Born in Woodbrook eight decades ago, Julian Kenny, the UWI professor and environmentalist who died yesterday, repeatedly stood up for the humanity of GLBT people, as a senator, a journalist and a scientist. He spoke out in the Senate about the exclusion of sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunity Act. Most recently, from October 18 to November 8 of last year, he authored an important four-part series of newspaper columns on the natural science of sexual orientation. Here he is writing in his May 23, 2007 Express column, titled “Genes for ignorance, bigotry?”.
Given the millennia of occurrence of homosexuality in humans, and amongst many mammals and birds, it is not unreasonable to assume that there is probably a strong genetic component, possibly even of more than one gene interacting with others, that express themselves to varying degrees as human homosexual behaviour in all its diversity.
I have often wondered at the growth of homophobia in the region and the country, when homosexuality is being muted, understood and accepted in the developed world, and, reflect back on the debate on the Equal Opportunities Bill in the Senate. When I spoke in favour of the Bill I did question the exclusion of sexual orientation. The response on the Government side while I spoke was snickering by the front bench, even from that champion of the human rights movement, rather like first formers hearing their first risqué joke. Sexual orientation was simply ignored in the final version passed by that House. And I reflected also on my childhood observations of the ways in which St Mary’s College students used to taunt a Down’s syndrome teenager being walked by a carer in Lord Harris Square – 12-year-olds shouting “chupidee, chupidee”.
There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that any behaviour that in any way differs from what is demanded by convention in society is fair game for discrimination and ostracism, and, even violent suppression and assault. And people use it at all levels. Historically all religions have used it to control followers or to increase numbers.