The Little Oxford English dictionary (9th ed.) (2006) defines tolerance as “able to accept things you do not like or agree with.” Going off of this definition, I would like to challenge the narrative that some Barbadians have – that Barbados has always been tolerant of homosexuality. When directly confronted about LGBT+ rights in Barbados, many Barbadians like to make excuses on why it is not necessary to address. They like to use excuses such as: gay people are not attacked nor murdered here as they are in Jamaica, the buggery law, while still in place, is rarely enforced, a few openly LGBT+ people have jobs, with regular interaction with the public and are not harassed and the fact that the Queen of the Bees pageant, a local drag show, is allowed to take place. They fail to recognize that LGBT+ persons have no rights, are discriminated against in most, if not all facets of their lives and are typically ignored, or given inadequate support and attention, if they were to report a crime committed against them to the police.
Reasons why the tolerance claim is false:
- The community of Barbados is mainly Christian and hence, homophobia is preached in churches and many use the Bible to justify their actions, particularly they often use the widely acclaimed verse – Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.” They also like to preach that homosexuality is unnatural often using animals as an example – although scientific studies have proven that various species of animals display homosexual tendencies.
- The slur “faggot” is regularly used by school children and the general public. “Bulla”/ “Bullaman” is a commonly used part of our Bajan dialect – it is an offensive term used against gay males.
- The very existence of the buggery law, though not enforced, contributes to stigma and discrimination by turning LGBT+ people into nameless criminals.
- Police often do not take cases regarding LGBT+ persons seriously and they are often denied assistance. Police are sometimes perpetrators themselves.
- Openly LGBT+ persons are denied housing and employment. They are legally unprotected under Barbadian law and can therefore do nothing to protest this discrimination.
- It is unlikely that same-sex marriage will be made legal for years to come, seeing as LGBT+ still do not have rights, and even legalized would receive tremendous backlash and resistance from churches and the general public.
Tolerance is often advocated by non-lgbt+ persons and those who want to skillfully skirt around the topic instead of dealing with it. But in reality “tolerance” is far from the truth in Bim.