Supporting Fred Mitchell’s Support for Gay Rights

Permit me to respond to a letter appearing in The Tribune of December 31, 2013, in which a Margaret Cooper takes issue with minister Fred Mitchell and myself for having publicly supported LGBT rights in The Bahamas.

Firstly, I would like to respond to a feature of her letter that is not a substantive point, but which fixates around Mitchell’s motivation in taking up the issue, and around my motivation in supporting him.

As I indicated in my previous letter, there is a disturbing tendency among some to label anyone advocating LGBT rights as having a “gay agenda”, an expression used by Cooper with respect to myself.

This is a “dog whistle” mechanism, making a not-so-subtle innuendo as to the personal sexuality of the individual himself, and taking advantage of a pre-existing social context of shame and taboo surrounding the subject.

It is the exact same tool used by racist southerners who suggested “nigger loving” or even the ultimate taboo, “race-mixing”, among whites who dared challenge the prevailing racism of their times.  It is cowardly demagoguery of the worst kind.

That said, in The Bahamas, it has been used successfully to frighten many a level-headed politician from even broaching the subject of LGBT rights.  That is the context of my support for Mitchell.

The first substantive question Cooper puts to myself and Mitchell is what exactly we “seek for gay people” in The Bahamas.  Mitchell can speak for himself if he judges it worthwhile to do so.  As for me, I want gay people to have the same rights and legal capacities as everyone else.  That is to say, to be able to join any organization, civil or military, to be protected from being fired or not hired just because somebody dislikes their “lifestyle”, to marry the person they love and to have all of the civil protections regarding property, inheritance and domestic rights that flow therefrom.

On her other substantive point, which is that LGBT rights are not the only neglected human rights issue in The Bahamas, I could not agree with her more.  That is why I so object to it being constantly taken out of the broader context of civil rights and singled out for gossipy speculation, the way she did in the rest of her letter.

For the information of Cooper, I wrote a weekly column in The Tribune, appearing every Monday between January 1999 and April 2007.  In it, I criticized on more than one occasion the discriminatory provisions of our constitution as relates to the rights of women.  Specifically, I was in strong disagreement with the position then taken by Mitchell’s party against the constitutional amendments proposed by the Ingraham administration, which would have removed the discrimination.

I also, on more than one occasion, took a strong position against letter writers and public figures who singled out white Bahamians, Haitians or just “foreigners” for purposes of demagoguery, or to score cheap, populist points.

I also criticized heavily the creeping Christianization of aspects of our country that are part of the (secular) public space, as well as the tendency of some religious people to try to push their beliefs on others, specifically Rastafarians, but also non-believers.

All of that is part of the record which Cooper can easily verify by visiting The Tribune archives, which I believe are available online.  If she is genuinely unfamiliar with me and my position on discrimination (as indicated by her reference to me as “one Andrew Allen” in her letter) it may be a useful exercise.  If, however, the real animus of her letter was to use a homophobic dog-whistle to frighten another Bahamian from publicly opposing discrimination against LGBT people, then I am afraid she will be wasting her time.

By:  Andrew Allen