Revisiting Homosexuality in the Caribbean

Revisiting Homosexuality in the CaribbeanSeveral years ago, I wrote an article that reviewed homosexuality in the Caribbean. This social and ethically disruptive issue maintains more paradoxes than robust fortitude in ecclesial and political contexts about core principles, held sacred and unquestionable.

In holding the sexual fabric of our society together, ‘Caribbeaners’ ought to be on double duty. The church needs to exercise faith to support efforts that protect human rights in the face of vulgar skepticism. And the state has to show courage to remove obvious threats to individual freedom despite strong religious resistance. Both faith and courage flows from each other in ways that neither the church nor the state can be indifferent to each other’s distinct functions.

 Caribbean governments struggle immensely to balance changing global attitudes and laws in relation to homosexuality. These attitudes and laws appear frozen. But rapidly changing island values and traditions are slowly defrosting them. This important struggle cannot simply be resolved by mere appeals to the Bible or ready acceptance of prejudicial laws against homosexual behaviors and choices.

 In fact, most Caribbean politicians are afraid of voter backlash, therefore they timidly adopt a safe stance. While the Bible informs a majority of our society’s sexual choices and condemns various forms of sexual perversions, laws should regulate our actions in the public square.

 Both the church and the state influence each other on what constitutes moral norms. But the state is not the church. The state cannot decide theological issues nor can the church determine laws. There are times when Christian virtues come in conflict with state interests and there are times when the state must push back against the worst elements of theological hypocrisy infused into our culture by religious fervor.

 The state and the church need each other to promote redeemed social conditions. The church doesn’t have the luxury to declare the shine of public life off limits or that there are different spiritual expectations for the church and another for the state. Equally, it is practically perilous for the state to ignore bigoted religious practices and beliefs that violate fundamental rights.

 But I should also acknowledge that the church has its own sexual challenges. If our body is sacred and if sexual intimacy illustrates a redemptive bond between God and humanity, the church has not yet found the language to address the full range of sexual identities that is becoming an irreversible part of the Caribbean moral landscape and erotic needs.

 Secondly, the church cannot condemn sexual sins and at the same time alienate the sinner or else it opens the floodgates to anarchy. Whereas the approval of God must always trump popular opinion and customs, the church’s spiritual resources ought to bring out the meaning of Christianity for different sexual expressions.

 I agree that the Caribbean church should defend its theology of heterosexual norm on moral grounds with empathy and caring. It cannot simply assert Christ-like ideals without critically analyzing how best in today’s circumstances it should emulate the love that Jesus himself embodied, especially to persons seen as outcast.

 But the state should equally resist the criminalization of homosexuality on the principles of democracy. The state cannot eat its cake and have it. It must defend homosexual rights to live freely in society without harassment by providing the legal muscle to enforce those rights.

 And at the same time, the Caribbean church must do a better job at addressing its prejudices. These biases fail to be just and coherent. There is a tendency to fiercely reject homosexual lifestyle while being more tolerant of heterosexuals’ perversions.
 Yet I do not want to discount the moral decencies that the church has preserved in the Caribbean regarding our sexual restraints. Unavoidably, the church should contribute more to the challenge of homosexuality than it is currently doing. Caribbean lawmakers should be prepared to come down on the side of justice for all in trying to address more directly homosexual reality.

 As the Caribbean continues to untie the knot of homosexuality in our midst, tensions will emerge. But the ethical reconstruction of Caribbean sexual identity within the context of a thriving democracy cannot be viewed as empty. A sexual ethic is needed to keep social life from deteriorating while the struggle continues. This ethical stance should also serve as a tool for persons to affirm their sexual identities and as a device to protect minority freedoms without offsetting majority claims. It is roundly unjust for some Caribbean politicians to advance human rights and ignore the legal and social barriers to enforce these rights.

 Differences in moral outlook must be accepted as a fact although not as a guiding moral standard. I believe that the laws of equality and freedom (to which homosexuals are entitled) are best adhered to, when spiritual principles of agape love and neighborly responsibility inform how citizens enact them.

 There are at least three vital questions that we have to wrestle with and settle over time, if the Caribbean is to continue its social development and progressive thinking:
 These are:

• Can Caribbean homosexuals turn to the state for protection or to the church for sexual acceptance? If yes, what forms of protection and acceptance?

• How can homosexuals begin to influence the state apparatus and recruit conscientious citizens to support alternative sexual preferences?

• Even if sexual urges are socially constructed and sexual passions are flexible and fluid, is there a political philosophy and ethical position—given our culture and local traditions -- that should be employed to stop sexual identifies from being demonized in the Caribbean?

 Below is the entire text on Homosexuality in the Caribbean that initially sparked my quest to inspire effective engagement with Caribbean sexuality. The implications are complex. They point to how we might in dialogue and action, transform the Caribbean's sexual identity in applying profound idealism to today’s morality.

“Professor Claude Douglas’ new book: ‘Homosexuality in the Caribbean-Crawling out of the Closet,’ is simultaneously a sociological analysis and an erudite commentary on sexuality as a critical function of human identity. His terrible burden comes as a priceless gift. He discusses a taboo issue: the maneuvers of homosexuality within the English speaking Caribbean.

 Douglas writes against the prevailing idea of a specific brand of Judeo-Christian theology, which affirms heterosexual norm-a religious orientation that pervades the Caribbean mind. While the book speaks directly to the homophobic particulars of the Caribbean experience, it fails to explore fully, how relationships of justice are exercised within the milieu of the Caribbean’s sexual ethics.

 Knowing that the typical Caribbean person stands at the juncture of adjudicating competing sexual claims-ranging from bisexual to transsexual, to gay, to lesbian and to heterosexual erotic and sensual orders- the author raises an implicit question.

 That is, how does one’s sexual identity regardless of orientation, enables a morality of mutual regard within a maturing democracy? Given the sociological terrain of these islands, the book asks us to consider: What touchtone values guide our lives?
 This question is crucial. In the front seat of the many changing trends bombarding the Caribbean, sits the haunting issue of homosexuality. It is buckled down to the mores of the past. Yet, it is willing to drive off towards an increasingly tolerant society.

 Although the Grenadian-born sociologist displays a combination of talents-straightforward wit and passion, robbing up against a keen understanding of how society works, his analysis is more than an academic exercise.

 Douglas takes us away from our self-protective defenses and disrobes our thinking with a reflective, humane, and moving conversation. He begs each of us to examine our history and ourselves by glimpsing in others, the world of meaning and value that lie beneath our prejudices and convictions.

 I was asked to review the book, and to write its foreword. Of particular interest to me, Claude concentrates his mind on two subtle but soul-searching truths that distinguishes his book: 1) A social-awareness akin to a greater issue-how shall we, and those that follow us, live in harmony with our stark differences, and 2) The ethical dilemmas packaged in the social challenges that a post-colonial society, caught in the thick of a postmodern sensitivity, must certainly wrestle with.

 Homosexuality in the English speaking Caribbean does not yield a happy solution that everyone can live with. For some, the answer is obvious. Caribbean traditions are to remain unstained from the morally draining influences of those who subscribe to an alternative sexual identity. Yet each Caribbeaner, knows a friend, suspects a family member, or believes a rumor about a neighbor’s unique sexual preferences.

 As a general pattern in the Caribbean, some homosexuals live behind closed doors with souls blasted by pain. Others, who come out in the open, experience the terror of condemning eyes. Both groups share one thing in common- a human face bulging with the need to be widely accepted and completely embraced.

 The vast differences that exist over the place and status of homosexuals, resembles a thick crust layered in multiple social textures. In some islands, like Jamaica, homosexuals are brutally killed, and in other places like Barbados, they are comprehensively affirmed. However, there is a dominant attitude of ambivalence in Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Dominica.

 Douglas concedes that it is not easy to account for these different behaviors. He offers, instead, an authoritative synthesis on the larger struggles for freedom that homosexuality engenders.

 Perceptively, his work demonstrates that there is no arms length distance between homosexuals’ need to find comfort and solace in religious institutions, and that elegant Caribbean spirit of fighting for social justice within sacred circles and society at large. He discloses that this is a task that advocates for self-expressiveness have undertaken vigilantly.

 I have known Claude for over 18 years and have always admired his capacity to inspire and enrapture others with his innovative but honest ideas. Homosexuality in the Caribbean-Crawling out of the Closet captures the clashes and conflicts that confront islanders as they try to navigate between human rights and cultural norms, and economic consequences and fundamental social values.

 Although Claude Douglas does not answer which of these values are most important, he forces readers to find an alternative that is consistent with their values by implicitly asking them to consider, whether their attitudes towards homosexuals violate important moral principles, or simply depart from the Golden Rule. If yes, what are the ethical implications? If no, what are the critical issues at stake for future generations?

 I recommend the book as vital reading for anyone who wants to understand the sexual politics of the Caribbean mind. Every parent, teacher, youngster, social worker, counselor, pastor and political leader, who must help those they exercise influence over, find a moral center while becoming responsible citizens in a constantly changing global community, should purchase this book. As a source of enlightenment, the book should serve as a boundary – pushing text for secondary and college students unraveling relevant social phenomena.

 The pervasive presence of homosexuals in the islands cannot be avoided. Claude suggests that before we give unrivaled depth and sacred meaning to our sexuality, we’ll have to discover the source of our values. At the heart of these raging tensions over homosexuality is a profound democratic impulse where proactive mutual respect harmonizes with human inter-relatedness. This impulse has the capacity to calm and clarify our fears, worries and convictions.

The author writes: “If we allow the interior cosmos of our cultural and morals beliefs to be integrated in our pursuit of the common good, we will set in motion a noble social goal.” Professor Claude Douglas has provided a useful model to work through bitter differences. Homosexuality in the Caribbean-Crawling out of the Closet offers a re-educative, whole-person process of this worthwhile endeavor.”

Reporting by Caribarena news, publishing by Ofer Shaked.

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3 Comments In This Article   


revisiting hpmsexuality

#3 morals » 2014-03-06 05:41

My dear you would not view this topic differently the folks you associate with are engaged in this kind of behavior. Who are not gay are bisexual. Sadly the your associates have wives and children.
It is alarming that the use of religion and bible principles are always included.
Be gay all you chose, the problem with you people you want the best of both worlds. IT IS WRONG!


Revisiting Homosexuality in the Caribbean

#2 UncommonSense » 2014-01-27 13:45

Dr. Newton, the church has to develop a more consistent sexual ethics with regards to homosexuals and heterosexuals. If the church is going to deal with sexuality from a theological perspective all forms of sexual perversion outside of marital sex must be equally condemned.

Caribbean politicians are not about expanding democracy. They are about keeping power. Not one of them will ever do the right thing and defend homosexual rights or personal freedom to choose their sexual identify.

Both the Caribbean State and the Caribbean Church need Re-education.



#1 NAMELESS » 2014-01-27 11:20

The author writes: “If we allow the interior cosmos of our cultural and morals beliefs to be integrated in our pursuit of the common good, we will set in motion a noble social goal.” Professor Claude Douglas has provided a useful model to work through bitter differences. Homosexuality in the Caribbean-Crawling out of the Closet offers a re-educative, whole-person process of this worthwhile endeavor.”

Read more: http://www.Caribarena.com/antigua/opinions/opinion-pieces/dr-isaac-newton/105878-revisiting-homosexuality-in-the-caribbean.html#ixzz2rc11AAWx



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Dr.Isaac Newton

Dr. newtonDr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issue

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