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‘Gay culture is everything that everyone else is doing’

Tiffany Paynter, the executive director of OutBermuda (File photograph)

Gay culture in Bermuda is “everything everyone else is doing”, such as Cup Match, beach days and football games, the executive director of OutBermuda said.

Tiffany Paynter added that although members of the LGBTQ+ community enjoy the same activities as others, questions sometimes arise about whether they could truly be themselves in every environment.

She was speaking ahead of this week’s Pride events, which start tomorrow with a Harbour Night Takeover.

The first Pride parade in Bermuda was held in 2019 and attracted thousands but much smaller gatherings were held the next two years because of coronavirus restrictions.

OutBermuda, a charity dedicated to supporting the island’s LGBTQ+ community, took over the organisation and running of events in 2022.

Ms Paynter pointed out that this year’s gathering — with the theme of “Homecoming” — will be the third “major” Pride for the island.

She said: “We’re getting support and we’re getting resistance and that’s going to be the case always, to be realistic about it.

“Our culture is very casually homophobic in ways that people don’t even know or truly appreciate and we’re overtly homophobic as well. So these are the things that we have to navigate as we plan for our community to come together and celebrate.

“We’re doing this for our community to feel a sense of pride and belonging because the idea of homecoming is, this is our island too, we belong too.”

She added: “When I say casually homophobic, I mean we have this way about which if somebody was racist over the dinner table, people would rein that in. People actually self-censor themselves from letting their racism show, so to speak.

“In terms of what casual homophobia is, [it] is this idea of no one’s going to correct you over the dinner table, you’re not going to get flak back and so you don’t have to self-censor.

“You don’t have to take into account your sister down the table from you as you’re saying derogatory things about gay men.”

Ms Paynter said she was asked about what is “the gay culture” in Bermuda and replied: “The gay culture is everything that everyone else is doing: we are at the beach, we’re at Cup Match, we’re at the soccer games, at the county games, we’re at carnival, we’re in the movie theatres.

“Bermudian culture is our culture.

“When the Gombeys are playing, we open our windows and hang out the window as well to see if they’re coming down our street.

“We wield invisible axes as kids as well.

“So I don’t see us as separate because I’ve never existed outside of that. But what is different is … speaking as myself and not for a wider culture — I feel like, am I allowed to be my whole self?

“Can I be in these spaces and feel fully welcomed and fully respected? Do I have to hide parts of who I am in order to be safe in this environment.

“These are the questions that our community ask themselves and we have to ask and answer in milliseconds.”

Ms Paynter feared that some members of the wider public might have misperceptions about what it was like for members of the LGBTQ+ community living in Bermuda.

She explained: “People are making a lot of assumptions based on their own biases as opposed to the lived experiences of others.

“One of the benefits of Pride is that it’s an invitation, I would say, for people to begin having tougher conversations; it gives a support net to people who might otherwise feel isolated, may feel like they don’t have a community that they can rely on or even people that they can ask questions.

“That’s one of the benefits of Pride. It does spark these conversations, and not all of the conversations are great. We’re going to have challenges and protesting and setbacks but ultimately, this island is ours as well.”

• For more information about Pride, visit pride.bm

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Published August 22, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated August 22, 2023 at 7:47 am)

‘Gay culture is everything that everyone else is doing’

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