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Are we are so proud of our homophobia?

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05.JUNE.09

Editor: The following is a reproduction of clause 17(2) of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution Bill 2009: “The State shall protect marriage, which shall be a legal union only between a person who is biologically male at birth and a person who is biologically female at birth”.

So it’s come to this: we are so proud of our homophobia that we want to enshrine it in our Constitution. I will probably be talking to the wind, but for whatever its worth, here goes.{{more}}

I am writing because I don’t trust myself to speak. This development is so upsetting that I fear I may become, at best, incoherent, and, at worst, abusive.

The would be framers of a Constitution worthy of our soon to be ennobled Caribbean civilization wish to keep us permanently mired in the state of being an intolerant, unkind, backwater. The professed intention of clause 17(2) is the protection of marriage. How that intention can be furthered by a constitutional provision is anybody’s guess. I cannot fathom how it can be, but I am willing to be steered in the right direction by those more perceptive than myself.

Are the framers of the Constitution bill unaware that a significant number of gays in this society are men married to women? Are they unaware that this phenomenon exists because “stigma and discrimination” (thank you HIV awareness campaigners, I’m sure you won’t resent me borrowing your catch phrase) force these men to seek the cover of a socially acceptable domestic arrangement? Are they aware of how harmful these arrangements can be to both parties to a marriage and any children they may have? Don’t they know any man who lives the lie of a marriage he cannot find fulfillment in? Are they so blissfully ignorant that they have never heard of a woman who struggles to cope with the knowledge of her husband’s homosexuality; or worse, a wife who is completely unaware of her husband’s true sexual orientation until she learns of it in a very unpleasant way?

Or maybe they know and they just don’t care. The tragedy of this is that I have a nagging suspicion that the inclusion of this clause was motivated by nothing more significant than empty posturing; that it is no more than infantile attention-seeking behaviour. They want it to make BBC Caribbean news. They want their 15 minutes of fame. Of course, part of the motivation most certainly is pandering to the church; the same thing that motivates Caribbean politicians to have “visiting relationships” (read Edith Clarke’s “My Mother Who Fathered Me” if you’re unfamiliar with the phrase) with various churches.

Or maybe each society needs a vulnerable community that it can beat up with impunity. Maybe it is an incurable feature of the human condition. Apartheid South Africa beat up blacks. Hitler’s Germany beat up Jews. Israel beats up Palestinians. White America beats up black America. Jamaicans beat up gays. Vincentians are proposing to trump the Jamaicans.

Which brings me to my next point; how can we, the sons and daughters of slaves, bring ourselves to discriminate against any group of persons because of something they cannot help and which in the grand scheme of things is utterly insignificant? Just as we cannot help being black and just as our blackness in the grand scheme of things is utterly insignificant, so, too, gays cannot help being gay and in the grand scheme of things their sexuality is utterly insignificant. I suspect that this is where the Bible thumpers will start jumping up and down. If you’re going to repeat to me the arguments I read in our local papers every week, don’t bother. I’ve heard them; they’re lame. The judges’ findings of fact are not consistent with the evidence.

There are gay doctors, lawyers, street sweepers, musicians, bankers, business people and gardeners all over our society leading productive lives; each doing his or her own part to ensure that the wheels of this society keep on turning. How dare anyone attempt to accord them second class citizenship and try to enshrine it in our Constitution? How dare anyone send a message to every little gay boy and every little lesbian girl that. “You are a thing apart. You are a thing unacceptable. You are a thing unworthy”?

I will end by inviting the worthy framers of our Constitution bill to consider the effect of clause 17(2) on persons who are born intersex. You have made it clear that you intend to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Do you also intend to discriminate against persons whose gender may not be capable of determination at birth?

Paula E. David

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