SEVERAL days ago, the pride parade made its return to the streets of Georgetown after the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay apart for about two years. While the colours, costumes, and frolicking were a sight to behold, the parade- and the reactions to it- reminded us of the challenges members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community continue to face.
Members of the community and their allies freely marched through the streets, making a very visible statement that they are proud of who they are. But it wasn’t until you checked social media that you’d notice just how much hatred was being spewed.
Messages of support and camaraderie shone through the vitriol of hatred and violence, certainly. But the sheer volume of hatred- that I saw, at least- was very troubling.
Because I do not get it.
Just last month, in one of these columns, I questioned why it is so easy to let stigma and discrimination toward the LGBTQ+ community fester and why it is so difficult to just let people live. I perused social media, hoping to find comments or explanations that would help me understand either, but nothing seemed to make sense.
What logic explains championing love and unity, peace and harmony but sticking in an addendum or little asterisk to say that this does not apply to people who identify differently?
Again, I ask: if we accept that people fundamentally have a right to happy, healthy, quality lives, why are there different metrics or parameters for people with different sexuality?
Respect and acceptance for each other shouldn’t be difficult things.
What’s worrying for me, too, is that this hatred isn’t just confined to social media spaces. Numerous publications detail the violence and discrimination faced by members of that community in Guyana.
Some of this, I think, stems from our ignorance and perhaps even longstanding (heteronormative) ideals. And some of it, perhaps, can be linked to anti-gay, oppressive laws and the influence of some religious values.
I remember last year, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) found that Guyana’s law which prohibited cross-dressing violated people’s freedom of expression. Because the CCJ is Guyana’s apex court, the government then went to the National Assembly to formally remove the law.
Given that a decision was already made, it was difficult to comprehend the debate that consumed the National Assembly when that matter was brought up. It should have been as simple as the Parliamentarians accepting that a law that prohibits people’s right to freely express themselves was stuck down. Instead, it was a debate, which religious arguments on the morality of cross-dressing and the transgressions that are committed by people who engage in cross-dressing.
This isn’t an attack on religion or those who believe in religion, because I believe in God. But what I don’t understand is using religion to invalidate who people are and perpetuate hate on them when they aren’t harming anyone by loving the people they love. That hate seems very anti-religious if you ask me.
Given that occurrence, though, I wonder what the appetite for removing more of those oppressive laws will be like. For example, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruled that Antigua and Barbuda’s buggery law contravenes the Constitutional rights of citizens and noted that the selection of one’s intimate partner is a private and personal choice between consenting adults.
What would the discourse in Parliament be like if a motion to remove Guyana’s laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy was brought to the House? And would that discourse contribute to the stigma and discrimination members of the LGBTQ+ community grapple with every day? Would that discourse stymie efforts at promoting greater respect and understanding?
These questions and so many more circle around my head, and I sometimes find it hard to wrap my head around it all. What remains crystal clear, though, is that greater respect and acceptance for all people aren’t difficult things.
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