May 20, 2007 Danielle Campbelll, Kaieteur News
The sweeping tentacles of homophobia have long plagued the world as a global arena dating back as far as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Since then many men and women have admittedly “climbed out of the closet” to accept the harsh, cold insensitivities society throws their way.
This is due to the stigma attached to people choosing to deviate from what is known to be the norms of society and its rigid value system.
At the last airing of its movie night held on alternate Tuesdays, the Sidewalk Café presented a documentary film entitled, “Songs of Freedom”.
The film depicts the tragedy resulting from harbouring feelings of hatred towards persons of diverse sexual orientation.
It talks of homophobia in Jamaica which is described as an extremely homophobic island.
The Sidewalk Café teamed up with the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) to air the film.
One self-proclaimed homosexual Jamaican, who graduated from a foreign university, said that the church is ambivalent on the issue of homosexuality.
He noted that there are homosexuals in the church at every level and not only in the fundamental churches, but grass-root churches as well.
“They sing in the choir, sit on the church board, they officiate as deacons, ministers…at every level,” he commented.
He added that Jamaica is exaggeratedly known as the most homophobic society that ever existed and has posited his own theory as to the reason.
“And rightly so…why do they react in such an immediate and violent way to gays?”
The homosexual man explained that this hatred springs from the role of the black man in society as dictated by slavery.
“That they thought their primary function as a man was to breed…as they recognise procreation and reproduction to be the prime indication of manhood,” he said.
According to him, the hate is understandable since homosexuality draws into question the very existence of man’s right to procreate.
The Jamaican graduate has since established a news- letter on homosexuals called the “Gaily News” which he described as the ‘voice of gays’.
Another man, who admitted to coming out of the closet, underlined that there’s hardly a dancehall song without gender bashing.
However, the graduate revealed that a sociology study on the impact of homophobic lyrics on gay people is astounding.
He related that this “gay publicity” is actually contributing to men of gay persuasions accepting their identity.
One Jamaican gay said he was pressured into judging himself based on biblical scriptures quoted ever so often by people.
“I now attend church and I thank God for my gay life. I am comfortable with who I am and realise that he has created me this way,” the gay man said.
A transvestite disclosed that he came out the closet at age 12 after meeting a homosexual at a fashion show.
The man introduced him to the vast world of homosexual entertainment and soon he began performing.
“When I started doing “drags” it helped me to love and understand myself better and to appreciate others for who they are,” the transvestite said.
He stressed that it was not about getting dressed in women’s clothing but about having the exposure and performing at best to the satisfaction of others.
“If heterosexuals can do it, why can’t we?” he questioned.
The transvestite said his most pressing fear is for his life since he has seen gay people beaten and killed.
Another young man revealed that he has kissed more than 300 men and considers it a very pleasurable experience.
One homosexual relating his experience in jail said that the treatment meted out to gays in prison is vastly different from other men.
“They give you piss (urine) to drink, drop your pants to see if you have been penetrated, melt plastic on your skin…its horrible,” he said.
The homosexual said he has discovered that people, who are the most vocal against homosexuality, often have a hidden tendency to be gay.
“I’ve met prison wardens, policemen who promote “fire bun…battie man must dead” and when you check, they turn out to be gays.”
The homosexuals said they are aggrieved that gay people are killed everyday by hate, violence, discrimination, neglect and HIV/AIDS.
Because of the prevalence of violence against gays, one Jamaican said many people often pretend to be “straight” in public.
A young man in his chronicle tells how he was “turned out” by two close friends during a sleep over after a church crusade.
According to him, he fell asleep, but later felt the “warm lips of his friend” kissing him.
He revealed that because they were so close he allowed the friend to continue and that was the turning point for him.
One confessed lesbian revealed how she has derived more pleasure from her explorations with female partners than her sexual experience with men.
At age 16, she tells how she converted her lifestyle to that of a full-fledged Jamaican lesbian.
She talks about meeting and developing a lasting relationship with a young girl who was perceivably “straight” at first.
The woman said the girl was with her parents in a public place when she walked over and asked to speak with her.
The lesbian explained to the girl that she wanted her contact number since she had an important revelation but the stranger was dumbfounded.
She said the girl asked for her number instead and promised to call.
At work, she was surprised to receive the call and as she puts it literally “dropped the bomb” that she was attracted to her.
She noted that the girl rebuffed her advances but offered to be a friend instead.
They later met and while on the phone with another friend, the lesbian said her new love became jealous.
She divulged that it was the beginning of a lasting friendship between them.
“As a Jamaican lesbian I would like to say to the public in general to stop the hatred. Give us a break, its nothing so wrong. Concentrate your energy on other issues like homeless children, people killing people. How can you hate someone who loves someone else? They don’t hate the people who hate each other like they hate us. What we have is love and we are sharing it,” she said.
Homosexuals in Guyana have faced similar fates but luckily many have not tasted a share of such violence.
During an interactive session, a participant said she is comfortable with friends who may have a sexual preference contrary to hers.
However, she noted that they are entitled to their lifestyle choices and are answerable only to God.
There are ongoing debates about the morality of the issue and anti-homosexual advocates have labelled the phenomenon “utter lawlessness”.
They argue that God had destroyed an entire city because of homosexuality.
Some countries have even legalized gay marriages and are sanctioning on whether the couple should be allowed to raise children.
There are even gay cathedral and churches opening up across the world.
SASOD has revealed that there are people who were granted refugee status on the grounds of homophobic stigmatization.
However, the burning question is, are gays really trapped in a man’s body or can they help themselves?
Monday, May 21, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
May 17, is the anniversary of the decision when the World Health Organisation removed ’homosexuality’ as a mental disorder marking a formal end to medical homophobia. Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) joins with organisations around the world in commemorating this day as International Day Against Homophobia.
The recent incidents of mob violence in our sister Caribbean territory, Jamaica, against people perceived to be homosexual have placed emphasis on the need of Caribbean societies to battle homophobia as one of the prejudices which retard the development of society. Police were forced to use teargas to dispel a mob threatening three men at a pharmacy in Half-Way-Three on Valentine’s Day. On Palm Sunday at Montego Bay’s Carnival Nite Out, performers and merchants along fashionable Gloucester Avenue had to scamper for their lives as a group of men were chased by an angry mob with one beaten into critical condition with a manhole cover and cutlass. Church windows were smashed with bottles and stones when mourners presumed to be gay attended an Easter Sunday funeral in Mandeville. On April 27, mobs of citizens viciously attacked a cross-dresser who was apparently waiting for transportation in downtown Falmouth.
The prevalence of homophobic lyrics in Caribbean music continues to highlight a kind of cultural and political acceptance of homophobia - singers who have no problem calling for the killing of homosexuals are encouraged rather than condemned by private sector and Caribbean Governments. While at the same time, many Caribbean citizens have protested homophobic music. For instance, Gary Steckles, cultural critic of Jamaican roots, calls on Caribbean citizens to say “No to Hate” in the November/December 2006 edition of the Caribbean Beat magazine.
Homophobic violence in the Caribbean is rarely reported. In this light, SASOD has partnered with the Caribbean Anti Violence Project (CAVP) – a regional, web-based initiative at HIV-AIDS Education Unit, University of the West Indies (UWI) - to document incidents of prejudice-fueled violence on the basis of homophobia, gender and HIV-related stigma (see www.CaribbeanAVP.org). Many times male and transgender sex workers are targets for violence by the army and police while in other places, the justice system does not seem to want to deal with people who have no problem openly attacking people perceived to be homosexual. As part of our collaboration with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), SASOD has endorsed the call of civil society groups and activists, human rights lawyers, national AIDS programme coordinators and researchers in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights across the Caribbean region to decriminalize all aspects of sex work. Particularly, more acute difficulties are posed for male and transgender sex workers who are especially vulnerable to human rights abuses and HIV-AIDS due to homophobia, and more specifically, trans-phobia.
Caribbean-born Professor Linden Lewis states in his paper “Man Talk, Masculinity and a Changing Social Environment” available from the Caribbean Review of Gender Studies (http://sta.uwi.edu/crgs/journals/Linden_Lewis_pm_07.pdf) that: "Moreover, violence directed at homosexual men is not even considered really problematic. Both men and women, on religious grounds, by appeals to nature, or in accordance with social convention, often rationalize or excuse violence against homosexuals in the Caribbean. The region cannot afford to condone violence against people who may not share the heterosexual norm while condemning acts of violence when directed against women. People need to be more vocal in their condemnation of the physical and verbal abuse of all, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. Failure to criticize all forms of violence is to be less than sincere..."
Globally, homophobia is being recognised as a neglected violation of human rights. Guyana and the Caribbean cannot ignore the global progress towards just societies. Earlier this year on March 26, SASOD joined human rights organizations across the globe in launching the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (http://yogyakartaprinciples.org/). The Yogyakarta Principles affirm binding legal standards which put new pressure on governments: end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, end criminalisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s lives, make the promise of equality real.
This statement was published in Guyana Chronicle and Stabroek News