Bermudians take pride of place in London's annual gay parade
If there were a prize for classiest float at London’s Pride Parade, Bermuda would have surely won it.
While others followed the unofficial dress code of the day – flamboyant, flashy and lots of flesh – the Bermuda delegation added a touch of decorum.
The annual Pride event celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and raises awareness about discrimination. Approximately a million participants and spectators attended the parade in London on Saturday.
Two shiny red Vespa mopeds lead the charge for the Bermuda float, driven by young men decked out in Bermuda shorts. Bermudians and their English friends – also sporting the national dress - waving large Bermuda flags followed the mopeds.
And then there was drag queen Sybil Barrington, also known as Mark Anderson, one of Bermuda’s most well known equal rights campaigners. Ms Barrington smiled and blew kisses throughout the hour-and-a-half parade as she walked the London streets in five-inch heels, a full-length ball gown topped of with a tiara. Despite the soaring heat, meandering parade route and loud revelers the only time Ms Barrington appeared ruffled was when a young man tried to gate crash the Bermudian group in what can only be described as a tacky toucan outfit.
“No, No,” Ms Barrington said. “Bermudians are classy people, we’ve got to keep the tone up!”
Throughout the afternoon more than 100 people posed with the Bermuda group and hundreds of thousands lined the streets cheering as the delegation passed, with one announcer proclaiming: “Here come the preppy boys in their Bermuda shorts!”
But with all the fun and frolics that Pride parades across the world are known for, the parades are also a platform to raise issues about equal rights.
The Bermuda delegation kept that in mind as they carried a large banner proclaiming they were LGTB refugees behind Ms Barrington.
Members of the public enquired about the sign and were told discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in Bermuda. This means, among other things, that someone can be fired or evicted solely because they are not straight
“This is the third year we have taken part in the parade,” Bermudian organizer Adam Cooper said. “It started because a group of us felt frustrated about the situation in Bermuda. We don’t have rights in Bermuda and we wanted a way to express it, and bring some attention to the situation.”
Mr Cooper said he knew of young homosexuals from Bermuda who now live abroad because other countries are more accepting than the Island, and legally they are afforded the same rights as straight people.
“I didn’t come out [to publicly identify oneself as gay] when I was living in Bermuda, I had been going to school abroad for a long time,” he said. “But I think if I had been living in Bermuda it would have been much more difficult
Ms Barrington echoed his comments: “We have young people living on the streets right now in Bermuda because they are gay. I know one young man whose parents kicked him out, they are Jehovah’s witnesses – need I say more.” The Jehovah’s Witness religion, like many other religions, believes homosexuality is a sin.
“I flew to London specifically to take part in this parade. I’m not here for gay rights, I am not here for straight rights, I am here for human rights.
“The Bermuda Government needs to recognize that what they are doing is wrong [by not amending the Human Rights Act]. Many countries around the world have banned sex orientation as grounds for discrimination. I really don’t understand how England hasn’t gotten involved. “We are a colony and we discriminate. I would love to see it brought up in the House of Lords here in London!”
Speaking shortly before the parade UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Pride London is also focusing on ‘Love without Borders’, this is a commendable idea, and the UK has an important leadership role to play. British Embassies in countries such as Poland and Estonia have supported Pride events, at the UN the Foreign Office played a vital role building support for a major statement in support of the human rights of LGBT people.”
Five years ago Bermuda’s parliament was asked to consider amending the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation when former MP Renee Webb tabled a private members bill. It was not voted on because not enough MPs spoke for or against the issue in the House of Assembly.
Last month approximately 70 people attended a protest rally against homophobia at City Hall in Bermuda.
At the time Human Rights Commission chairman Shade Subair said she was hopeful the Human Rights Act would be amended before the end of the year, meaning sexual orientation discrimination would be made illegal.
Earlier this year the Government released a status report stating it would be “developing policy changes” which will enable the Minister to make regulations regarding discrimination on the basis of age or sexual orientation. The Government stated it will be tabled in the Parliament during the second term.
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