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Pride saves lives – and could save us

Yassine Chentouf is a multidisciplinary artist who focuses on uplifting Bermudian stories and voices, and providing a space for people to celebrate themselves (Photograph by Jayde Gibbons)

“I never thought I’d see Bermuda like this” said one attendee, eyes full of joy witnessing Pride flags being flown around Hamilton. Bermuda Pride 2023 just passed, and it was a beautiful experience — a week of events celebrating our LGBTQ+ community and diversity as a whole.

These events are part of necessary work in creating a healthy relationship between Bermuda and LGBTQ+ Bermudians, action that saves our Bermudian people from suicide, homelessness, substance abuse and more.

Saying “we’re here and we’re queer” is an act of care, defending LGBTQ+ Bermudians from discrimination, and literally saving lives.

The theme for this year’s Pride was “Homecoming”, encouraging Bermudians who have left to return home to a safer, more welcoming Bermuda, and we witnessed an outpouring of Bermudians who have moved abroad returning home.

The return of so many individuals forces us to examine why they left, and what events such as Bermuda Pride have to offer Bermuda as a whole.

We are dealing with an exodus of Bermudians — people who do not feel fulfilled, cannot afford our cost of living or cannot be themselves at home. This digs into deeper roots of our society and its reaction to those deemed “different”.

Our tendency to ostracise those who do not fit into a clean-cut label pushes many individuals off island, hurting our community and our economy in the process, and this isn’t the only factor. Our lack of infrastructure for artists pushes away many productive artists, with the standard expectation that you must work abroad to find success within art as a Bermudian.

At present, there is a similar feeling of being unable to be authentically yourself, and thus you look for that opportunity elsewhere. A society without art is one without culture, and one which has lost its storytellers. Bermuda is too beautiful and important to push such essential individuals away.

As an artist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it can be hard to feel like there is space in Bermuda for me to thrive, work and live comfortably. This is why over the past year, me and my group of young artists, change makers and activists have been dedicated to creating our own path in Bermuda, and making space for other young Bermudians who may be “different” to thrive.

Participating in artistic endeavours around the island inspires others to do the same and encourages those in power to host more of these opportunities. Creating events and spaces to experience art productive to our society decreases antisocial behaviour and gives Bermudians something to participate in other than consumerism and drinking.

Events such as Pride, safe spaces like Chewstick, houses of art like Bermuda Society of Arts and Masterworks, performance opportunities like Harbour Nights, vendor opportunities like the Vegan Festival, all of it goes back into creating a Bermuda that doesn’t push Bermudians away.

Bermuda Pride providing a safe space each year for queer Bermudians strengthens our community and economy — because queer Bermudians are not a separate entity. We are your family, your doctor, your coworker, your friend. We are Bermudians. And if we live in a country that outright does not support us, we will look elsewhere.

Creating a Bermuda that is for all Bermudians creates a safer community and strengthens our economy by allowing us to retain productive members of our society. This should be our goal as a country, and we should view it as a solution to many of the problems we face as a nation.

By focusing on creating a Bermuda that is for us, and making our decisions out of love for one another, we will undoubtedly create a society that is beneficial to all. One that retains our beautiful people.

Yassine Chentouf is a multidisciplinary Bermudian artist. A musician, model, photographer, painter and more, Yassine has been producing art in various forms for years. Since the pandemic, he has had an extremely productive presence on social media, producing campaigns such as Photoshoot Friday and managing Pride Bermuda’s socials. Within his work, he focuses on uplifting Bermudian stories and voices, and providing a space for people to celebrate themselves. His first rap album, De Sit Off, is full of Bermudian stories and artists

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Published September 13, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated September 13, 2023 at 8:11 am)

Pride saves lives – and could save us

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