Intolerance the biggest problem for gay community, says activist
Tackling a culture of homophobia is the key to keeping young people in Bermuda, according to an LGBTQ+ activist.
Taj Donville-Outerbridge, 22, said that public intolerance was one of the biggest problems – and one that could not be solved entirely by laws – that gay and transgender Bermudians faced.
He added that Bermuda had lost “some of its most talented people” because many LGBTQ+ people did not feel safe and chose to leave.
Mr Donville-Outerbridge was speaking after married same-sex couples have spent nine weeks in the dark over the legal status of their unions after the Privy Council sided with the Government on same-sex marriage.
The Government, which argued that marriage should be confined to being between a man and a woman, has not made a decision on whether or not same-sex marriages made during the four-year legal battle would be voided.
Mr Donville-Outerbridge said: “Even if same-sex marriages were allowed, LGBTQ+ people would still be leaving Bermuda.
“The law means something for a set group of people, yes, but for the entire LGBTQ+ community – for the young queer boy in high school who’s being bullied and tormented because of his identity – I don’t know if that means anything to him directly.
“He’ll still be faced with teachers who can’t help him and guidance counsellors who offer no support because they haven’t been trained to deal with LGBTQ+ people or it goes against their faith.”
He added: “There are some of us who stay whether because we don’t have a choice financially or because we’re willing to put in the work to fight, but many have left.
“Bermuda has probably lost some of its most talented people because LGBTQ+ people do not feel safe in Bermuda.”
Mr Donville-Outerbridge hoped that the Government would still recognise the marriages as legal, but admitted “they have no real legal obligation to”.
He added: “I hope that they take this as an opportunity to focus on social progression.
Mr Donville-Outerbridge, who is studying at King’s College in London, said that he would return to Bermuda regardless of the Government’s decision – but added that many young LGBTQ+ Bermudians did not feel the same way.
He explained: “Bermuda isn’t necessarily the most nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth and adults, so I’m sure this will negatively affect whether LGBTQ+ people decide to stay in Bermuda.”
Mr Donville-Outerbirdge challenged the Government and the public to “turn their words into actions” and ensure that LGBTQ+ youth felt safe on the island.
He said: “There are still people being tormented for being LGBTQ+, so I would like to see OutBermuda, Pride Bermuda and the Government all focus on trying to push some social progression or social acceptance.”
Mr Donville-Outerbridge added: “When I say ‘meaningful action’ I mean ensuring that educators know that they are going to deal with LGBTQ+ people and that they can’t avoid it, and that they should do everything they can to be knowledgable about such identities.
“It’s ensuring that sex education is comprehensive and inclusive and includes the sexual health needs of queer people and clarifies hormones and gender identity and all of those things that should be taught in comprehensive sex education, which I don’t think any school in Bermuda has as of yet.”