After a recent screening of “The Abominable Crime” film in Mandeville, Jamaica, an ally asked the following questions that I have had to answer repeatedly. You may have heard them yourself:
Q. If you call Tom your “husband,” what does he call you?
A. “Husband,” “partner” or “Maurice.” It depends.
Q. Why don’t you both have the same last name — like “regular” married couples?
A. It is not required for any married couple to have the same last name. And, Tom and I each have our own identity and professional careers under our own names.
Q. What do you say to those people who say homosexuality is unnatural?
A. It exists in nature, so logically it can’t be unnatural. It is just not common.
Q. But what about those people who say that although it exists in nature it is not a good thing?
A. It would only be a bad thing if it were harmful. There is no evidence that being attracted to someone of the same-sex (the definition of homosexuality) is harmful. Some people claim that HIV is transmitted by homosexuality but that is not true. HIV is a virus not a sexual orientation. If two gay men in a committed monogamous relationship have unlimited amounts of anal intercourse and neither of them is infectious, then HIV will not pass. However, a single act of condomless vaginal sex with an infectious penetrating partner may transmit the virus. The harm is not the orientation, but forcing people to hide or form false relationships that deny them critical access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health information.
Q. How do you reconcile what the Bible says about homosexuality and your faith?
A. The Bible says a lot of things that may have been culturally relevant at the time of writing but are no longer accepted. For example, slavery was once allowed, divorce was completely banned, and women could not speak in church. Eating shrimp was also forbidden because it would go bad in the desert where the Israelites were living.
The ban on gay sex could also have been an attempt to encourage the birth of more children as the nation was desperate for warriors. Since they didn’t have in-vitro fertilization (IVF) at the time, only heterosexual sex was deemed valid. Clearly, a declining population is not a worry for Jamaica. In any event, we have many other ways for all couples to conceive children today. For example, Mitt Romney’s son and wife had a child through IVF.
Finally, I take my cue from Jesus who never said a word about homosexuality and was happy to meet with all people, regardless of who they were.
Q. There are some gays that give the rest of the community a “bad name” by being too flamboyant. Considering Jamaica’s culture shouldn’t they “tone it down” in order to be accepted?
A. Everyone in Jamaica is constitutionally guaranteed the right to freedom of expression and as long as it does not harm anyone such expression is totally fine. We can’t hide behind culture to deny people their human rights. That would have justified the retention of slavery in the U.S. Deep South, apartheid in South Africa and female genital mutilation in some parts of Africa. Instead, we need to build a culture of “live and let live” that respects the autonomy of each individual.
Q. Some gays engage in criminal acts and since they are a marginalized group, shouldn’t they work harder to gain societal approval?
A. Yes, there are members of the LGBTI communities who commit crimes, but please note that there are more straight criminals as well and we don’t blame their criminal behavior on their sexual orientation. If people are disadvantaged, dehumanized, discriminated against, and completely rejected by society it is no wonder that they engage in anti-social behavior. However, if we build a culture of inclusion for ALL, this will lessen the incidences of harmful conduct. So, while I don’t condone criminality, I think that it is time that we addressed the root causes instead of scapegoating a marginalized community.
Q. Aren’t children better off with two heterosexual parents?
A. Actually, the latest research, including the largest study of same-sex parenting which was done in Australia, has found that children raised by same-gender couples fare no worse and in some instances outperform their counterparts raised by heterosexuals. The reason is simple enough: gays have to work harder than heterosexuals to have children and so those children are generally treasured more by homosexuals.
In the end, this ally said that I answered the questions “really well” and I told him that I’d had a lot of practice!