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Creatives being driven off island, says LGBTQ+ advocate

Sophia Tessitore, Kennita Perry and Taj Donville-Outerbridge of The Village (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Young members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies have backed claims of homophobia driving young people off the island.

Sophia Tessitore, the president of Bermuda College’s LGBTQ+ group The Village, said she had seen many people in the community motivated to leave because they did not feel welcome.

The 21-year-old added that, while most did not fear for their physical safety, the environment took a toll on their mental wellbeing.

Ms Tessitore said: “It’s very depressing and very frustrating to live in a country where your rights aren’t respected.

“The fact that the Government is so strongly focused on removing our rights — the fact that they’re spending almost half a million dollars on lawyers and counsel for the Privy Council — feels ridiculous.”

She added: “If you look at a lot of our creatives on the island, a lot of them are either allied with the LGBTQ+ community or are members of it themselves.

“So if they feel like they can’t even get married here or they don’t have the same rights or the same amount of respect that their straight and cisgender peers do, it’s definitely an incentive for them to move.”

Ms Tessitore was speaking as questions still surrounded the legal status of same-sex couples who were married before the Privy Council ultimately sided with the Bermuda Government on same-sex marriage.

Taj Donville-Outerbridge, 22, earlier said that these fears, alongside a pre-existing culture of homophobia, was driving young people out of Bermuda — particularly “some of its most talented people”.

Ms Tessitore echoed these sentiments, calling the ruling “frustrating” and “very disappointing and very saddening”.

She said that the Government had no legal precedent of annulling same-sex marriages and that she hope the Government would uphold them.

But Ms Tessitore added that annulment was not off the table and that couples may instead be offered “marriage lite”.

She said: “I guess the biggest fear is that they end up at square one or square zero, with no rights, no marriage and they have to settle for domestic partnership, which really isn’t fair.

“It’s definitely not equal even if they say it is, so we don’t want to end up in that space where people either don’t have the same legal status.”

Ms Tessitore said that religious beliefs did feed into Bermuda’s culture of intolerance.

But she stressed that the intolerance was not inherent to these beliefs and that it was possible for the religious and LGBTQ+ communities to work together.

Ms Tessitore said: “There are several churches here who I know are supportive of the LGBTQ community.

“There are some who are able to reconcile the difference between what many consider the Bible to say and who LGBTQ are and supporting that.”

She added: “The law is the law, but at the end of the day it’s about the culture and how that effects our paradigm.”

Emily Peake-Osborne, 26, said the open-ended question of same-sex marriages in Bermuda was “really scary”, particularly in light of the bombshell leak from the US Supreme Court regarding abortions in that country.

She said: “It’s like no one’s rights are safe. It just makes me feel insecure about the future safety of all rights.”

Ms Peake-Osborne admitted that she did not think homophobia would be completely eradicated on the island or around the world.

But she added that she was now seeing it be used to dictate how others lived.

Ms Peake-Osborne said: “If people can’t even love safely here, what’s next?”

• Do you feel comfortable living in Bermuda? What worries you the most? E-mail Sékou Hendrickson at shendrickson@royalgazette.com to share your story

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Published June 01, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated June 01, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Creatives being driven off island, says LGBTQ+ advocate

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