Last edited: November 02, 2003

Gay and Outlawed in St Lucia: A Change is Coming?

St. Lucia Star, August 23, 2003
P.O. Box 1146 Castries, St. Lucia, West Indies
Fax: 758-450 8690

By Petulah Olibert

For years homosexuality has been frowned upon in St Lucian society. Homosexuals and those suspected of the practice have been called names, been laughed and jeered at and at times even attacked.

The recent election of homosexual priest Gene Robinson to the post of Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire has sparked renewed debate on the matter. Last Tuesday, Radio 100’s André Paul let his feelings be known on his That/What Makes Me Mad morning show and invited his callers to do the same.

“It goes against what God says. It is unnatural,” one caller said.

Another quoted the Bible: “Do not be deceived,” he read, “neither fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals nor sodomites, thieves, covetors, revelers, drunkards nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God. You must stop being homosexual to make it right with God.

“Fornicators can make it right by getting married, so can adulterers. Adultery is not something God likes, but it happens occasionally. Depending on the circumstances, you can get married and make it right, but homosexuals can’t make it right by getting married.”

Confused? So was I.

In St Lucia, homosexuality is a crime penalized by imprisonment: The laws state that “a person who commits buggery is guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to imprisonment for (a) life, if committed by an adult on a minor; (b) twenty-five years if committed by an adult on another adult; (c) in this section buggery means sexual intercourse per anus by a male person with a male or by a male person with a female.”

But for many homosexuals, their lifestyles do not feel unnatural. In a research study on homosexuality undertaken by a US resident and college student Kevyn Jacobs, he reportedly found that brain differences and in-utero development may influence one’s sexual orientation. In the study, certain structures found in the brains of homosexual men were also found in the brains of females.

“My opinion is that there are probably a confluence of factors—biological, genetic, and environmental—that come together to shape sexual orientation. In the face of this growing body of evidence, the continuing assertion that homosexuality is a chosen orientation is not very credible. Frankly, I think I was born this way,” said Jacobs.

So does Shermark.

For as long as he could remember, the 22-year-old said, he always felt different. He never knew why. Growing up, he had been subjected to derogatory name calling at school.

“I really didn’t make a big deal out of it,” he told me in an interview last week. “At first, I used to wonder why I was so different? But while growing up and reading and watching TV I started to understand who I was. I really thought I was the only one who felt the way I did.

“One day, I was invited to this party. When I got there, I was surprised to see guys dancing with guys and girls with girls.”

For the first time, he felt relieved that he was not alone. “After that I started dressing in women’s clothes. I feel comfortable that way.”

The ridicule has not stopped. “People still call me names,” he said. “The easiest thing for me was to ignore such people. I expected that kind of thing. This is who I am—I’m different. People here are so small-minded.

“It’s so different when I travel overseas. Sometimes, I forget that I’m gay because there is no one calling me names. It is only in St Lucia that people harass me. There are people who hate me without even knowing me. How can you hate somebody without knowing what they are like on the inside? Sometimes, I feel like I have to live my entire life dealing with that kind of reaction from people,” Shermark explained.

On rare occasions, he meets people who are understanding. “‘You look good,’ they say, ‘I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but it’s your life.’ Why can’t more people be like that? It is as if being gay is the worst sin in the world. Men molest and rape ladies and children all the time, but to them, being gay is the worst sin.

“I’m still scared about people’s reactions sometimes, but I have to get on with my life and I have to love myself. I can’t hide all the time while everyone else is enjoying their lives. I refuse to do that!”

Shermark says his family has supported him throughout and their attitude towards him has not changed. They were not surprised at his revelation.

Surprised that homosexuality is outlawed in St Lucia, the easily excitable young man remarked with raised brows: “My God! I should be arrested and thrown in the last cell at Bordelais!” All jokes aside, he felt that everyone should be entitled to their rights.

“We are all human. Who am I to judge someone? When I realized I was different, I wanted to change, but no one knew what I was feeling on the inside. I did not wake up one morning and say: I want to be gay. It’s something I cannot explain. I know it’s not accepted generally but I feel comfortable with my lifestyle. Everyone is making it a problem. I cannot understand why. I think it’s because I’m full hundred,” he said—the term he uses to describe his coming out.

According to an article by Richard Stern published in the STAR, the laws forbidding homosexuality in St Lucia are reportedly on the brink of change. In the July 30 article the Director of Agua Buena Human Rights Association related that in an interview with Health Minister Damian Greaves, he was asked if his comments about discrimination against homosexuals and its negative impact on the effort to curb HIV/AIDS applied to the possible decriminalization of homosexual behavior in St Lucia.

He had quoted Greaves as saying: “We are reviewing our criminal code within the next two or three months and we want to move in that direction. Our ministry will be championing this issue at the Cabinet level.”

In an interview with the STAR on Tuesday, Greaves explained his motive.

“There are closeted homosexuals infected with HIV/AIDS. They cannot come out openly to receive the treatment that they need because of a fear of being discriminated against because they are homosexuals,” he said. “Do you think it is fair to make homosexuality a criminal offense? I don’t think it’s fair at all. Why not make infidelity a criminal offense? Why criminalize homosexuality?”

Making it clear that he was speaking from a personal point of view, he continued: “As long as the individual does not impose his or her values on me, I have no problem with it.”

But André was having none of it. Even as I spoke to the minister on the phone he could be heard in the background: “In this country, whatever the international community is doing, we’re there,” he said. “The minister of health is already giving us the cue: ‘We are reviewing our criminal code and we want to move in that direction,’ yeah, the same direction—change the law. The United States is doing it, so we’re doing it. Tell you boy, we really need leadership in this country.”

According to André, the church has also failed when it comes to leadership.

“There is so much hypocrisy in the church these days that it is weak. How many of the church leaders even bother to set the record straight? You know why [they don’t]? Because many of them are involved in the same issues that they know are wrong. Many of them are involved in the whole thing of homosexuality!”

Meanwhile the debate goes on.

[Home] [World] [St. Lucia]