Are Small Island Developing States in a position to be anti-gay?

Dear Editor,

Believe it or not, if the Bahamian people continue to practice the pre-century rituals of anti-gay rhetoric as though nothing has happened, as though we are isolated in a world governed by international relations, we are running the risk of facing harsh economic sanctions in the future. Here’s why:

Homoerotic subtext in mass media manufactures consent

The idea of sovereignty stems from a notion of total independence with which the Christian Council, and a small handful of politicians, and Bahamians, may base their anti-gay rhetoric. Due to the international relations concerning Small Island Developing States, there is no such thing as total independence — and we as a people are in no position to deny human rights to individuals on the basis of their sexuality.

In a global economy driven by international trade, and an archipelago so dependent on tourism for its survival, the Bahamian people are urged to understand our position in the matter of LGBT rights. Our perceptions of gender are formed by the culture in which we are born, and the mass media in which we consume — the two in constant battle with each other. Most of the visual texts we are exposed to these days include some kind of homoerotic subtext.

These Netflix and television series now incorporate gay characters and storylines of which we cannot deny. In many ways, these characters often shadow their dominant, more accepted and privileged counterpart, the heterosexual. These series portray gay and lesbian relationships alongside the heterosexual protagonist or main character, as a means of inclusion.

Whether admitted or denied, the homoerotic subtexts, inherent in mass media, engineer acceptance and a point of view that favors homosexuality. Our perceptions of gender and sexuality are formed by the leading economies of the world, most of which are arguably more open to homosexuality.

Economic hegemony and a tourist state

The GDP of our small island state is heavily reliant on our success in the tourism sector. The tourism-sector, said to be one of the more crucial industries, depends on our ability to provide goods and services aimed to cater to individuals around the world. It is so important that schools are in the business of drilling students in the know-how of hospitality so that they are able to cater to foreign visitors, in spite of the values, creeds and sexualities they may bring.

In light of this, it is important to understand that the anti-gay rhetoric, with which most Bahamians side, is the antithesis of the goal of the tourist market. The question is then, how do our draconian, Christian-fueled views on sexuality affect the tourist market? Intellectuals alike have predicted that travel bans are the most likely result of this longstanding wave of anti-gay talk by the Christian Council, and the average Bahamian man.

In the event of tourism, other sanctions do pose a threat to the national interest such as sports bans, which prevent international events from taking place in the country, and trade sanctions, which prevent the trade of goods between countries. All of the following are likely economic embargoes; the direct outcome of anti-gay rhetoric.

There is often talk of small-island developing nations being overly dependent on international trade. Important to note is that the inability to be self-sufficient comes from factors out of our control such as our susceptibility to natural disaster, economic mismanagement, etc. It all boils down to the question: how do we contain/regulate anti-gay rhetoric in light of these possible economic risks?

In 2009, Uganda faced condemnation from the international community for its anti-gay legislation, which criminalized sexual activity between members of the same sex. As preposterous as it may be, the legislation was justified to protect the traditional family. The World Bank suspended a 90 million dollar loan with Uganda and the United States spoke openly on the strain it placed on economic relations between the two countries. Ultimately, such legislation placed a strain on Uganda’s economy, eventually leading to a repeal in 2014.

Following this, the United States legalized gay marriage in a historic Supreme Court ruling in 2015. This legislation recognizes same-sex unions as a matter of the state, with which the church has no part. Some may argue that Christian marriage is indissolubly between man and woman and has its foundation in Christian teaching. However, the state recognizes that marriage is, as has always been, a legal matter.

Mindful of the fact that the world’s leading economies have opened doors for gay marriage, The Bahamas still refuses to recognize the marriage on the grounds that it is a move that will eventually destroy the traditional family, and that it is immoral in the sight of Christian teaching, by which the majority of Bahamians ascribe. These views are encouraged by politicians who do not wish to lose popularity with their party, and by extension, the electorate. Some may even question whether or not these politicians obtained some form of an anthropological education, and their capability to govern objectively, free from any persuasion that poses a threat to our economic well-being.

It may seem that the move to gay marriage is unthinkable in The Bahamas. For one, the Christian Council is allowed too much airtime and opinions in matters of state. Also, any talk of gay marriage legislation can potentially fuel another violent upheaval similar to the one that had come about when talk of a gay cruise had surfaced; however, this time it may even result in bloodshed. Either way, the question of gay marriage is one The Bahamas will soon have to face up to under pressure from the world’s leading economies.

In light of these growing trends, The Bahamas must begin to consider its role as a small-island developing nation in regard to our views on LGBT rights. We must recognize, as a people, that LGBT rights are considered globally to be a human rights issue.

Glenn King


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