The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was observed yesterday in more than 100 countries to raise awareness about the violence and discrimination experienced by members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.
In Barbados, the celebration came to the fore as the Canadian High Commission raised the gay pride flag at its Bishop Court’s Hill location – a move Canadian High Commissioner Marie Legault hopes will inspire Barbados to move towards tolerance and acceptance of the gay community.
In fact, Legault did not beat around the bush, suggesting it was time for Barbados to decriminalize same-sex relations, as she diplomatically chastised the island for keeping the anti-buggery law on its statue books.
“Although I have been told, including by the Attorney General, that in Barbados the anti-buggery law is not enforced, the fact remains that it is a criminal offence and, as such, it is often used to blackmail or extort money from members of the LGBT community. Discrimination can take the form of violence, threats, bullying, denial of employment and access to services,” the Canadian diplomat said.
Interestingly, her silent pressure came as division in the Democratic Labour Party government on the controversial issue resurfaced this week, when Minister of Environment Denis Lowe served up a bad delivery with a bitter condemnation of same-sex marriage, only to be soundly dismissed by a bouncer bowled by his no-nonsense Cabinet colleague Donville Inniss who urged Barbadians to be more tolerant and to respect people’s choices.
It can’t be denied that the verbal spat mirrors the state of debate on same-sex relations in this country.
Barbadians have been talking past each other on this issue from time immemorial and there’s no indication that the nudge from Canada, which is regarded as one of the most gay-friendly countries in world, will trigger any action.
Both proponents and opponents equally champion their positions with as much passion and clarity as they can muster.
And dare any government touch the issue for fear of being banished to political purgatory.
The fact is, Barbadians for the most part appear to be more accepting of the gay community, yet it is not an issue they appear willing to discuss openly in a rational way.
Both sides are guilty of mishandling the issue.
One could hardly expect a win-win situation if Bible-thumping Christians spout words of condemnation without seeking to respectfully engage those who practice alternative lifestyles.
No one is asking the Church to change its biblical beliefs, but wise followers of Christ have to admit that they cannot accept, condone or preach violence or the discrimination of any member of society when God has given all mankind the freedom of choice.
The issue presents broader implications than the affiliation of any one church, and like it or not, homosexuality will not go back into the closet. Besides, most churches likely include gay and lesbian members, in the open or otherwise.
Equally, the LGBTI community has to demonstrate the very attitude it strongly espouses – tolerance – allowing others to practise their personal beliefs without labelling them as bigots.
Isn’t it irrational to ridicule the right of Christians, Muslims or any other religion to exercise their faith in keeping with precepts outlined in their Holy Books?
Therefore, to come to a resolution that will not tear us apart, demands that all sides abandon their hardened positions.
This will not happen overnight, and Canada and other international countries that have made their decisions on how to treat same-sex relations should politely step back and allow Barbados to chart its course with frank, open and respectful discussion as a start.