Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The morality police are watching

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 25 May 2011)

I am often disappointed, and at times even offended, at the way homosexuals are viewed. Those who interact with me throughout the day will customarily refrain from their usual sexist verbiage so as not to offend my sensitivities on this topic.

However, I am also quite offended by homophobic speech because as a woman I understand all too well the plight of a group of people that is besmirched and degraded simply because of how they were born. This is not an easy life.

For example, imagine that you have decided to have sex with someone. Whether you are in love with this person or not is not the issue. Neither is whether you want to pursue a relationship with this person. The only issue is that you are going to have mutually consenting sex with a person of your choosing.

In Guyana, this choice could get you arrested if you are a man and the person with whom you choose to have sex is also a man. The enforcers of the law would not care if both people involved were mutually consenting adults. They would not care if the two were Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Nor would they care about the race of the “offenders.” The only thing that would matter to those with badges is that both people involved were men.

This type of despicable incident could take place in Guyana today, since laws against sodomy are still in the law books. In fact, unless the standing laws of the country change to be more tolerant of sexual preference, it seems the logical outcome could one day see paranoid heterosexuals narking on their homosexual neighbours to “clean up the neighbourhood.”

The privacy of gay couples could be torn asunder by the scrutinizing eyes of disapproving moralisers. The civil rights of these homosexual Guyanese could be at stake because of ignorance and fear. Sometimes when I think the human race is progressing along at breakneck speed, all I have to do is think about this kind of backward behaviour to be reminded of how far we still have to go.

Although I am a white woman, I have never been attracted to white men. As such, it would infuriate me to have someone deem me “immoral” simply because I do not find white men attractive. However, our world is such that there was a time not so long ago when a white woman could have been killed for having sex with a man who was not her same race.

So what about women who do not find any men attractive or men who do not find women attractive? In my opinion, they should be allowed to pursue whomever they do find attractive – even if is their same gender.

Humans can be slow to accept change, even if we claim to be open-minded and ready to learn the ways of other cultures. This is especially true when it involves our religious beliefs. However, the question of gay sex morality is not even the point when it comes to these standing laws.

Rather, this is a question of whether civil rights apply to all Guyanese or just the ones who comply with traditional, conservative religious values. Should those who practice one of the mainstream religions be afforded a higher status as a citizen simply because they choose to align themselves to traditional values?

What of those in society who choose to reject those traditional values and seek to be the master of their own values and goals? Typically, as long as these individuals do not infringe on society’s established rules, they are given the freedom to pursue their own way of life.

It is when these non-conformists begin stepping on the toes of the traditionalists that things start to get messy. Homosexuality has been one of those areas that society as a whole has been far more resistant in doling out tolerance. However, society should not have the right to define the parameters of its citizens’ sexual preferences.

What is done in a person’s bedroom should be honoured with privacy, regardless of sexual orientation. If those rights are subject to infringement at the whim of a person who frowns on a homosexual lifestyle, then we should expect the same of other “moral” issues as well.

Will drinking and dancing be next on the list since there are many religions that frown on these activities too? Legislation such as the sodomy laws were passed in ignorance and intolerance, just like laws in several states in America that banned inter-racial marriage.

However, the fact that such laws remain is an affront to people who want to step outside of the simple construct of religious morality. It is high time to step out of the dark ages and recognise that all forms of diversity make us beautiful – not evil.

When we stop insisting that everyone must look and act like a certain group, we will finally be able to enjoy the beauty of our diversity, instead of feeling like we are being forced into a mould made for someone else.

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