Friday, December 9, 2011

Caribbean Context: Homosexuality

Disclaimer: Someone somewhere will read this and get up in arms, and want to argue with me. I'd just like to say these are not my views, just the situation as is in Barbados and some of the other Caribbean islands.

This is my second time living outside Barbados. When I was in Connecticut, I was in the military, so clearly, "no homosexuals" there. So this is my first time living in a community (the foreigner community, not the Japanese one) where being homosexual is often considered a right. It's not considered one in Barbados.

Barbados is a Christian nation. Sure, we've supposedly got 120 denominations of different religions represented on the island. And we're the home of the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, but we are still very Christian. There isn't really any seperation of Church and State. They've recently started having multi-denominational celebrations, but chances are if there's any sort of blessing of national significance it will be done by an Anglican or Catholic priest.

We're also an island that's 95% Black, ie, our ancestors were slaves. Christianity was beat into us over hundreds of years. Literally. At the same time a lot of the often more liberal African culture was killed. As a result, we uphold the Christian ideal - one man + one woman = family. Or at least, we uphold it on the surface.

On the other hand, we are somehow accepting. Most people wouldn't be cool with a couple of guys walking down the street "pulling tongue", but if they did it in the privacy of their homes, the feeling would be something like, "Well, as long as he don't come to me with that." It's still a country that being gay can make a scandal when the news breaks. And being gay still defines gay people. They're gay first and anything else after. People still very much stereotype gays. "Look at he! So girly. I know he was like that, ever since." And it's still a pity when someone "turns" gay. "She's such a pretty girl. What a pity."

But, I must also point out that while we don't actively acknowledge people's right to be gay, we don't denounce it in the ways that many of our neighbours do. There are a few slurs that we use, but we're not all screaming "bun out a chi-chi" (burn all gay people) like the Jamaicans. In fact, among the other islands of Caricom, Barbados is known as a gay man's paradise. Things that people would get beat up for in the other islands, Bajans will just roll their eyes, mutter under their breath and move on.

It goes without saying that gays don't get any special rights under Barbados law. In fact, the act of "buggery" - man on man sex - is illegal in the law books. Although, England's ultimatum to the entire commonwealth (no financial aid unless you legalise- which pisses me off because how are you going to just pee on a country's autonomy like that?) may change that soon.

So there's the situation as it stands with regards to homosexuality in Barbados and the Caribbean.


Dianne K. Salerni said...

Very interesting, Claire! So homosexuality is socially frowned upon in Barbados, but not actively discriminated against -- except by omission. (There's something grammatically wrong with that sentence, but I haven't had enough coffee to figure it out.)

Jolene Perry said...

OK, that was way interesting.
It's so cool to learn about different countries, and I hate that the sexuality of a person becomes their most defining characteristic. It just seems like a ridiculous way to set people apart.