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This is Pride – and we’re here to be seen and heard

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Few could forget the unbelievable scenes along Front Street in August 2019 for the inaugural Pride march in Bermuda (Photograph courtesy of Fly High Media)

Pride is first and foremost a protest! Pride is a march held annually to protest the oppression, discrimination and violence faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Pride is the physical embodiment of the grassroots fight for equality and equity. Pride is held in most jurisdictions across the globe.

The first Pride march, or gay liberation march as it was once called, was held on June 28, 1970, in three cities across the United States. It was held to commemorate the first anniversary of what many consider to be the birth of the global Pride movement — the Stonewall riots. Before the riots in 1969, a large public gathering of LGBTQ+ people anywhere was unthinkable.

Taj Donville-Outerbridge is a Bermudian activist and student studying at King's College London. Most importantly, he is a human being

To celebrate the birth of this global movement, many other jurisdictions companies and organisations began to hold Pride events around this date, leading to June being known as the month of Prides. June has since been adopted as Global Pride Month by most countries, corporations and many international governing bodies. While most Prides are still held within June, some are not. No matter when Pride happens, June should still be respected as Pride Month.

Pride Month, similarly to Black History Month or Heritage Month, is a month dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month is about global and national recognition of the community, reflecting on our past, celebrating our triumphs and charting a course for our future. Both Pride and Pride Month are about visibility and building community.

Bermuda Pride

Relatively new on the scene, Bermuda Pride was founded only in 2019, with the first march taking place August that same year. While the idea for Pride had been floating around the local LGBTQ+ community, the three founders were ignited by a regional conference held in Jamaica in February 2019. At this conference, we learnt that Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad had held Prides for many years prior. This was a moment of reflection for all four of us, as we had considered Bermuda to be miles ahead of these countries in terms of issues related to LGBTQ+ people. While Bermuda had made many legal advancements, we were far behind in terms of community building and national events. So in response, the three founders, upon their return to Bermuda, decided to begin planning the first Pride — and thus Bermuda Pride was born.

The founders of Bermuda Pride chose the last weekend of August 2019, as it happened to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Stubbs Bill, which in 1994 ended our sodomy laws, essentially decriminalising homosexuality. This was and still is a significant triumph as many countries within the region still have not followed suit. I think it is safe to assume that, given the cultural significance of that last weekend in August for Bermuda, Pride will continue to happen around that time.

Why Pride Month matters

Pride Month symbolises recognition. When companies, governments and individuals recognise Pride Month, they are signalling to the LGBTQ+ community that we are welcome, that we belong and that we matter. While many may argue that so-called “rainbow washing” is pointless, when we as LGBTQ+ people see a rainbow flag or read words of support, we smile inside. We smile because we are finally being seen. I can guarantee that those rainbow flags and statements of support have saved lives…and that is powerful!

Pride Month offers us a rare chance to bask in an outpouring of support, love and joy. It is something which all people deserve but which queer people rarely receive.

Pride Month symbolises reflecting on our history and celebrating our triumphs. While the world may still not be a completely safe environment us to thrive, we have made huge strides on many fronts. More than 100 countries have dropped most of their anti-LGBTQ+ laws and more than 30 jurisdictions have legalised same-sex marriage. In addition, there are many LGBTQ+ people who have been fundamental to social-justice movements, academia, fashion and the arts around the world. Pride Month gives us this rare opportunity to unapologetically celebrate our heroes in a mainstream way, and we must use it.

Pride Month symbolises charting a course for our future. We still have a long way to go. Thanks to a recent wave of conservatism among governments, the LGBTQ+ community is under legislative attack both in Bermuda and across the globe. Pride Month offers us an opportunity to unite, garner support for our cause and strategise how we can co-create a society that truly welcomes us.

Pride Month still matters when Pride is not in June. In places where Pride is not held in June, such as Bermuda, it is paramount that local LGBTQ+ organisations still maintain or even increase their visibility during Global Pride Month. In addition to the reasons listed above, recognising it will help to strengthen our sense of unity and fellowship with the global LGBTQ+ community and open the door for more nation-to-nation collaboration. In Bermuda’s case, given the large number of international companies and expatriate workers, recognising it will prove essential for effective community building. Bermudian LGBTQ+ people and allies in the advocacy space should seize every opportunity to increase positive visibility and awareness — this is one such opportunity.

So to echo the sentiments of my dear friend Linda Bogle-Mienzer, it is very unfortunate and disheartening that neither the Government nor any local organisation has bothered to publish a statement of support in the media during Pride Month. It is my hope that in the coming years, I will not be the only one who takes the initiative and has the forethought to celebrate and recognise Pride Month on this scale.

This is a call to action to the Government, to local and international businesses, to charities — especially Bermuda’s only LGBTQ+ charity — and to individuals. This is the time to go the extra mile to not only show your support through actions and words but to make your support known to the public. Visibility saves lives!

In light of our recent National Heroes Day holiday and in the spirit of Pride Month, I would like to end this piece by recognising and celebrating some of my local heroes. Everyone on this exclusive list has had a positive impact on my life and they will undoubtedly continue to have a positive impact on the lives of countless others. Whether it’s through bold activism, fearless living, continued allyship or just showing up, everyone on this list embodies the definition of a hero and are thus, certainly worth celebrating. Many of them identify as LGBTQ+, while some of them are simply allies, but what they all have in common is that they are alive — flowers are for the living, after all. In addition to showcasing my heroes, I will also be highlighting the key quality that I have learnt from each of them.

Leadership: Renée Webb.

True and unwavering allyship: Kennita Perry, Tawana Tannock.

Dedication: Ashun Wolffe, Chen Foley, Elizabeth Christopher, David Northcott, Zakiya Johnson Lord.

Unapologetic Visibility: Linda and ChrisLin Bogle-Mienzer, Mark “Sybil” Anderson, Chrissy Dior

Unconditional Love: Tracy Harney ND, Josie Outerbridge, Selena “VaVa” Fields.

Resilience: Onuri Smith, Shadaunte Tucker.

Creativity: Nkosi “Da’Khari Love” Hollis, Diamond Outerbridge.

Taj Donville-Outerbridge is a Bermudian activist and student studying at King's College London. Most importantly, he is a human being. He can be reached at tdonvilleouterbridge@yahoo.com

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Published June 23, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated June 22, 2022 at 6:09 pm)

This is Pride – and we’re here to be seen and heard

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