Carolyn Cooper makes it seem as though she is pro-gay freedom. But who doesn’t notice her struggles to ignore cultural violence and at the same time acknowledge human rights?
“I am appalled by the decision of the UWI administration to bow to belligerent gay-rights activists, bringing down disgrace on a distinguished academic who has done so much to protect the health of MSM,” Carolyn Cooper writes in the Jamaica Gleaner today.
Brendan Bain is the academic to whom Carolyn refers. Brendan was the director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training. UWI fired him on Tuesday after he provided expert testimony in a case in which a Belizean man opposes the country’s constitutional code.
Legal scholars note that Brendan’s testimony helped convince the court that buggery laws are healthy for society. How could one with that view lead a HIV/AIDS program that requires LGBT beneficiaries and donors to confide their deepest fears and personal histories in him? That question was the one UWI wrestled with before sacking Brendan.
Carolyn joins the choir of protests against the university’s decision. Given Carolyn’s status as a cultural studies scholar and gay ally, the burden inscribed within the history of her writing comes to the forefront. Carolyn balances the history of her writing well. Here and there, she throws a bone to the gay community. Shortsighted gay activists praise her during these moments. With the cultural capital Carolyn acquires from their acknowledgements, Carolyn later strikes at the gay community to pander to homophobic constituencies.
The majority of Caribbean intellectuals, whose silence and personal views reveal their allegiance to hate, consequently continue rolling out opportunities and praises for Sista’ Cooper. On the other hand, gay activists become speech paralyzed, unable to criticize the voice they had praised yesterday and the days and months earlier. This leaves Carolyn poised to acquire international acknowledgements and opportunities that regard her as a leading cultural studies scholar and human rights advocate from the Caribbean.
Gay activists have not seriously considered the ramifications. Defenders of gay freedom face isolation as Carolyn plays all fences. What is the message to other intellectuals who want to support the Caribbean LGBT community? Seriously, what is the message!
One can often sense Carolyn’s frustration with having the burden of a cultural scholar. She wants to celebrate the culture, but the culture is largely homophobic. One cannot easily accuse Carolyn of being homophobic. It’s likely she will tell you she has many gay friends. And who cannot fall in love with Carolyn when they meet her? She is certainly knowledgeable and certainly sociable.
But oh—burdens—Sista’ Coopers conflicted burdens! The burden of celebrating the culture! The burden of crafting her views on the LGBT community! The burden of remaining relevant as a cultural scholar and writer! Burdens are what many people see whenever they remember Carolyn Cooper’s name.