‘A little light in the loafers’, ‘not playing on the same team’, ‘flamer’, ‘poof” — you’ve all heard these phrases so many times over the years that perhaps you felt that it was a polite and discreet way to describe gay men and women in our community. 

You might even argue that as long as it was said without malice, without condemnation, that these phrases are nothing more than a harmless form of shorthand. No foul, no harm. Aren’t some of your best friends gay?

Donal Smith, Deputy Mayor of Hamilton couldn’t be bothered with any shorthand when he was recently asked about gay marriage on a Seventh Day Adventist television programme. No, he went for the jugular, attacking gay men and women as “freaks” and those of us who support the gay community and their desire to marry as “condemned”.  

Mr Smith embraces a traditional and religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that’s fair.  His faith is important to him and it informs how he lives his life. This isn’t a point of view. It is part of his core values and belief system. That is his right. There are those of us who want inclusion in all aspects of our social and civic life to include marriage for gays and lesbians, and it should not matter if Donal Smith can’t see our point of view.   

What is so worrying is that Mr Smith, an elected official, asserts his beliefs from a position of hate.  There’s no room in his heart for acceptance and tolerance. His homophobic rant seemed to be also calculated at reassuring his audience that he’s a real man, a man that wants steak on his plate. No substitutes please! I think we caught his drift.

Equating muscle-men masculinity with being a heterosexual has always seemed like a flawed way to define all men. Ask anyone in the military. Surely what defines a man or a woman is their character. Isn’t that what we were all taught? Weren’t we all taught to love our neighbour as we love ourselves?  Donal Smith said it himself, “we are sin”.  

He claims that he doesn’t hate homosexuals and even knows people with “those tendencies,” but where is the humble servant who can embrace all men, all women? Is it too much to ask for restraint and a balanced approach towards your fellow man? Why lead with hate when you can lead with love? If you are uncomfortable with gay men and lesbian women, then say so without denigration. If you can’t support gay marriage then a simple, “I’m sorry, I can’t support gay marriage because it is not consistent with my beliefs about marriage” will do just fine. Leave the bullying at the door.  

In a few weeks, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Bermuda will be performing the musical, South Pacific at The Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall. At the heart of Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical is the theme of racial equality and interracial marriage. There were many who derided the play and thought its message inappropriate when it debut in 1949. Sixty-four years later it would seem that the message for equality and acceptance still needs to be heard.

Perhaps after the Deputy Mayor’s return from an overseas trip, ironically to attract his other favourite whipping boy, international business, to Hamilton, he might hear the sounds of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s rehearsal wafting through the hallways of City Hall. Between the meetings, the phone calls and other countless distractions, including Bermuda’s Gay Community, he might pause and hear these lyrics…

“You’ve got to be carefully taught to hate and fear,

  You’ve got to be taught from year to year,

  It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

 You’ve go to be carefully taught.

  You’ve got to be afraid

  Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

  And people whose skin is a different shade,

  You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!