There is an interesting discussion going on over at the BIAW forum concerning the issue of including sexual orientation under the human rights act. While this issue, of which the group Two Words & A Comma are helping to raise awareness of, is not about giving homosexuality any special rights, or even necessarily about homosexuality itself, it is widely regarded as being about the issue of homosexuality and the discrimination faced by homosexuals in Bermuda. This issue is quite a divisive one, as it is throughout the greater Caribbean region.
From my own reading of the Bermuda Constitution and the existing Human Rights Act it is my belief that it is necessary to adapt the HR Act in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I want to make it clear that under the existing system one can be discriminated against equally on the basis of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Under our prevailing social power system though, in practical terms this works in favour of heterosexuals and against homosexuals.
Personally, I fully admit that I have trouble understanding homosexuality, in finding a member of the same sex attractive, let alone the physical expressions of these attractions. At most I can look at a guy and say, yeah, that’s a good looking guy, and I can see how women will find him attractive. But that’s about it. I recognise however that I no more need to understand homosexuality and same-sex attraction than homosexuals need to understand heterosexuality. It just is. They like what they like and I like what I like, and that is about it. Having said that, yes, I do have an issue with flamboyant and overly feminine or exaggerated homosexuality, in that they do really annoy me and I generally try to avoid them. Similarly, I have an issue with PDA, however I tend to be rather prudish on this issue in general, regardless of the sexuality. I find PDA, in the form of a goodbye or welcome back kiss and hug accetpable, especially at airports, but beyond that I dislike it. As for the irrational fear that some men have about being ‘hit on’ by homosexuals, my position is that if I’m hit on it is for the same reasons a women would hit on me, and has no bearing on my sexuality whatsoever; it only means I’m generally attractive.
Whenever this issue comes up it seems that it always involves a debate about whether or not homosexuality is a ‘choice’ or ‘biological’. While the question may be interesting, I am always wary about the consequences of the arguments and basically find it to be an irrelevant question. If it is found to be biological I am concerned about a new form of eugenics trying to eradicate the ‘gay genes’ from the population by any means necessary, from genetic engineering, forced sterilisations to death camps. If it is found to be a choice I am concerned about the horrors that therapy has unleashed, and question what the point would be.
Personally I am of the belief that it is primarily biological, with nurture having only a slight modifying effect. Again though, to me it is irrelevant whether or not it is a choice or a biological condition. The HR Act even as it is prevents discrimination on the basis of the biological conditions of race and sex (in the sense of male/female) as well as choice, such as political and religious beliefs. So the question has no bearing to me about whether or not sexual orientation should be included under the HR Act. At most I can see that some people may be concerned about their children being turned into homosexuals, should it be found to be a choice. Again, this has about the same level of concern to me as whether or not my children would be converted to this or that political or religious convention, and as far as I am concerned should it be a choice (which I do not think is the case) of the individual. I have always found the idea that it is a choice, especially in a strongly homophobic country like Bermuda, quite a ridiculous notion though. While I may choose the unpopular political and religious views of socialism and atheism in Bermuda, I am alot less likely to suffer negative consequences than someone choosing to be ‘gay’ would in Bermuda.
I have also found that alot of the more homophobic individuals in our society often equate homosexuality with pedophilia or bestiality. I’ve always found this quite ridiculous. I really don’t see how these three distinct issues are conflated into the one. The key thing with sexual orientation, be it heterosexual or homosexual, is the importance of consensuality. Non-consensual sex, be it homosexual or heterosexual, is wrong, period. By definition a non-human organisms (okay, should we meet sentient extra-terrestrials this will need changed… lol) and non-adult humans (in my opinion 18, but the law may say 16 in some legislations) cannot consent to sex. It is that key part of consensus that breaks the connection between homosexuality and pedophilia/bestiality.
Even should we adapt our legislation to include sexual orientation however, that will only be a very small part of the story. The greater issue in Bermuda is not so much the lack of legislation but the social power structure that discriminates against them.