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Battlers for gay rights celebrate progress at Pride event on beach

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Cleah Cameron at the Bermuda Pride Beach Picnic at Long Bay Coopers Island (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Bermuda Pride Beach Picnic at Long Bay Coopers Island (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Zalikah Ratterey at the Bermuda Pride Beach Picnic at Long Bay Coopers Island (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Karla Raphael said Bermuda Pride is her family (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Tyrone Lovell has campaigned for LGBT rights (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Carl Roberts (left) Christina Mullan and Cassandra Roberts (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Maryellen Jackson (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

A woman who broke off contact with her family after they refused to accept her sexuality said gay rights groups had filled the gap.

Karla Raphael, 59, said she missed her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary and did not attend family birthdays or celebrations but has travelled to several countries to attend Pride marches.

Ms Raphael said: “I detached myself from my family. It was recently my parents’ 60th anniversary and I wasn’t invited and I didn’t want to go – it was mutual.

She added gay rights groups Bermuda Pride and OutBermuda were her “extended family”.

Ms Raphael said: “It is a family system for those who can’t be with their family.”

She was speaking at the Bermuda Pride beach party, held at Cooper’s Island at the weekend.

The SafeKey event was capped at 250 people because of Covid-19 restrictions and there was a steady flow of people throughout the day.

Rainbow flags lined the shore and Ms Raphael said the atmosphere was “tranquil”.

She added: “It was gorgeous. It brought people together in a harmonious way.”

Ms Raphael said Bermuda had gone through a “transformation” in her lifetime.

She added: “It’s been a long time coming. I have been to so many countries to attend Pride marches – it’s good to be part of that community in Bermuda.”

But Ms Raphael said that more needed to be done.

She explained: “I tend to find many local members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t feel safe to come to events on a regular basis – people are burnt out, even traumatised, by the past on a family and social level.

“They will come to Pride, but not otherwise. Wesley Methodist Church recently became all-inclusive and we should use our resources.

“What I would love to see is spiritual and emotional support. If you have that you can do anything and live life well.”

Tyrone Lovell, 32, was involved in campaign group the Rainbow Alliance.

He said: “I am part of that fight.”

He added the Pride celebration was an indicator of how far gay people had come in the fight for equality.

Mr Lovell said: “We have always done this but not on such a grand scale because of the lack of acceptance in Bermuda. Now we can be loud and proud.”

But he added: “There is always room for improvement – the same as with all fights, with time there is acceptance. It is about building community.”

Cassandra Roberts, a student, said she did not attend the first Bermuda Pride event staged in Hamilton in 2019 because she was away at university and that last year’s event was cancelled because of the coronavirus.

Ms Roberts said: “This is my first Pride event in Bermuda. There is a growing sense of community here.

“I think for the older generation it can be difficult to see so much change. Education is a big thing, there needs to be more education in Bermuda for all ages.

“I would like to see acceptance of same sex marriage rather than civil partnerships – it should just be called marriage.”

Maryellen Jackson, who in 2018 joined Roderick Ferguson in a legal battle against the Domestic Partnership Act, which outlawed same-sex marriage, was a steward at the event.

She said: “It has been a good mix of people, ages and colour coming today. It is an opportunity for us to be together.”

Ms Jackson added: “There is always room for improvement, but the mindsets of many have shifted for the better.

“We can put flags up without any concerns and that is a big step – that might not have been possible three years ago.

“People can just be who they are. I would love to see the day when there is no need for anyone to come out of the closet, when we are just seen as human and not defined by who we love.”

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Published August 30, 2021 at 2:09 pm (Updated August 30, 2021 at 2:09 pm)

Battlers for gay rights celebrate progress at Pride event on beach

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