Dee’s Days: Is 2014 the year of the Gay Spring?
By Dee Lundy-Charles
Published in The St Lucia STAR, February 19, 2014
You just can’t please some people. Once upon a time, the Catholic faithful could hide behind the cassocks of the clergy when it came to the issue of homosexuality, dumb in denial, swept under the pews, protected by the disapproving dogmas of the church and fuelled by a number of outspokenly anti-gay holy men.
I won’t even go into the obscene levels of hypocrisy and sheer calculated evil among the closed ranks of said cassock-wearers, as we knew in Ireland just as many years ago as we knew in Saint Lucia, although the land of my birth acted and reacted early in the vanguard of the subsequent global scandal.
At the very same time they were preaching homilies against the temptations of the flesh, many were sexually abusing and raping children in their care – boys and girls whose parents would never have believed if they had known, and often refused to believe when they were told.
If caught, these pedophile predator priests were moved onward to the next unsuspecting school or community, elsewhere in Ireland or maybe further afield – America, Africa, Australia – allowed to prey as they prayed for years with impunity, sheltered by the gold-lined cloak of the Catholic church. Who knows the full story?
Perhaps the new pope will come clean to the world and finally give closure to one of the most heinous crimes against humanity in the history of organised religion. After all, Francis has made an immediate global impact as the most humble, real and truly Christ-like pontiff the church has seen for generations. And he has stood up for the gay community, so you would think that might be inspiration enough for the flock to lay down their verbal gavels and at least stop judging homosexuals as unloved by their God.
But a priest in Trinidad speaks up for the LGBTI community and the subsequent online outpouring of naked hatred, religious fanaticism, voyeuristic obsession with anal sex and the gross misinterpretation of anything to do with homosexuality as somehow being connected with bestiality and pedophilia is a testament to the hostility of the Caribbean ‘faithful’ to this newly inclusive, softer spoken, kinder hearted church of Pope Francis.
Of all the ignorant, insulting and downright asinine accusations to be hurled at this marginalised community, I take particular umbrage on their behalf at the “gays are pedophiles” epithet, knowing what I do about this country’s culture of incest, child sex abuse and statutory rape – that’s heterosexual intercourse with a child aged 16 years or under – particularly in some southern communities where the anecdotal numbers are painfully worrisome and historical.
Fr Stephen Geofroy spoke in support of the gay community during a consultation on the draft Constitution at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, saying their rights, including the right to love whomever they want, should be included in the Trinidad Constitution. Geofroy said the matter should not be debated further and instead government should be embracing of all its people.
“We’ve come over a long history of slavery and indentureship and now it is time to break the many things that denigrate the person,” said Geofroy. “We do not belong to a theocracy, neither are we in a religious oligarchy where people impose their beliefs on others.”
And talking of oligarcies, among the highest profile gay bashing this year has come from Vladimir Putin’s continuing oppression of LGBTI rights in Russia while simultaneously enticing the world and his ice-dancing partner into the mountains of Sochi, apparently with some type of intoxicating sno-cone that has ordinarily outraged Canadian athletes swooning at his manly feet and popping selfies on instagram. Talk about who is more schizophrenic?
On the run up to the Winter Games, media coverage of the potential for a defining LGBTI Olympic moment was widespread and poetic, but it seems on the ground the big gesture might be more reckless than symbolic, as an Italian gay rights advocate found when she was arrested with her rainbow flag. But did we really expect Russia’s homophobia to melt at the western liberal media’s tokenist campaigning for some brave soul to fly the gay flag in Putin’s face?
And of course there is Uganda, where a new anti-gay law is being called a huge step back by President Barack Obama. He said the United States stands for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights and believes people everywhere should be treated equally.
“That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalise homosexuality,” Obama said in a written statement issued from Southern California at weekend. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people. It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is to sign into law the controversial bill that will see homosexuals jailed for life; the legislation cruised through parliament in December after its architects agreed to drop an extremely controversial death penalty clause, although the bill still says that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.
Museveni, a key African ally of the United States and the European Union, had been under international pressure from diplomats and rights groups to block the legislation. Gay men and women in the country face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes. In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.
But I am sure the active LGBTI advocates at Saint Lucia’s United and Strong would agree that nobody said it would be an easy battle. As college footballer and NFL prospect Michael Sam is no doubt about to find out as the first openly gay player to hit the draft.