The Location Gay: Recently, GilSteinlauf, a senior rabbi of Adas Israel in Washington, DC, one of the largest conservative movement-affiliated synagogues came out as gay. Soon after, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced he is gay. One blogger wrote, “You don’t just leave your wife to “go be gay any more than you would leave her to go be straight.” Another wrote, “Apple has lost its pioneering skills and seeking more businesses.” Does one need a prerequisite to come out as gay? I asked.The gay community stories are bigger than these two men despite the media attention. However, this story is not about the rabbi, or Tim Cook. It is the plight for acceptance for other gay people who are trapped by location under an old colonial ideology that still roars like the ocean, damaging any objects in its path without an anchor. These unchecked anti-waves have eroded several poor and developing regions.
On the other hand, many less fortunate gays, lesbians,and bisexual announcement have the opposite effect. They do not have speedboats to escape tides and community pirates and are sometimes thrown overboard by their own captains. Many parents also face discrimination for having gay children and are more worried today about society stigma and hostility than their own future.These are some of the issues they face daily in the region: abuse, homelessness, lack of access to medical care, expulsion from the community. The only visual representation of a voice mail or iTune is the sound from the broken sewer pipes dripping and hovering over their heads from living under decayed bridges. Being gay is not a sin or learned behaviour, but bigotry, racism, and atrocities against them are.
(One) — I called him Rupert. Shortly after he came out, his church memberships and choir receded. He seldom goes to the beach anymore. Few friends’ lives cut-short as barbaric treatment against them appeared now acceptable. Often denied entry to community activities, employment, and forced to move for their own safety. Few burned alive, stoned, and scorned.
(Two) — Sonia dressed like a man, short hair, cargo pants and boots, although she has found comfort in maintaining the small town floral garden. While some visitors marveled at her floral garden designs, other abused her appearance and threw rocks at her. Being gay did not limit her imagination. I wonder if a few had taken the time to know her, one would learn that friends of own dad repeatedly raped her as a child at a local bar he owned. With nowhere to turn for support, her trust in men eroded and she became isolated. Even in her death after she lost her battle with breast cancer, her remains were treated as if her gayness had Ebola. Her ashes are now resting in the garden she created.
(Three) — Berma, very beautiful and has a good job. She blends in well with her peers, lives in a nice home, and well educated. However, she is also scared of coming out. Despite rumours after she was seen holding hands with her partner on the other side of town, she constantly shrugged off the argument of having a child. Today, many of your cab drivers could have been famous cricketers, track stars, teachers, and police officers, but they were not welcome for being gay. Many have left their districts, and now found comfort behind the wheel of a cab or coaching in a women’s sports league and serving your meal at the local restaurant. Even Human Rights Watch has seen increase in violence simple for being perceived gay. They do not have the support system and their future in being gay remains grim.
The Umbrella: The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community has finally reached many shores, but others are still searching for that elusive lighthouse for guidance off these shores. Despite some being gay themselves, they would rather promote stratification along racial, colour, and economic status or location lines. One’s gayness is not white, black, rich or poor, tall short, fat, or slim issue. They are simply gay, who happens to be one of the above. A gay cruise from Puerto Rico along the eastern and southern Caribbean with over 1,500 men does not address the plight of the ones stuck under the bridge or left at sea.
The Jamaica Gleaner reported on an anti-gay march in St Thomas in response to a proposed bill that would recognize marriage as a legal union between two people and not the traditional man and woman. Huffington Post reported in March 2012 that two California men were arrested in Roseau, Dominica, where sex between two men is illegal.
In 2010, the Cayman Islands rejected the arrival of an Atlantis gay cruise. Moving forward is slow in the region. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the “decriminalization of homosexuality” in Trinidad and Tobago is not something her administration will seek to do because “it would not be prudent for the government to go ahead in that direction at this time”, according to the Trinidad Express.
The gay and lesbian community spends an estimated $830 billion according to Curve Magazine each year. Leveraging its influence especially along blue water and white sand through education, and other grassroots support is vital. The region cannot afford to avoid this business revenue. One should not have to strategically plan gay vacation routes based only on gay friendly destinations in the Caribbean, Africa or any other regions as if it is an election strategy in red and blue in the US.
Society has evolved, but it seems the colonial ship mentality continues to sail while umbrellas shield leaders’ hesitation to move forward from a cemented things as they are. “Things cannot stay the way as they are.” Despite the statistical signs for more tolerance, this issue remains a monumental task. The region cannot do this alone.
An intolerance system passed down from several decades is hard to change course instantly. Subconsciously, the Anglicization of families as the British did wherever they settled centuries ago remain active. However, some islands have taken steps, such as Bermuda, and in Jamaica, the momentum is gaining, but an advocate needs to keep the pressure on.
A Blinded History: According to a study conducted by Trevor Bernard, based on data taken from St Andrews Jamaica, marriage patterns between 1666 and 1750 taken from the parish register were analyzed.
The results indicated that the average length of marriage was very short and declined over time. It resulted in a reduction of children produced by marriage, and was insufficient to sustain slavery and population growth. During that period, influxes of women slaves from Britain and Africa arrived in the region.
An argument can be made that they were placed there for procreation and not simply as slaves working for white rulers, as reported. It seems valid if people stayed married four centuries ago, and produced more children; it would have supported the demands for labour. Centuries later, independence has created more social and economic struggles, as residual footprints in customs, laws, beliefs still have the ghosts of the past.
My conspiracy theory is that many of the men then were gay and, in shaping these societies, they undermined individuals’ rights for the sake of economic and political power. Recently I began to wonder if the Buggery Act has similarities as earlier, anti-voting laws passed to isolate certain groups. Some 150 years later several Jamaicans opposed amending the Buggery Act that was created during colonial rule around 1861.
Today, many leaders in the region remain silent on amendments or new human rights laws. The anti-gay protesters believe that homosexuals and their agenda are bad for strong and healthy families, righteousness, and justice. This not just a sea change happening in Jamaica, the US and other regions. Many who felt left out finally seeking anticipation and began to wear their bright colours. However, history has shown that the quest for equality does not sit well with few on ideological grounds.
The transition from slavery to free legal status from 1823 to 1838, especially in the Caribbean region, seems only to be on paper. There is still a major divide between the haves and have-nots, as social, economics, ideology, greed, power, and intolerance maintain stratification. Modernization today is in conflict, especially with leaders who are stuck in the past on old colonial rule mindset. Many pulpits have created more homophobia as they labeled it as a sin.
This is not much different from when many blacks being viewed as second-class citizens. That mentality has created hostility, hate, isolation and violence. Reaching out and developing tolerance across the region is key, such as what occurred recently in Washington, DC, where several Muslim groups were invited to worship at Catholic Cathedral. A recent one report on You Tube by an Arizona pastor claiming that, “we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas if gays were executed.” If the god they all worship is love for all, who determines which one is not loved by him?
Reversing the monster: What if US never passed the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the Title VII Act against discrimination, would there be a Barack Obama. I believe reprogramming the few who might have never have left the colonized period mentally is key. Reparation is not the key answer in removing ghosts of the past. A simple law such as the US Prison Rape Elimination [PREA] that holds prison guards who rape inmates accountable would address some of the issues gays face in prison there.
The British government should increase funds towards educational awareness, and pressure leaders to move forward from its old laws. The price of educating the community will be far less than the ignorance in the end. Although the crops such as sugar cane, coffee, spices that have built their economy decades ago have dried up, however, footprints are still cast in the red clays with far-reaching effects.
For example, the Suspicion Laws popularly called the ‘Sus Laws’, which emanated from the legislation of the Vagrancy Act of 1824 as reported by Shaka Yesufu. This law represented an institutionalized racial profiling that often used in many cities today globally.
What if, in 1776, the US did not declare independence from Great Britain and insist on the pursuit, of life, liberty justice even on paper for all. There is an opportunity for these once colonial masters to hasten the new paradigm shift in reshaping the less fortunate regions they have left. It is time to consider another conquest of these regions, but this time bringing an update new version of an operating system to modernize much needed social and economic ideologies.
What if we continue to allow many more Boko Harams to commit atrocities on society, many young girls will be sold off into marriages at an early age, female circumcision (female genital mutilation) and Incest and more women would continue to be raped and not allowed to file for divorce, or even drive in regions ruled by black leaders.
The Struggles Ahead: Despite US Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement: “I am pleased to announce that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages”, combined with new laws passed in over 20 states, polarization, intolerance and political ideology threatens this paradigm shift. Those communities must choose candidates who share their values. President Obama has benefited from this focus.
However, it cannot only be leaders from industrialized countries while the poor suffer. Efforts have to be made to make sure, if one gay life lost because of who they are, it should be a sad day, as a soldier killed in a war despite one’s belief for or against that war. The gay community in these poor regions remains at the mercy of the rich in an oligarchic system with an uphill battle.
Changes take time and often resisted. When the US elected Barack Obama the first black president, many were delighted for the change, but six years later, with positive economic growth, the nation is still divided. Like fighting racial issues, the gay community has to continue to fight for equality because while they dance to fun rhythms on the beach in these regions, many lyrics are strategically placed to demonise the community, such as racial epithets, and codes used to polarize, create intolerance and hate.
Only when societies become more educated and tolerant, then we can begin to dance together and reverse a monster that was created. Pushing the legalization of marijuana despite its potential long-term addictive effect, gay rights should take on the same effort. Finally, the next time you power up your iPhone to spread hate, just remember the new design you waited 24 hours in 10-degree weather to buy was approved by a gay man. And no! I am not gay, but should that matter to support their cause? Rest in Peace • Leslie Feinberg-for fighting for equality for all.