The homophobia in us all
As I stood at the junction of Front Street and Court Street, I could not help but be stunned at the size and enthusiasm of the participants in Bermuda’s first Pride event. Never before had I seen an equality event of such magnitude.
Especially given the failed referendum, I would never have dreamt that this many people would come out in support of equal rights for the LGBTQI+ community.
Despite my state of shock, two questions immediately came to mind as thousands of persons partied on by:
1, What kind of strategy was used to draw this much support?
2, Where are the black supporters of Bermuda’s LGBTQI+ community?
Bermuda’s LGBTQI+ community has every right to be angry, but this event was not a protest against heterosexuals. Per their own website, the Pride event was positioned as “an unapologetic and public celebration of Bermuda’s LGBTQI+ people, and the many allies of the LGBTQI+ community on island”.
Everything from the DJ’s choice of party anthems, to the Coral Beats banging on their drums, lent a sense of inclusiveness. Also, Victoria Park was very well organised, thus a great place to hang out after the parade. Consequently, the event demonstrated the power of pulling people together versus pushing them apart.
I’d like to think of myself as a supporter of equal rights for the LGBTQI+ community. But I know that I still have some degree of homophobia inside of me. While the Pride event created an opportunity for me to show support, it also created an opportunity for me to consider and challenge my own homophobic thoughts.
Given all of the above, I’d say that the Pride strategy was a success. It was a time to embrace, and it was a time to reflect. Despite my admiration for what was accomplished, I could not help feeling uncomfortable about the blatantly obvious fact that the crowd was disproportionately white. Was the low attendance of blacks a result of resentment towards whites, was it because of homophobia within the black community, or maybe a bit of both?
Race is the easy answer here because the world’s long history of one-way integration makes it convenient to deflect self-analysis and criticism. Nevertheless, we weren’t excluded from the event.
As was the case with the referendum, we freely chose not to support our LGBTQI+ family and friends at Pride. This is despite our continual social and political support of blacks who we know are members of the LGBTQI+ community.
The reasons and rationalisations for the homophobia are many, but the one that sticks out for me is the complex, narrowing definition of blackness that excludes anyone who isn’t a heterosexual.
It’s very much tied to religion, community organisations, party politics and toxic masculinity.
It sounds something like this:
You’re not a Christian? Satan is a liar!
You do office work? That’s not real man’s work.
You speak like an educated professional? You are talking white.
You voted for whom? Clearly you suffer from some form of self-hatred.
You’re gay? That business is part of the white agenda to destroy black people.
In many ways this narrowing definition of blackness is self-destructive.
Let’s be honest: we live in a society where a drug-dealing gang-banger who can’t bother to take care of his three children from three different women is seen as less of a sell-out than a soft-spoken, hard-working gay man — especially if he is married to someone white.
In Bermuda, an incompetent, corrupt, black politician can be adored by the masses. Conversely, a competent, honest, but gay, black politician will be tolerated only if they keep at least one foot in the closet. There’s something very wrong with this picture.
Based on the obvious, had whites not chosen to show up, there wouldn’t have been much of a parade.
Further, it is inescapable that in Bermuda, it is blacks who are leading the charge against our LGBTQI+ community.
This is not an attempt to dismiss legitimate questions about the low participation of whites at events such as the May 24 and Labour Day parades; it is instead to state that when we freely choose not to embrace, or to persecute, our LGBTQI+ friends and family members, that weight falls upon us.
No amount of mental gymnastics, revisionist storytelling or blaming of whites is going to change that.
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