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Plea for Jamaican LGBT rights now that 'gay cure' lie is past

Jamaican LGBT activist Angeline Jackson contributed this commentary about Exodus International and Jamaica’s anti-gay movement.  Jackson is convenor of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica , which works with both young and aging lesbians, bisexuals, and other women who have sex with women. Editing is by Hilaire Sobers and Colin Stewart.

Angeline Jackson
Angeline Jackson

For almost 40 years Exodus International lied about sexual orientation and promoted those lies throughout the world, with many people buying into it.  On Wednesday June 19, Exodus International announced its closure, bringing an end to its campaign of lies.

The claim of Exodus International was that “Change is Possible” through conversion therapy. However, in January 2012, then-president of Exodus International Allan Chambers conceded that “…99.9% of [the gay people engaged in such therapy] have not experienced a change in their orientation”.

In Jamaica we’ve had at the very least two instances of this religiously motivated pseudo-science called ex-gay therapy. One is the anti-gay Christian group Wired Jamaica and the other is a visit from Dennis Jernigan.

Dennis Jernigan (Photo courtesy of Jamaican Observer)
Dennis Jernigan (Photo courtesy of Jamaican Observer)

In May 2012, the Jamaica Observer published an article on then Vice Chairman of the Exodus International board (forced to resign in June for his activity in Jamaica) Dennis Jernigan, who claimed that he, a former homosexual, had since been changed and “was given a brand new identity in Christ, and…walked out of that lifestyle.” (“I used to be gay – Evangelist tells his story,” Jamaica Observer May 28, 2012.)

Will the closure of this group lead to the closure of ex-gay ministries across the world, including Jamaica? Hopefully, but I doubt that will ever happen anytime soon. Maybe it is better to hope that the local papers will let Jamaicans know of this closure. (So far, it hasn’t reported the news for three days and counting). Maybe the newspaper will  even  see fit to publish this as a letter to the editor when I submit it.

Javed Jagahi
Javed Jagahi

With all the frenzy of church groups over the upcoming case of Javed Jaghai, who seeks to overturn the buggery law, and the groups’ bid for the government to retain it, I wonder where is the church’s voice when we have children being abused physically and sexually. In September 2012, there were 626 reported cases of rape, the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) reported 43 JCF members were charged for corruption, and we have students killing each other for various reasons. Where exactly does the church’s priority lie?

Gay Jamaicans are requesting that the Government of Jamaica decriminalise consensual acts between adults (both male and female). LGBT Jamaicans generally are asking the Government of Jamaica to treat them as equal citizens of Jamaica just like their heterosexual citizens, not as second-class citizens. They are asking for the same quality of citizenship.

Religion cannot determine rights, for Jamaica is not a theocracy. It is a parliamentary democracy; nor should the will of the majority determine what portion of human rights will be protected. According to The Principles of Democracy, “majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression.”

The Government of Jamaica needs to stop cowering in fear and do what is right for the protection and human rights of all the citizens of Jamaica, both heterosexual and LGBT.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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