It’s an indication of our backwardness, appalling intolerance and bigotry that an ad calling for "unconditional love" of our homosexual family members and friends is unlikely to be shown on local television because the stations are just too scared to show leadership in this area.
The decision-makers there know better, but they also know Jamaica, and they know the backlash and outrage that would overwhelm them if they dare transgress in this area. It’s profit over any principle of pluralism, and concern for ratings over reason. I understand their dilemma. I am taking daredevil risks with my own popularity and ‘ratings’ for writing this column. It takes courage to write any such lead in a Jamaican newspaper, for it is bound to generate rumours that I myself am gay, bisexual or at least uncertain about my own sexuality.
For in the thinking (I need a better word!) of large numbers of Jamaicans, for me to even dare to suggest that an ad ‘soft’ on homosexuals should come on television in this Christian, God-blessed country must be an indication of a perverted, sin-sick and debased mind. Homosexuality, I have always maintained, is not a subject that can be rationally discussed in Jamaica, for even among well-schooled people, emotions completely drown any semblance of reason.
The one time I could ever interview some gay people on ‘Religious Hardtalk’, they had to be from overseas, and I had to say several times during the show, "Don’t bother to come down here at TVJ, for this show is taped and the guests are already back home!" For it would be life-threatening for them to stay in the island for the luxury of watching the show here, as I could not guarantee their safety to the airport. (After all, doomsday preacher Michael Lewis had to wear disguises on the streets of Jamaica before he left for the United States (US), and his sin was just proclaiming passionately that Jesus would return on May 21!)
Last Sunday, the Observer, in a page-one story, ‘Gay TV advert angers clerics’, reported the difficulty gays and non-gay civil libertarians had been having in getting a public service announcement carried even after a public launch involving US Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater and others from the international community.
It is to our shame that Jamaican gay people cannot come on television, show their faces, debate their homosexuality with heterosexuals, go back home in peace and to their jobs and live normal lives the next day. If we lay claim to being a pluralistic, democratic society and not an autocracy like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Burma, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, gay people should be free to express their views without fear of violence, harassment or victimisation.
But what about the view that homosexuality is against Jamaican law and, therefore, it would be improper to show such blatant disrespect for Jamaican law by parading gay people on air, or showing an ad effectively calling for a softening of attitudes to these persons engaging in lawbreaking? First, it is not homosexuality that is illegal, but buggery or anal sex. Lesbians cannot be punished under our buggery laws.
Hypocrisy regarding lesbians
So, from a Christian point of view, Jamaican law does not really reflect, absolutely, the biblical prohibition of same-sex intimacy. It leaves out lesbians, and my information is that lesbianism is growing by leaps and bounds in Jamaica and is reportedly prominent in our high schools – unfortunately, in my view.
And why, I ask our passionate anti-gay men, are they generally so soft on lesbians and don’t treat them and despise them the same way they despise gay men? If you are talking about morality – and especially biblical morality – you have to be consistent. If it’s a cultural matter now – and there are some interesting sociological theories on how male homosexuality offends our notion of masculinity – well, stop citing morality and the Bible. (Ever notice how these fornicating, adulterous ‘old dawg’ men like to rush for their King James Version of the Bible in condemning homosexuality? Why don’t they apply that same Bible to themselves?)
So the argument about ‘not promoting something which is illegal’ does not hold water. A homosexual man can avoid buggery but is still, in the biblical and scientific definition, gay. (Those who know their Bible know it condemns sexual lust, not just physical penetration outside of man-woman marriage.) So then, would you be okay with homosexual men who are not engaging in buggery coming on television to be interviewed? No, you would not, and it has nothing to do with law – it just has to do with prejudice and emotion.
Besides, isn’t ganja smoking against our law? Do we, as journalists, interview people on television who openly admit to smoking ganja and hence to breaking the law? Do the decision-makers at our television stations not carry artistes who smoke ganja? Some are even carried smoking weed and puffing the smoke in Babylon’s face!
There’s another point. There have been many laws which have been and are unjust and immoral. Apartheid was law in South Africa. It was unjust and immoral. Slavery was legal in many societies. So was discrimination against women. (This continues in some societies today.) It was once illegal to sell liquor, to criticise the king and other public officials (the sedition law). Interracial marriage was illegal in some places, and so was divorce.
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