Religion and Homophobia in Trinidad and Tobago Essay
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As previously demonstrated, the data collected was graphically represented in order to highlight trends or anomalies. Figure 1 (Fig. 1) begins by showing that 36% of our sample supported same sex marriage, whilst 64% did not. Since non-support of same-sex marriage is used as our indicator of homophobia, approximately two-thirds (( 2)? (3 )) of our sample is considered homophobic. Whilst this suggests that a substantial proportion of our population is supportive of homosexuality, the majority is apparently homophobic.
Thus, a standard was found, against which individual elements of the population can then be manipulated and analysed in a positivistic approach.
Figure 2 shows that the gender of the non-supportive population was almost equally distributed, which suggests that perspective is gender neutral. This is surprising considering that gender commonly indicates differing perspectives, but may perhaps be attributed to the existence of homosexuality in both genders.
Additionally, this is reflected in Fig 3. where the male only school, Naparima College is proportionately equal to the female only schools, Naparima Girls’ High School (NGHS), ASJA Girls’ College (ASJA) and St.
Joseph’s Convent (SJC). Furthermore, Figure 4 shows that the average CSEC grades (which we will use as an indicator of education level) of the supporters approximately equalled that of the non-supporters. Therefore, neither gender, education level school has significant effect on our candidates’ perception of same-sex marriage.
Continuing the search for factors that may affect the development of homophobia, Fig 5 outlines four further dimensions of social life, showing that, support of the legalisation of marijuana, alcohol consumption habits, history of altercations with the law, and family structure all had negligible effects because the proportions only slightly deviated from the norm. It is only when the dynamic of religion is introduced that anomalies become apparent.
As illustrated in Figure 6, there is little variance between the individual religions, with Islam being marginally more homophobic, but, when religion is removed, as in the case of our secular candidates, the proportions are reversed and approximately two-thirds (( 2)? (3 )) of the secular candidates were supportive. Additionally, it was observed that, whilst Muslim candidates had the highest correlation to homophobia within our sample, the candidates from the Islamic school, ASJA
Girls’ College –who would have been exposed to the institution for at least five years, a substantial portion of their lives-, had the lowest correlation to homophobia; the difference being approximately 10%. This is pertinent because it is also indicative of secularisation by differentiation wherein the non-religious sphere of life, education is separated from religion (Jose Casanova, 1994). In both instances of secularisation, homophobia was reduced.
Building on the investigation of the influence of religion, religiosity was then compared to opinion using three common measures of religiosity. Figure 7 shows the relationship between frequency of visitation of place of worship and non-support, Figure 8 shows the frequency of private worship against non-support and Figure 8 shows the frequency of private study of religious texts versus non-support. All graphs yielded a positive gradient, began well below the average and ended well above it.
This indicates, that as religiosity increases, so too does homophobia. This contrasts our previous observation that there were no trends amongst the various religions but verifies the implication that secularisation decreases homophobia. Careful consideration of the qualitative data compounds these assertions because, not only is religion openly and usually used as justification of homophobia, the candidates who were most fervently religious and enmeshed with their congregation were often most blatantly homophobic.
Additionally, if the view of the religious leaders is to be taken as the consensus of the congregation, it would appear that most justify discrimination. However, there were cases in which the fervently religious advocated positively for same-sex marriages. The phenomena observed can be explained using a functionalist perspective in which religion serves as a method of maintaining social order through increasing solidarity within a mostly heterosexual population by segregating the homosexual, thereby providing a common ‘enemy,’ and instilling a set of values and norms in society.
Also, religion may be viewed as encouraging more “productive” marriages in which childbirth is possible, thereby helping to sustain the birth-rate, working to aid the system of the family. When candidates are separated from the functions of religion, they are more likely to maintain a different set or norms, wherein homosexuals are equal to heterosexuals. Contrastingly, a Conflict perspective may be used in hich religion serves to justify the construction of a class society in which the heterosexuals are the ‘bourgeoisie’ and the homosexuals are the ‘proletariat. ’ By masking the foundation of power and exploitation in divine ruling, the heterosexuals are allowed to legitimize their position of superiority. When this illusion is removed and class consciousness attained, as in the case of secular candidates and candidates with little religiosity, the bourgeoisie can no longer legitimize their position, and so homophobia is reduced.
Alternatively, if one is to utilize Weber’s theory of Rational Choice, one might suggest, that, perhaps candidates decided to follow the homophobic direction of their religious leaders, rationalizing that earning the support of the entire congregation was worth discriminating against a minority. This theory also serves to explain why candidates supported same-sex marriage, because the prevailing justification was a rationalisation that their (homosexuals) private life did not affect me (the candidate) negatively and was therefore not a problem.
This also explains the anomaly of the few candidates who were enmeshed in non-supportive congregations but still supported same-sex marriages. Continuing the interpretivistic trend, Mead’s theory of Symbolic Interactionism may be applied in which the ascribed meanings of symbols encourage homophobia. For example, candidates who studied their holy texts daily were most likely to be non-supportive. They may ascribe that the text determines their values and that the text does not support homosexuality, therefore, they, identified as a follower of the text, does not support homosexuality.
Another example may be the use of song references in their justification, wherein, candidates interpret the music to disapprove of homophobia and therefore, as listeners, they should also disapprove. Lastly, the use of homophobic slurs such as ‘fag’ in the language of the non-supporters suggests that homosexuality is unwanted, and communicates this to others who may interpret it as such, and develop the same opinion.
Discussion of Findings In, Invitation to the sociology of religion, Zuckerman presents a functionalist approach in which we see how religion may affect social hange. He demonstrates a correlation between a decline in the influence of religion and an increase in the acceptance of homosexual relations suggesting that religion does indeed influence homophobia as determined from my research. Furthermore, he considered another form of discrimination, that is, racism in which again, religion resulted in the segregation of a minority, but also, where religion provided a powerful community through which resistance could grow.
The strength and influence of these churches echoes the observation that the more enmeshed our subjects were in their religious congregations, the more homophobic they tended to be. Building on the methods by which religion could affect social life, the article, “Gays bash government on same-sex marriage,” presents a scenario in which religion has clearly moulded the opinion of a prominent member of our government to the point that it over-rode proper conduct.
This crass act seems less surprising when it is observed that some candidates also paraphrased or quoted biblical passages in lieu of an explanation. The research paper, ”Religion and public opinion of same-sex marriage,” also adds validation to our research because their results were strikingly similar to our own. They discovered, as I did, that a persons’ religiosity and not their specific religion was the prominent factor in influencing their view of same-sex marriage.
Additionally, the article entitled, “J-FLAG Issues Statement on International Day Against Homophobia,” also verifies this conclusion by using statistics which showed that 56% believed homosexuality and Christianity were incompatible and that 82% believed that it was immoral. This, second study was conducted in Jamacia and as such, it is also more relevant to our research based in Trinidad; it should come as no surprise that their sample yielded a homophobic rate only marginally lower than our own at 59% as opposed to 64%.
Finally, in relation to our final aim, the research paper, ”Religion and public opinion of same-sex marriage,” also proves handy because they validate that no other standard demographic holds significant influence on a candidate’s opinion of same-sex marriage besides religiosity. Considering these observations, my main finding appears to be that religion does, in fact, play a significant role in developing homophobia within the Lower Six population of San Fernando.
Additionally, three main inferences can be made: Firstly, that religion may develop homophobia by presenting a community in which homophobia may be justified and advertised as the norm, through interaction with the institution of government, or through symbolic interaction wherein the religious texts are interpreted as encouraging homophobia. Secondly, that religiosity is a much more significant factor than religious affiliation in developing homophobia, with religious affiliation being almost powerless in our study.
Thirdly, we may infer that, whilst exposure to the media did have some effect on the development of homophobia as reflected in our qualitative data, by and large, religion is the major influence with no significant alternative factors appearing in our study. ? Limitations Whilst conducting my study, certain limitations were confronted. Chief amongst these was the cost effectiveness of conducting such a relatively large-scale survey consisting of over two hundred subjects. Adding to this difficulty was the statistical analysis in which a spreadsheet was necessary.
Additionally, in order to balance the ratio of male to female respondents, the strata of Naparima College was over-represented since that was the school in which the most co-operation was met. However, since Naparima College proved to be a typical institution, for the purposes of our study, I believe that the integrity of the data was no compromised. Difficulty was also met in collecting and analysing secondary data sources as inquisitions at our public libraries proved fruitless and many of the recent, relevant research papers published were either costly, or restricted to members of certain institutions.
Lastly, there may have been some, inherent instrument bias in my analysis of the qualitative data. Recommendations On completion of my research, certain recommendations have become apparent. The first being that a complete separation of the church and state must be accomplished in order to provide the allocation of same-sex marriages, and the second being that the institution of religion should be removed from society as it, in its many forms may a dangerous tool for inspiring discrimination. Conclusion Although it has been a lengthy road, it was a straight one, and, in summation, we can determine that there is indeed a clear relationship between religion and homophobia in which religion inspires the other through various ways. Furthermore, a person’s religiosity was shown to be the determining factor in influencing homophobia with no other influence being significant. ?