Jamaican priest calls for LGBT tolerance, understanding

“Leadership and courage must walk hand in hand as we help our people to understand that our human family comprises even those who are different from us.” — Sean Major-Campbell

Yvone Sobers and the Rev. Sean chatduring the Christmas dinner for homeless LGBT youths.
Yvone Sobers and the Rev. Sean Major-Campbell chat during a Christmas dinner they helped provide for homeless LGBT youths in Jamaica.

An Anglican priest in Jamaica, the Rev. Sean Major-Campbell wrote those words in a commentary, “Sexuality is a justice issue,” which was published June 3 in the Jamaica Gleaner. These are excerpts from that commentary.

By the Rev. Sean Major-Campbell

There was much brouhaha surrounding the visit of Randy Berry, [U.S.] special envoy, human rights of LGBT, and Todd Larson, [senior LGBT coordinator at USAID]. From media personnel to callers and writers, and people in their various workplaces and on the streets, there was much talk about how these people will be here to force innocent Jamaicans to accept the alien export of same-sex activity to our shores.

On the contrary, their meeting and sharing revealed that they are fellow human beings who genuinely wanted to hear what Jamaicans had to say. I was impressed with their respect and high regard for their various audiences.

My embarrassment came only when I had to face the fact that once again, foreigners seemed to be more concerned about how we treat our fellow citizens based on LGBT status. It still feels strange to speak in the interest of LGBT persons. This is so because it is just not our socialisation as Jamaicans in general.

One of the biggest challenges is appearing adversarial without intending to do so. But how does one calmly make sense of:

1) that boy who is attacked because he “speaks too properly”?

2) That girl who is raped because “she can be corrected to become straight”?

3) That transgender woman whose physical features betray her reality which she did not choose?

Human rights advocate 

I often point out that I am not an LGBT advocate. Instead, I am a human-rights advocate. It just happens that the human community includes these persons. Sadly, many Jamaicans can only think of one word when they hear human rights. This then spirals into one great journey down the road of condemnation.

Who realises how frightening it is that many of our citizens are so ill-informed, because of a lack of human-rights awareness? Many of our accountability and justice issues would be far advanced, if only we had a stronger rights-based approach in the psyche of our people.

Randy Berry, the U.S. state department's special envoy for LGBT rights. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State)
Randy Berry, the U.S. state department’s special envoy for LGBT rights. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State)

Randy Berry and  Todd Larson cannot do for us what we must do as a people. And Jamaicans will not be coerced into what does not make sense to them. Our people have never worked well with any approach of force. It would be wise, then, that we broaden the discourse, facilitate the safe spaces for conversation, and promote more information-based awareness on the subject of human sexuality. …

Sexuality is a justice issue. Sexuality is a human-rights issue. Gender concerns are at the heart of how people live and move and have their being. The time for saving face, whether of the politician or pastor, has long expired. Leadership and courage must walk hand in hand as we help our people to understand that our human family comprises even those who are different from us.

Victimisation goes on

What a sad state for a democratic State to find itself in. A place where such important matters must remain taboo, since politicians might lose votes and churches/pastors might lose popularity. …

It is only a rights-based approach to sex and sexuality that is going to effectively address the muddied waters in which Jamaica now swims.

Young boys who have been victims of rape must of necessity be empowered with the knowledge that the unfortunate experience did not change essentially who they are. They continue to be boys. Adult men must urgently be so informed that they understand that lesbians and trans-girls cannot be changed through the cruelty of rape. Jamaica’s legislative framework must recognise the cruelty of rape in marriage.

We have an opportunity to empower our people with truth through a massive education campaign. Will we? By the way, I speak on behalf of the forgotten ones who call with suicidal ideation. All are, or have been, members of a church somewhere in Jamaica.

For more information, read the full commentary in the Jamaica Gleaner.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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