Ric Couchman was born in Georgetown, Guyana where he lived for 24 years before leaving for Jamaica to pursue a degree in Theological studies. Ric also completed post graduate theological studies in Jamaica and in the USA before beginning a 26-year career as the Dean of the Robert Louis Stevenson School, an Independent high school in New York City. An avid outdoorsman, Ric returned to Guyana in the fall of 2016 to fulfill his lifelong dream of walking the entire country on foot. He is a published author, having written five books of poetry and is currently writing a new book reflecting on his recent walk around Guyana.
My dear daughter, my country is about to have its first ever Gay Pride parade, but sadly it is taking place against the backdrop of bitter and hostile opposition from the leaders in Guyana’s Evangelical community. As I reflected on the occurrence of this momentous parade, my thoughts ran on you. I remember attending my first Gay Pride parade with you in New York City, and I remember the emotional pain you endured from the ensuing reactions after you came out of the so-called closet a couple of years before. And I remember saying to you that if you are going to be consigned to hell because you are gay, that I would return my ticket to heaven (presumably received on account of my born-again status) and, in protest, join you in hell. And I thought how much I love you in all your beautiful gayness and how I would give my life to protect your right to be who you are and that I would stand up to anyone to defend you, be it God or the Devil (even if in a losing cause). My daughter, I want you to know that I am proud of you. There are many things in Nature that I cannot understand, and gayness (for want of a better term) is one such phenomenon in nature that I cannot understand, but I wholeheartedly embrace this seeming paradox as part of Nature’s inscrutable mosaic. And you are one of those beautiful natural paradoxes, cherished above all else. I love you, my gay daughter, like it is nobody’s business.
Dear Sister Bernice, Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus. I read with much interest your recent communication to the Editor of the Stabroek News (May 3t0th, 2018) opposing the granting of permission for a parade in Georgetown by Guyana’s LGBT community. I am sure that you are a well-respected individual in your faith community and no doubt a wonderful, kind, and compassionate person. I do appreciate your putting out your thoughts in the public forum thus giving me an opportunity to also respond publicly with my own thoughts. I am fully sympathetic to and supportive of the concerns of the LGBT community but claim no expertise in the issues of concern to them. My response will focus primarily on the unsupported assumptions, inconsistencies, fallacies, exaggerations, omissions, etc. in your argument. It will not attack your person but simply respond to your propositions.
You letter urges the authorities to withdraw the permission granted the LGBT community through SASOD to parade in the streets of Georgetown. The SASOD organization seeks permission to assemble and to use their assembly as a forum to speak out against the discrimination against which members of the LGBT community in Guyana are subject, to express their right to be, and to demand social justice. Our constitution protects their right to assembly and their right to freedom of expression. To deny them this right as citizens of our dear land is to go against the democratic principles upon which our nation rests.
Of course our Constitution criminalizes Buggery, but that doesn’t mean it is right in doing so, just as the segregation law in the United States, though codified as the law of the land, was an unjust law and not right. You also seem to be confusing buggery with homosexuality. Buggery seems to be more about the particular orifice that is penetrated sexually rather than about the particular genders involved in the act. The word is legally defined as anal and oral sexual penetration; these are sexual practices not exclusive to male couples but enjoyed by heterosexual couples as well (including christian heterosexual couples). In this regard, it would appear that there are numerous criminal offenses committed in our nation’s heterosexual bedrooms.
Thirdly, you endorse our Constitution’s criminalization of buggery because as you say, “it is unnatural, unholy, and unhealthy.” If buggery is criminal because it is unnatural then birthing by C-section instead of by the vaginal path is also criminal. If buggery is criminal because it is unholy then our law enforcement authorities might as well begin rounding up those who engage in sex before marriage as such involvement, called fornication in your sacred text, is considered unholy according to your faith, as also the worship of graven images which would make criminals of our Hindu citizens. And again, if buggery is criminalized because it is unhealthy then cigarette smokers are criminals for engaging in that unhealthy practice of smoking cigarettes. Many other actions would end up being criminal because of those three criteria. I am sure you will see then the folly of using those three constructs as the criteria for criminality. Further, by advancing those three as reasons for criminalizing buggery you are employing the fallacy of the appeal to nature and the fallacy of the sacred, thus weakening your argument.
Now with regard your observation of the participants of Gay Pride parades I must point out that you have been misinformed. In the first place, its participants are not people who have “chosen” to be transgender, lesbian, homosexual, etc., – as if they woke up one day and on a whim decided to become transgender or lesbian or homosexual. In the second place what they are has more to do with their essence than with some artificial manner of living that you call “lifestyle”. Further, the manner of dress at such parades is not unlike the colorful and eccentric variations you would find at our own Mash celebrations, at the West Indian day parade in NYC, or at other carnivals around the world. And lastly on this point, many heterosexuals also participate in these parades. I proudly participated in one such along with my younger daughter a few years ago and the answer to who was or was not LGBT was not readily available merely by looking at what clothing folk wore.
As to having some trepidation about the “gender confusion” that might possibly be created in our nation’s “young minds”, I assure you that you need not worry. Part of my expertise is in working with children and young adults; you will be surprised at how understanding and tolerant they are regarding the concerns of the LGBT community. Their level of sensitivity to and support for the needs, challenges, and struggles of members of the LGBT community puts us grownups to shame.
I would not be surprised if, as you said, most Guyanese “respond with a resounding, “No”” to a Gay Pride parade in Georgetown. However, I would not chalk up such a response to any reasoned and thoughtful consideration of the matter, but I would attribute such a response to misinformation, fear of the unfamiliar, fear of that which they cannot understand, and the influence of an implacable, rigid, and unyielding Evangelical Christian viewpoint. We need to do everything we can to educate, clarify, and to engage in dialogue with the objective of achieving increased tolerance among our citizens.
Finally, you claimed that the extinction of humanity is the logical consequence of same-sex unions, but you provided no supporting evidence for your readers to back up that claim. You also warned that any attempt at changing certain laws to accord members of the LGBT community the same rights enjoyed by the rest of our society would undermine or take away the rights and freedom of the people of faith. Again, as in your previous claim, you left your readers bereft of the supporting evidence.
I in turn urge you, Sister Bernice (and others of your mindset as well), to examine the concerns of the LGBT community under the lenses of compassion, tolerance, reason, and God’s grace.