Tulip Reid

Tulip Reid

TOO often, people argue that homosexuality is the root cause of HIV and offer proof that same-sex behaviours are abnormal. As we observe AIDS Awareness Week and World AIDS Day this week, it is worthwhile to revisit Dr Wayne West’s letter to The Gleaner titled “Homosexuality is not normal’’ on November 1, 2019.

In it, Dr West challenged the Caribbean Policy Research Institute’s assertion that anti-gay discrimination is costing Jamaica J$11 billion annually. He made a causal connection between the rise of HIV and the removal of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. He also falsely asserted that the removal was the result of political pressure from the gay-rights movement.

History, however, has recorded the horrific failed attempts at “correcting” this alleged psychiatric disorder. Sadly, some parents still persist in sending their children into “counselling away the gay”. It is no wonder low self-esteem and suicide and mental-illness rates are higher among this segment of the population.

Indeed, if Dr West was interested in having a dispassionate discussion, he would have given recognition to the fact that same-sex loving appears in other species. He would have noted that what is not normal is the mass hysteria that appears to be specially reserved for gay men and women. He would acknowledge that the chasing of gay men out of communities and the raping of lesbians to “straighten them out” is anything but normal. He would have considered how homophobia narrows the room for safe-sex partners and responsible conduct by gay and bisexual men.

It is particularly unfortunate when a learned medical doctor postulates his argument on the normalcy of a group of persons based on the transmission of sexual infections. Disease or its absence does not define a person’s identity or rights. Sex is the single greatest cause of transmission of sexual diseases. But we don’t outlaw it, and we don’t vilify heterosexuals as abnormal and unwanted. Whether straight, gay, or in-between, there is room along the entire sexual spectrum for more responsible sexual behaviour.

Dr West was also wrong when he asserted that the science is clear and that homosexuality is “neither genetically determined, ‘born so’, nor immutable [but] is acquired after birth and is significantly due to environmental factors”. He offered no basis for this statement. But it seems to me that if true, then the person who has “acquired” this condition through no fault of his or her own should not have to endure the persecution and suffering that Dr West and others inflict with their false statements, populist rallies, and HIV scaremongering.

This, Dr West, is the real reason why the gay-rights movement has become the great civil-rights campaign of this century. That fight is not going away so long as you and others deny gay men and women their normalcy and their right to belong.

• Tulip Reid’s article was a guest column in Saturday’s Jamaica Gleaner to mark World AIDS Day.

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