Support network set up for gay people
Members of the LGBTQ community and their families are to organise secret support groups amid fears of intimidation by anti-gay activists.
Sylvia Hayward Harris, part of the unnamed group setting up support networks at undisclosed locations on the island, said: “We were very concerned about folks who might show up and are not supportive or who may harass those who come.”
The group formed as a result of a forum organised by a separate group, Out Bermuda, where Ms Hayward-Harris suggested the idea.
Ms Hayward Harris said support groups for LGBTQ people and their families are crucial in Bermuda's current climate to cope with the “wall” of rejection they are faced with in the community.
She added that her own son had vowed never return to live in Bermuda after he was attacked for being gay some years ago.
A support group is due to meet this evening and Ms Hayward-Harris said she hoped that LGBTQ members and their families would find strength and understanding in a community where large sections of the population are against them having equal rights.
Despite a landmark ruling in May that paved the way for same-sex marriage to be legalised, Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert plans to retable a Bill that would cement the legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
His first Bill was defeated in Senate. But if the new majority PLP Government votes the same way they did previously in the House of Assembly, the Bill could be successful and outlaw same-sex marriage.
In addition, pressure group Preserve Marriage has consistently campaigned for marriage to remain as being between a male and female.
Ms Hayward Harris said: “There really is a major — I can't call it a push back, it is a wall — against people who are gay here.
“There isn't any kind of acceptance for them so having support groups is very necessary.
“They struggle and there are some families that are violently anti gay.
“The church is anti gay — we have some so-called Christians who are not very Christlike in dealing with their children or other LGBTQ people.
“They consider them to be abominations. The community — according to Preserve Marriage — is really not into being supportive or understanding of the issues surrounding it.
“You have Preserve Marriage themselves fighting against marriage equality and we have Wayne Furbert trying to trump the Human Rights Act — it sends a message to someone who is gay or lesbian that this community is not supportive, they are not wanted and their needs are not considered.
“They truly need support.”
Shari-Lynn Pringle, a member of the LGBT community and an LGBTQ activist, said it was time that support groups were formed in Bermuda.
She added that she faced discrimination after coming out several years ago.
Ms Pringle said: “For any issue that challenges a community there will always be those who need someone or somewhere that they feel safe talking to or going to.
“It is especially important because people are coming out a lot younger and they need to know that they can have a good quality of life.
“A lot of us out here are paving the way for them so they don't have to go through some of what we went through.”
The next meeting is due to take place this evening from 6pm to 7.30pm. Anyone interested in attending should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.