Panel to tackle homophobia

Published: June 11, 2014

Homophobia is still very much a problem in Bermuda, according to Zakiya Lord. 

“Absolutely,” said the research and project coordinator of the Human Rights Commission yesterday. “We have to name it and claim it first.”

Just because Parliament passed legislation prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination last summer does not mean LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) discrimination has been expunged from the island, she said. Problems remain. Attitudes still need to change.

“Social change is not necessarily synonymous with political change. There’s definitely more that can be done.”

Now, the Human Rights Commission, along with the Consulate General of the United States, has organized a panel discussion about LGBT rights and tolerance in Bermuda later this month in an attempt to foster open and forthright dialogue regarding that issue.

Special screening

The discussion is scheduled for June 24 at Bermuda College. The day before that discussion, a screening of Pariah, a film about a 17-year-old African-American girl exploring her sexuality, will feature at Speciality Cinema.

Ms Lord is not the only Bermudian to think more dialogue is needed. 

Colwyn Burchall Jr recently said Bermuda needs frank, open and respectful discussion “to significantly deepen our understanding of what it means, in concrete terms, to, for example, have one’s sexual orientation derisively referred to as a lifestyle by the island’s faith leaders.”

There is little support for transgendered individuals living in Bermuda, said Mr Burchall, who is currently a member of the Toronto-based parenting organization, The Black Daddies Club and will serve as one of the featured panellists later this month.

“The climate on the island has been found to be so unfriendly that many LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) Bermudians have opted to relocate to other, more accommodating parts of the world,” said Mr. Burchall. 

Another panelist, Timothy Kane, works at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he is the associate director for inclusion initiatives, the director of the LGBT resource centre and oversees religious life on campus.

He said he hopes the forum increases understanding of sexual and gender diversity.

“The idea of getting beyond the binaries regarding what our gender is all about,” he said.

Mr Kane said he plans to highlight the best practices on how to be an LGBT ally.

“It’s important to show it’s not about taking away privileges, but it’s about raising up minority groups to have equal access,” he said. “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

Religious identities and LGBT identities, he said, “do have a lot in common”.

“No one is here to beat you over the head to let go of this faith belief in order to be part of LGBT inclusion,” he said. 

“There’s a lot of different ways to live a sacred holy life. God didn’t make two kinds of flowers. The diversity of our creation is so overwhelming and beautiful, why would that diversity not extend to sexual and gender identities?”

 Kane, who holds a masters in divinity from Harvard, said there is a lot of overlap “when you talk about nonvisible identities of faith and nonvisible identities of those who are LGBT”.

“Folks go through some of the same kind of challenges,” he said. 

Darnell L. Moore, the co-founder of YOU Belong, an American organization that works with LGBTQ youths and undertakes diversity initiatives, is another panellist. 

He hopes the forum will be an opportunity to learn, communicate and collaborate. “I’m interested in what Bermuda has to say and how they understand themselves,” said Mr Moore, a trained educator and therapist who also graduated from seminary.

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