Hello Mr. Boyne,
I am a faithful reader of your work in the Gleaner. Last year I read the piece, ‘Do gays have a choice?’, but it wasn’t until today when a friend reposted in on a blog that I felt compelled to respond.
I feel a little queasy. The tone of the piece concerns me. And it’s not because I have ‘scant respect for the canons of reasons.’ From what I gather, your commentary is a well articulated opposition to what you term ‘the propaganda war’ of the ‘powerful Gay Rights Lobby’. Your words flow so eloquently that people might forget that not all the information that gay rights groups disseminate is propaganda, and that not all gay men are organized in powerful lobby groups- though, that is the assumption many Jamaicans have of gays in the developed world. Surely, you can appreciate how misleading Jamaicans in this way serves to affirm their views on homosexuality, which are often as ‘irredeemably intolerant, glandular and visceral’ as you describe many gay people.
So, scientists haven’t discovered a gay gene. It is well established, however, that the factors that determine sexual orientation are complex. It is dangerous to reduce understandings of sexuality to the age-old ‘nature’ vs. ‘nurture’ argument. Like you, I find it hard to think that ‘nurture’ could have any profound impact in a place like Jamaica, where we are indisputably nurtured (for want of a stronger term) to be heterosexual. I can promise you, Ian, that many of us try to change. Your citing that change is indeed possible, though enormously challenging, might just encourage some LGBT people, who have been socialized to hate their sexual selves, to try a little harder. Psychologists have long documented that such efforts are quite self-destructive- you acknowledged this in the article.
The piece ends with a series of questions challenging ‘gay’ logic. I don’t appreciate the generalization. Further, I can’t help but be concerned with the way you phrased the leading questions- for the sake of argument. You likened homosexuality to pedophilia and incest in the penultimate section (as taboo sexual relations that people have strong urges to do, but that we continue to proscribe- and supposedly should continue to proscribe), catering heavily to the slippery slope argument that is often used to thwart advances of pro-LGBT legislation. The right to privacy and protections from harassment and abuse shouldn’t be granted only after the ‘born gay’ question is answered. These are matters of citizenship and human rights.
The few comments on the post tell the story of the message conveyed by the article. Perhaps you think too highly of your audience’s intelligence. You have unknowingly bolstered blatantly homophobic positions, though your original intention was to facilitate ‘a cold, rational, dispassionate discourse on [not against] homosexuality.’ Gay people fight long and hard in their powerful lobbies, advocating for a host of rights, but they don’t always speak for Jamaicans. Many gays and lesbians here would be content with the right to live and the right to self-determination. Surely, we don’t need to be organized in a powerful, overbearing, propaganda wielding lobby for you or anyone else to understand this.
I have long stopped trying to persuade people that I am ‘normal’. I have discovered that the most effective way to end homophobic rhetoric is by coming out to people. It’s difficult to say ‘dem fi ded’, when one knows that their brother, or their daughter is gay- all the rationalizing, moralizing and philosophizing diminishes in importance. Love is the most convincing argument for the tolerance and acceptance of same-sex loving people. So, do gays have a choice? I don’t know. But I know that I am gay, and I don’t think the answer to that question should affect how people regard my right to live and love a consenting adult male.