2019 is a momentous year in queer history for me. This year marks the first ever Bermuda Pride event! This has made me feel a lot of things, and I wanted to chat about them.
First of all, when I saw that it was actually happening, I just stumbled across the Facebook organising page. I scrolled through hundreds of supportive messages from allies, and hundreds more from queer Bermudians. I saw that the bookshop that I used to work at was supporting the event, and that the crosswalk next to it was being painted rainbow!
And I’m not afraid to say to you, friends, that I wept. I scrolled and scrolled and cried, because I never would have thought that this would happen. I never thought that I would see the people from my home banding together to support love rather than hate. Restaurants that I went to hundreds of times during the course of my childhood are making rainbow cakes, and other businesses are flying the pride flag high.
I think I’ve talked about this before on my blog, but I just want to emphasise what a huge turnaround this is. Bermuda is a place where people don’t talk about being different. If you’re queer or mentally ill or just different, people cover it up. I know that I was mocked for being different when I was at school, and I saw the bullying that other queer girls went through, all the way up until we were 18. I was terrified of being outed, and to be honest? I didn’t properly become myself until I went to university in the UK, and I didn’t properly breathe until I moved to the UK permanently. While I was still going back to Bermuda for the summer holidays, I hid that I had a girlfriend from most of the people I knew, because I just did not know how they would react. To bring it to a book-related front, I didn’t read any queer books until I was at university, because I was worried that people would see me reading them, and make assumptions about me. It was a very conservative place. I don’t know if it still is, because I haven’t returned properly in about 6 years. All I know is that my experiences of hiding my queerness and being ashamed for who I was made me struggle a lot with being bisexual.
The thought of young queer people in Bermuda being told that their sexualities are normal and amazing and something to be proud of makes me tear up even just thinking about it. Seeing people that I know voice their support for the event makes me realise that maybe there were people that I could have turned to, but because no one spoke about it, I didn’t realise that they were allies, or queer themselves. So, saying all of that, I wish with all of my soul that I could be there to celebrate this moment, but unfortunately I just don’t have the money to fly from the UK to Bermuda. It makes me sad, but I hope that I’ll be able to go some other year and show my support.
So. I hope you can tell that I am so happy and so proud of my little island for finally getting its act together. But I am also simultaneously feeling SALTY AS HELL. It makes me so angry that it took until 2019 for this to happen. It makes me even more angry that I was denied that support when I was younger and desperately needed it. And it makes me furious that people I know – people I went to school with, and who bullied these queer girls – are going out and taking this event as an excuse to party.
NOW. I know that personal growth is a thing. I know that when you’re in a small, conservative environment, it is hard to stand up against the crowd. I know that because I am queer, and I didn’t do that for myself, let alone anybody else. And I know that once you’re removed from that environment, it is easier to realise that perhaps these beliefs aren’t right. But I haven’t seen any of these people apologise for their actions, or say anything more than a brief ‘love is love’ on their social media platforms. I haven’t seen any of these people do the work that I personally think that they need to do. And it irritates me to think that these people, most of whom have not shown their support for queer Bermudians by voting in referendums, are using this as an excuse to whack on some rainbow glitter and get hammered.
And while I am not comfortable with this anger, I think it is something that I have a right to express. It doesn’t make me comfortable to know that people are partying when we only got the right to same-sex marriage in 2018. It has already been banned once, and it makes me nervous that something bad might happen again. I realise that we have a right to celebrate – goddamn I understand that – but I’m worried that if we relax now, we’ll slip back right into the attitudes that I grew up with.
It feels like we’ve arrived at the co-opting of pride by capitalist ‘allies’ already – and our pride history hasn’t even begun yet.
I’m hopeful that this isn’t quite what it appears. But from here? I’ve got mixed feelings.