discussion about sexual orientation with a gay African American colleague, the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington. That transcript comprises the middle section of the book, and it is revealing in many ways. This particular technique is based on the societal construct of dominance and subordination, but it turns that relationship on its head by permitting the subordinated group member in the dialogue to have the opportunity and authority to decide the focus of the discussion.

I was skeptical about this type of presentation but found myself drawn into the discussion and learning a lot about the issue and, like Shirley, my own preconceptions and prejudices.

This is the first of a series of books on prejudice by Shirley, collectively entitled The Dance of Difference. If you want a break from traditional fluffy summer beach reading, it is well worth your time.

Publication Date: April 15, 2011
It is rare for heterosexuals to acknowledge, much less write about, their own homophobia. This black grandmother who grew up in the homophobic culture of Jamaica in the 40’s and 50’s offers a moving look into the challenges faced daily by people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) because of the learned biases, attitudes and behavior of heterosexuals. The author, a behavioral scientist, who migrated to the United States 30 years ago, shares examples from her early life experiences as well as examples from her long career as an organizational consultant in the United States and Europe. The centerpiece of the book is a spontaneous dialogue between the author and a gay pastor about the realities of life for members of the gay community.

On the matter of rights to gays such as marriage she commented that she does not see a reason why homosexuals shouldn’t have them just as heterosexuals. She asked “Would Christ be hostile towards a group of people created by the father?” when pressed on the Leviticusal arguments presented by mainly religious personalities, she continued that “…the Bible has been used to justify slavery, it has been used to justify racism and it has been used to justify the oppression of women so in a way I’m not surprised that the Bible is now being used to justify the oppression of people who are gay lesbian etc…….. I am also aware of the fact that Christ never said a word about homosexuality” 

” ……. I can certainly understand this can be a challenging issue for people who are religious for people who are Christian and I would just say I want to encourage my Christian brothers and sisters to go back to the teachings of Christ and ask yourself, Would Christ be hostile towards a group of people created by the father?”

She continued “There is no evidence that I can name that would um you know that would describe homosexuality as a lifestyle, I believe homosexuals are by nature who they are in the same way that heterosexuals are by nature, they didn’t make that choice, a moment for me, right, a lightbulb moment, a lightbulb went off in my head when I thought did I choose my sexual orientation? and I know I never did any such thing all of a sudden at about age 12/13 the same boys who I thought were horrible all of a sudden were looking very very cute there was no choice it just was my evolution and I believe that gays and lesbians evolve in similar ways.”

In an interview with the Gleaner’s Flair, Anderson-Fletcher pointed out that growing up in Jamaica, she learnt to be homophobic at an early age, something that most Jamaicans learn from their elders and parents. In contrast, Jamaicans are always described as the most loving set of people on the earth, and as told through music, Jamaica is synonymous with love, an irony, considering we are also one of the most homophobic people on the planet.

She hopes that after reading the book, parents will be able to use it to look at themselves and the negative behaviours they have learnt and taught. “It is a useful resource that organisations and others can use in the development of programmes geared at avoiding discrimination against gays at the workplace and elsewhere,” the author said. She noted that it can also be used by psychologists and psychiatrists with their patients who are grappling with the issue.

Discrimination against the lesbian and gay community is everywhere, particularly because homophobic people do not stop to ponder why someone would deliberately choose a lifestyle that sees them being constantly vilified, hated, stigmatised and shunned as outcasts.

Her wishes

Anderson-Fletcher would like Jamaicans to read the book and if they are interested in changing their behaviour, to look at themselves and the subtle ways in which they learnt to be homophobic, understanding that they were not born with prejudices. They should also reflect on those prejudices in relation to race and gender. Finally, look at what happens to the gay community in society, take the bold step to talk to them, find out what their life is about, who are they beyond the sexual orientation?

The author is happy with Jamaica’s progress to date, she is pleased that the organisation Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays is now affirming itself and speaking out about prejudice. “Unless the subordinated group rises up against its opponent, nothing will happen, it’s like the American civil rights movement, nothing was achieved until the brave stood up and said ‘no more’,” she noted. She further said she was fully aware of what it takes to live in a society that sees your behaviour as sinful and deviant, but if you are not speaking out, you are willingly giving up your freedom. “The question gays need to ask is: ‘am I going to hide or be self-actualised and speak out for justice and human rights?’

http://danceofdifference.com/index.html

She said she remains passionate about her work because she finds it gratifying. she hopes that Jamaicans will move out of their comfort zone and begin to accept all minority groups in the society.

her sister said:

“Anderson Fletcher’s voice is authentic as it is courageous. Her decades of work as an Applied Behavioral Scientist specializing in Diversity – facilitates the process whereby the reader experiences the trauma of homophobia and the way it seeps into our Being and impacts our world. More importantly, because of the methodology of the book, she shares powerfully not only her own experience with us, but invites us to share ours through reflection and enquiry. The methodology of the book is critical for discussing not only sexual orientation but is applicable to any area of discrimination. Anderson Fletcher points out all are inextricably linked.”

– Beverley Anderson Manley, Broadcaster, Political Scientist, former First Lady of Jamaica

Here is a piece of the audio from the Profile Interview as at post time the video was not uploaded to the Television Jamaica (TVJ) site:

 Shirley Fletcher’s Dance of Difference on Profile 20.11.11

Peace and tolerance

H