By Maurice Tomlinson
Before today’s ceremonies marking WorldPride in Toronto, Maurice Tomlinson, Jamaican-born activist and first winner of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award, wrote the following account of the contrast between the celebrations in Canada and the anti-gay protest planned in his home country.
Pride celebrations were also held this weekend in Istanbul, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Uganda, and elsewhere.
A TALE OF TWO PARADES
Today, Pride Toronto will host the largest celebration of LGBTI humanity in the history of Canada. This will mark the culmination of a fantastic and very successful WorldPride festival. The main event will of course be the long anticipated parade, which will be led by Canadian gay religious pioneer, Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. My husband, Tom, is a pastor with MCC and I will proudly march with him and my church community, but my smile will mask a heavy heart.
While I, and nearly 3 million people (equivalent to Jamaica’s population) will take to the streets of Toronto in support of human rights for LGBTI people around the world, today in Kingston, religious groups will mount my island’s (and possibly the region’s) largest anti-gay demonstration. This event will occur in blatant defiance of our national motto: “Out of Many, One People.”
Cars with loudspeakers have driven into communities blaring invocations for citizens to attend this event; posters have blanketed the city; preachers have trumpeted the “need” for this show of force to fight the “gay agenda;” aggressive fear-mongering ads have run on local media championing the need for participation in this latest salvo in the holy war against gays; a moral panic has engulfed the nation as irresponsible journalists published articles and cartoons about the supposed threat that homosexuality poses to kids; and press conferences about today’s hysterical outpouring of national hate have occurred.
There is a palpable sense that Jamaica is striding decidedly backward on the issue of human rights for LGBTI people, as preachers and fundamentalist civil society groups fanatically and frantically jockey for political power, and financial support.
Evangelical Christian groups have repeatedly threatened the Jamaican government that they will use their power to influence the polls and punish any party that seeks to review the British colonially imposed anti-sodomy law. The Jamaican Prime Minister has admitted that this is one reason she has renegaded on her election promise to read-down the law to protect the right to private intimacy of consenting adult males.
I know that in Jamaica, as in other countries that have successfully addressed this issue, love will speak louder than hate. However, as I march in the streets of Toronto with my inclusive church community, I will sadly reflect on the needless pain that blind evangelical religious ideology has inflicted on my “One Love” island. I pray that the voices of tolerant religious leaders will be amplified in my beloved homeland. Until then, I march, and speak, for those who cannot, even though my doing so is often tinged with sadness.
I wish everyone a Happy, and reflective, WorldPride.
By Maurice Tomlinson