Queer Perspectives on the Sexual Orientation Saga.
If you haven’t heard, after years of campaigning, disappointment, and delayed promises, the Human Rights Act Amendment is finally being tabled this Friday May 17 when the House of Parliament re-opens. Despite the fact that adding sexual orientation to the list of protected categories in the Human Rights Act has been in every throne speech since 2009…. I feel good about this one. Based on conversations with journalists, activists, and the general citizenry, others feel the same. The amendment is basic – which makes it shameful that we’ve fought so long for it. Adding sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act would mean that anyone with a sexual orientation – gay, straight, queer, whatever – can’t be denied access to employment, housing, or public services based on their preferences. In Bermuda, as of today, that’s still completely legal. Hopefully, this Friday marks the beginning of the end of state-sanctioned discrimination.
As Janelle Monae said in her recent track Q.U.E.E.N, “They add us to equations but they never make us equal.” I, for one, am looking forward to even more progressive conversations: marriage equality (for the gay people that want it), the inclusion of gender as a protected ground, and greater education around queerness, in general. It’s been a while since I stopped identifying as gay or straight. I’m attracted to people of a wide range of genders – ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ women”, women who fall between the gender binaries, pre and post-op trans girls, queer boys, and some straight men. In Bermuda, the conversation hasn’t evolved to the point where gender and sexual orientation are talked about as distinct concepts – much less how gender discrimination is felt by members of all sexes and sexual orientations. I’m looking forward to “A Big Conversation” about how hyper-masculinity plays a huge role in gun violence, gang culture, domestic violence, and the absolutely shocking prevalence of sexual assault and rape that happens on this small island. No doubt, it will be disappointing for some that this amendment, long-awaited as it has been, will do nothing for gender-variant people.
So truth be told, thanks – but I’m over it. In the years spent waiting for politicians to be leaders and stand up for equality and non-discrimination, my gay friends and I have kept trucking. We’ve been in relationships, ended them, and started new ones; some have gotten married; others have been happily married for several years, or over a decade. Like other Bermudians, our lives aren’t just spent making love: we’re forging our own paths in employment, love, and community without waiting for the politics to catch up to this century.
It might seem ungrateful to ask, “What next?” before the Bill’s been passed. “We should be grateful. Things take time. The public isn’t ready for more.” Et cetera. I am not ungrateful: my gratitude is merely extended to the letter-writers, poster-makers, activists, and allies that have turned up again and again to speak about what no one wanted to hear. From Dr. Stubbs, Dale Butler, and Renee Webb to every day culture warriors like Suzanne Mayall, Elizabeth Christopher, Venous Memari, Peter Carpenter, David Northcott, Leila Wadson, Junior Burchall, Jenny Faries, Sara Clifford, Caitlin O’Dougherty, and a host of others … if this Amendment takes place in 2013, it’s because of these people who have done the work.
Because this is a site about arts and culture and all the ways they intersect, I’ll be posting about the connection between art and activism in Two Words and a Comma’s powerful 2007 ad campaign, that went mini-viral five years later.
For more information on the Amendment and what it means, see Two Words And a Comma’s site. To support International Day Against Homophobia by having lunch at the House on Friday, see the Facebook group here. Other Resources include the Rainbow Alliance Bermuda on Facebook, or on their excellent site. Also check out the Centre for Justice‘s campaign and timeline.
For a great introductory video to the idea of gender and masculinity as a social construct, see this video forwarded to me by Hannah Collins, member of the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda working group.