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OutBermuda’s Tiffany Paynter explains meaning of Pride

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Pride Bermuda 2023 will include eight events over a five-day period at the end of the month (Photograph supplied)

When the island held its first Pride parade four years ago, a highlight for many was that thousands of people joined an event that was expected to attract a few hundred.

For Tiffany Paynter, however, the memorable moments were more personal, as family members walked the city’s streets shoulder to shoulder with her and others in the LGBTQ+ community.

Now, she is the executive director of OutBermuda, which took over the running of Pride in 2022, and explained how the parade can hold several different meanings.

Thousands parade on Front Street, Hamilton, during the first Pride parade in 2019 (File photograph courtesy of Fly High Media)

Ms Paynter said: “I was looking over the notes from the original organisers. They were expecting maybe 500 people max and then 6,000 people showed up.

“For a lot of people, that was the best thing, the highlight of Pride was people showing up en masse but that wasn’t the case for me.

“The best thing for me was the fact that my brother asked if he could walk with me and my niece asked if she could walk with me.

“That was the highlight for me … walking through the streets of Hamilton, I’ve got my brother on my right and my niece gleefully on my left, and I really felt a sense of love and gratitude, and openheartedness.

“Yes, you have these big moments, you have all this colourful celebratory atmosphere but I think the changes happen in those most intimate moments.”

She pointed out: “There are people around the world who cannot celebrate Pride, cannot be out, must hide in order to stay alive and stay free because they face imprisonment just for existing as they are, or they face execution and murder”.

Ms Paynter said: “There are many values of Pride and it means many things to many people.

“Some people think Pride is about protest and we should be marching and then some people think Pride is about queer joy and we should be celebrating that we are still here.

“I think Pride is an entire spectrum, much like the rainbow, much like this community.

“It can be all of these things simultaneously and it is all of these things simultaneously.”

This year’s parade, on Saturday, acts as a keystone for a slew of associated events, including an open mike and artist talk, a prom and a drag brunch.

They are under the banner of Homecoming, which Ms Paynter said was originally the idea of Christopher Joell-Deshields, a Bermudian who is the chief executive at Pride in London.

She added: “We were talking about themes in one of the focus groups and, in a conversation, he had come up with that previously, so we explored it.

“It was a lot of emotion behind it, you know? A lot of positive emotions, negative emotions, it was something that we felt like we could grapple with.

“Some people felt we’re not ready for homecoming and said, does our Government love us? Does our island love us?

“Some people said, that’s why we need a homecoming: we need to come home, we need to celebrate our own Pride.

“We celebrate everyone else’s prides; we travel to London to celebrate London Pride; we travel to Atlanta to celebrate Atlanta Pride; and Toronto, and New York, so how can we get this beautiful, talented pool of people who have left the island seeking safer shores to come home and celebrate with us this year?”

Tiffany Paynter, the executive director of OutBermuda (Photograph supplied)

Although OutBermuda is unable to track all of the countries from which people will travel to be part of this week’s events, Ms Paynter said anecdotally the charity heard that supporters would fly in from Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Costa Rica, Britain, the US and Canada.

Sponsorship of the activities — some of which are free to attend, others have an “affordable” price tag — funds the work performed by the charity throughout the year.

On assuming the part-time role of executive director in June 2022, Ms Paynter made a point of discovering what it was that the island’s LGBTQ+ community needed and wanted from OutBermuda.

She said: “I care about the person sitting across from me and so I’ve made a concerted effort to be in the room.

“As we’re rolling out programmes like Outlet — a peer support group for LGBTQ+ youth — as we’re organising chat-and-chews that bridge intergenerational gaps between LGBTQ+ allies and elders and young people, I wanted to be in the room, talking to schools, doing the workshops, having the community roundtables.

“That, for me, really allowed me to step into the realisation that as far as we’ve come, we still have a ways to go in terms of people really feeling safe, seen and valued in their work settings, in their families, in schools, and that I could play a role there, I could be the person helping to change hearts and minds.

“I’m genuinely not going into it thinking that people are the problem. I think hatred, anger and ignorance are the problem.”

Ms Paynter added: “One of the programmes I’m most proud of is the one-on-one free therapy that we offer through Solstice … so if you are underinsured or uninsured, we cover up to eight sessions, potentially even more where there is a need.

“That’s really important to me because I suffered from depression and suicidal ideation in silence and, you know, my symptoms were overachievement, so nobody questions that the head girl of Saltus daily thinks about imaginative ways of ending her own life.

“When people ask, how do you know who’s in need? I assume everyone and then create a safety net where people aren’t falling through the cracks.”

She said young LGBTQ+ people were “so much braver” than others before them.

Ms Paynter added: “They’re coming out at 12 and 14. Our generation kind of skipped that and came out in university, when we were safer, when we were off island, but this generation is not waiting.

“They’re less afraid, although they are still scared. They are braver than our generation and they’re suffering because of that and so we’ve got to make it better for them, and so that’s what we’re doing.”

In addition to the therapeutical support, peer group sessions and intergenerational chats, OutBermuda works with Carey Olsen to provide legal assistance and is also starting film nights.

Ms Paynter said: “Some of the programmes we have coming up include a Safe Zone certification training that we want to offer to charities, organisations and small businesses, where they would go through a two-day training and it’s certified by a US entity.”

She added: “There can be a lot of lip service to diversity and inclusion, and a lot of lip service to allyship. I think this just helps people to really make a statement about how they feel, make a statement towards creating safe spaces for everyone in their companies, for their clients, for their staff.”

• For more information about Pride visit pride.bm or to learn about OutBermuda visit outbermuda.org. For other support or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help or call the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute’s 24-hour crisis line on 239-1111

Pride Bermuda 2023 will include eight events over a five-day period this week (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 22, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated August 22, 2023 at 7:42 am)

OutBermuda’s Tiffany Paynter explains meaning of Pride

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