Apr 26, 2012 News
By Reuben del Prado
On the afternoon of April 22, 2012 more than a hundred men and women came out to the poolside of Duke Lodge. They were straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual. It was a fantastic celebration of being proud and Guyanese, as they participated in and supported the Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey: CARIMIS
We were told it would not happen. “Not outside.” “Not out in the open.” “No one would dare to come.” But they came, and it was an amazing rainbow of colours.
Why was there any doubt that gay Guyanese would happily come out on a sunny Sunday afternoon?
It is my opinion that the people of Guyana are made to believe that sexual orientation is a sin that needs to be punished. Let me state loudly and clearly that homophobia is like racism and sexism, and any other form of bigotry that denies people their humanity, their dignity and personhood.
I speak out because people are being blamed for something that they can do nothing about — their sexuality. To discriminate against any person on grounds of their sexual orientation is unacceptable and unjust.
“But they are sinners,” I can hear preachers and some politicians say. “They are choosing a life of sin, for which they must be punished.”
As a scientist I have enough evidence to say that no one chooses to be gay or heterosexual. Sexual orientation, like skin colour, is another feature of our diversity as a human family.
I remember standing next to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a few years ago, when I heard him say: “Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? … The brave more than the timid? And do any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?”
I hear many Guyanese say that being anti-gay is a religious issue. Perhaps then, what is called for is a creative theological response–a response that challenges oppressive religious and cultural ideologies of injustice and systematic exclusion.
Faith leaders who remain in comfortable silence on sexuality, and the diverse forms it takes, must speak out. And communities of faith that have silently embraced gay and lesbian members for years must publically hang out the welcome banner.
We are seeing a promising global development in which more and more religions and denominations accept and ordain gay and lesbian clergy; more gay and lesbian people are featured in media; and medical, psychological and psychotherapeutic organizations reject that homosexuality is a disease.
Heterosexuality no longer represents the definition of reality for all people. The simplistic, black and white lines that were drawn between the concepts of good and evil made it very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexuals) versus a “them” (evil, gays).
The times are changing in Guyana as well, and soon national consultations will begin on decriminalizing homosexuality, as a follow-up to discussions at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Australia last October.
I am proud to be in a country today that increasingly embraces everyone as equals. As persons who can contribute to the development and wellbeing of Guyana. This is a time of opportunity when fellow humans, of all faiths, creeds, races and sexual orientation, stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Guyanese increasingly resist calls for exclusion, because excluding is so absolutely un-Guyanese.
By protecting and defending social justice for all its citizens, Guyana will once again be a shining star in the Caribbean – as we remember the bold and brave decision of the Guyana Parliament when it voted “no” against criminalising HIV exposure and transmission, on September 8, 2011.
I know that Guyana can, must and will remove punitive laws, policies and practices that perpetuate discrimination against its own children, sisters and brothers, and by doing so provide an opportunity to all in participating fully, as One People and One Nation.
Dr. del Prado is a medical doctor and public health specialist. He is the UNAIDS Representative in Guyana. He can be contacted via [email protected]
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