Scores of supporters turned out to a human rights rally 25 May to oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation in Bermuda.
The event, ‘Home is where the hatred is’ was organized by Krystl Assan, a 23-year-old student who claims she was discriminated against because she is gay.
Supporters stood out in the heat at City Hall and listened intently to Miss Assan, who spoke about why the Human Rights Act should be amended to include sexual orientation.
“I thought about voicing the private frustrations of gay and straight people alike when it comes to this issue. Isn’t there something really wrong with politics or society when I have to present an argument for why it’s not okay to discriminate against me, or my friends or my loved ones on the basis of who they love?"Miss Assan told the crowd the rally stemmed from an incident where she was allegedly turned away from a guesthouse.
“Why do I need to prove to you that it is wrong and should be punishable by law to deny someone service at a restaurant on the basis of who they are or how they’ve chosen to live their life?"
“Convicts are given this amount of decency and respect, as they should, but as yet, gay people are not.”
She publicly apologized to the owner of the guesthouse for putting her and her guesthouse in the public spotlight.
Miss Assan went into some detail about what allegedly transpired at the guesthouse; a disagreement apparently arose about a second person staying in her room. The owner has publically denied discriminating against her.
“So where does this leave us?” Miss Assan asked after describing the incident.
“It leaves us to deal with the messiness of discrimination, the fact that there are usually no clear offenders and victims and the fact that the more honest you are, the more perspectives you have see.”Miss Assan also said many of her friends have been discriminated against because they “look gay”.
“For some of my friends, who more openly break gender rules in terms of their personal styles or mannerisms, the consequences of being gay in Bermuda have been severe.”She said she has had male friends beaten up and a female friend lose a job for failing to dress in a feminine way.
“It is obvious that we live in a society where we are not wanted.
“For many of us, living or attending school abroad is out first experience of complete acceptance and returning home isn’t returning home at all.
“It’s a place where we are confronted by hate.”
At the rally — supporters in their own words:
Dr Bente Lundh, 51, a paediatrician, said:
“I’m here because I’m a human rights person. I believe strongly in this cause and in amending the Human Rights Act.”Eoin McMahon, 17, who has just graduated from Saltus Grammar School, said:
“This is something I believe in — everyone should be able to love who they want and enjoy equal rights. It’s something much of the rest of the world has done and it’s overdue here.”Alia Hamza, a freelance videographer 30, said:
“I am here today to support a worthy cause which is equality.”One 51-year-old gay man, an office administrator who asked not to be named, said he had left Bermuda when he was in his early 20s to escape victimization. He added:
“I was spat at, chased and had abuse hurled at me, so I went to live in London. I came back 20 years ago and people are still fighting for their rights.Gavin Smith, 32 owner of Chewstick Foundation said:
“The Government has been promising this amendment for eight years and still nothing’s happened. So many politicians are gay, but can’t come out and support this because of fear, which is very sad.”
“I am here today because it’s important that Bermuda keeps up with the world. It’s an issue that affects a lot of our people and it’s long overdue.”Suzanne Mayall, 39, a reinsurance broker, said:
“There needs to be an independent process to adjudicate in cases like this [a reference to an alleged incident at a guesthouse that sparked the rally] and to highlight that such discrimination is occurring. But there’s no way to deal with it at present. Right now, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone because of their perceived sexual orientation. It’s not really about gay rights — it’s about protecting people against discrimination, which is a basic human right.Mark Anderson, who performs as Sybil, Queen of Bermuda, said:
“The opposition to this amendment is based on a misapprehension about the what the amendment means. It’s not affording any special rights, it’s merely against discrimination.”
“I’m because as a proud gay man in this country, I feel that to have sexual orientation on the law books would encourage people who have issues with their sexual identities and give them protection.Krsytal Assan, organiser for the event said:
“This is not a gay rights issue, it’s not a straight issue. It’s a human rights issue — I want people to have the right to experience their own humanity — you can’t change human nature and everybody deserves the same rights.”
“It’s not about the numbers of people here today. The Facebook page showed that a lot of people supported me on this issue. That proves we can achieve unity and consensus on this issue.Note: the proposed reforms do not include gender identity. For more on this issue see the Facebook group Stand up for Gender-Variant People's Rights on Bermuda
“I hope politicians see that this isn’t going to go away and that the longer it takes, the more frustrated people will become.”
Note: Blogger Chris Gibbons says that the rally has been followed by "the hysterical outpouring of ignorance and hatred."