Anglican Bishop urges review of discriminatory same sex laws in Guyana

-at LGBT faith forum

Bishop Charles Davidson (Photo from Human Rights and Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana)

Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana Charles Davidson has urged the review of the same sex intimacy laws, which he says are discriminatory.

According to the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Bishop made the call last Tuesday when he hosted a forum on faith for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese at his official residence, Austin House, in Kingston, Georgetown.

The forum was part of a calendar of activities for the second annual Guyana Pride Festival, which was a week-long celebration organised by SASOD, Guyana Trans United, and the Guyana Rainbow Foundation.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, SASOD said Bishop Davidson, 64, who leads the Anglican faith in Guyana and Suriname, noted that while the church has nothing against homosexuality and gay persons are accepted in the congregation, the challenge faced by many is understanding sexuality. “We may not accept the [sexual] behaviour that you do but you are still children of God. The challenge is to try and understand sexuality. There are lots of Christians who wouldn’t even have a conversation [about sexuality] but they might quote scriptures. Jesus Christ spoke more about money more than he talked about sex. We are spending a lot of time worrying about sex when we should be spending a lot of time on an individual and their wholeness,” he is quoted as saying.

Bishop Davidson, the statement added, noted that people are still struggling in the Caribbean because historically same-sex intimacy was never a practice accepted in the region due to strict colonial rule. It said he described the buggery laws as “crazy” and expressed the hope that they are reviewed since they are discriminatory.

“The seventh commandment says thou shall not commit adultery, yet there is no law in the law books of Guyana that says if we catch you committing adultery we will send you to jail for two years, as the buggery law says,” he was also quoted as saying.

He also noted that there are members of the Church who are not married but are living with persons. “We have our own challenges in the church to begin understanding these things,” he observed.

At the same time, Bishop Davidson pointed out that younger persons in his congregation are more educated, understanding and accepting of gender and sexual diversity. “It is not an issue for them. It is an issue for old people like me,” he said, before adding that the Church will have to continue to struggle to fully understand the situation without discrimination and hatred towards LGBT persons.

“…Make the right choices and take pride in yourself. At the end of the day, love makes the world go ‘round and the church is about love so we can’t disregard LGBT persons. The conversations will go on but the struggle continues and we wouldn’t give up,” he said.

According to the statement, Bishop Davidson said he considered the word “tolerate” as a bad word when considering LGBT persons and offered “understanding” and “acceptance” are more suitable. “We are more the same than we are different,” he said. “I hope discrimination in society lessens because it is not good for one’s personality and mental health,” he added, while committing to having more conversations in his congregation and with LGBT persons to foster an environment of understanding.

Bishop Davidson, the statement said, also expressed his interest in meeting with transgender sex workers who are known to be working around the St. George’s Cathedral. “Some situations are not as loving as they ought to be but you still have to love people,” he was quoted as saying. “I want to sit with a group of sex workers to hear their stories, to find out why they are in this position and to offer them the opportunity to find employment in a different way. I am not telling them that they are not gay. All I am saying is don’t let persons take advantage of who you are, be careful and take precautions,” he added.

He explained his interest in wanting such an engagement by citing the example of an African Bishop who met with gay sex workers instead of condemning them for their actions. Davidson explained that the African Bishop understood that finding employment once someone openly identifies as an LGBT person is difficult and leaves persons in vulnerable positions, which leads them to engage in sex work as a means of sourcing income.

The statement said SASOD’s Managing Director Joel Simpson committed to arranging an engagement, while stating that dialogue is indeed necessary and any support to vulnerable persons would not be refused.