I am a Bermudian, but my love for Bermuda has always been unrequited. Because I am a gay Bermudian. The island of my birth, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, has never been shy about saying that my kind are not welcome there. On February 7th, Bermuda became the first jurisdiction in the world to repeal same-sex marriage rights. The Bermuda Supreme Court granted those rights in May of last year, and a newly elected Government legislated those rights away, replacing them with domestic partnerships. I was disheartened and angry.
Bermuda is exporting homophobia, its grossest domestic product, demonstrating to the world that same-sex marriage rights can be rolled back. Someone needs to fight this. Apparently it’s going to be me. On February 15th, Mark Pettingill filed a legal challenge to the new law on my behalf, but really, on behalf of all LGBT Bermudians.
Some of my loved ones agreed that someone needs to fight this, but they’ve said, “I wish it were someone else,” because they were afraid of the impact that internet trolls and unkind media portrayals might have on me. Honestly, I’m afraid too, but I’ve watched too many Disney movies to let fear prevent me from standing up for what’s right. Also, musicals. Obviously. “Make believe you’re brave, and the trick will take you far.” I still haven’t quite managed to divorce my self-worth from what other people think of me. This will force me to learn how to do that. My best friend suggested I might start with something smaller, like getting my ears pierced. But that’s much too edgy for me.
I’d be delighted if this case was resolved in our favor, without any public mention of Roderick Ferguson, but the courts make anonymity the exception rather than the rule. Also, we need financial support, which is why I’m writing this op-ed. This legal challenge happens to be taking place in one of the most expensive countries in the world. Obviously I make a ton of money as a totally unknown singer, comic, and aspiring actor, but I spend all of it on therapy. Joking. Not joking. So I’m depending on the kindness of strangers to handle the financial burden of taking on this fight. The Bermuda dollar is pegged to the value of the US dollar, a loaf of bread costs almost six bucks, and this legal fight will cost at least a quarter of a million dollars. We could really use your help.
If you like to hear a good sob story before you donate, go ahead and jump to the next paragraph to understand my story. In the spirit of finding the humor in my situation, though, I’d like to point out that, in taking on this fight to regain the right to marry the man of my dreams in Bermuda one day, I might actually push that day further out, because people would naturally assume I’m in a relationship. It just so happens that this challenge requires a gay or lesbian Bermudian who is currently unmarried, but would like to get married in Bermuda in the future. People keep telling me to put myself out there, but this probably is not what they had in mind. For the record, I like long romantic walks on pink sandy beaches.
When I tell people today the degree of cruelty I endured growing up in Bermuda, between verbal abuse and threats of physical violence, they say it’s amazing I survived. And that was just on the suspicion that I might be gay, at an age when few of us even understood what that meant.
I just visit my family and friends on the island, waiting for a day when I feel welcome there, as a proud gay Bermudian.
Since I received so much negative attention I took every opportunity to hide from my peers. Sometimes I’d hide next to the creek at the far end of the school field, taking pleasure in watching the dragonfly larvae move underwater, delighting in the idea that something could spend the first half of its life underwater, and one day transform so drastically that it would be able to fly. Apparently I was really into metaphors at the time.
I realised in ninth grade that I was gay, but hoped against hope that I was mistaken. In my freshman year at university, I realised there was no mistake about it, and I tried to kill myself. The intense homophobia of Bermuda taught me that being gay was a fate worse than death. If I could have chosen to be straight rather than gay, I probably would have made that choice instead. I don’t know how else to convince people that being gay is not a choice.
I consider myself a survivor of homophobia. Like most survivors, I want to do everything in my power to help others survive it too.
While I still may joke about being broken, some days I feel head over heels in love with myself. With the support of some amazing people, I’ve been able to do the work to recover myself, and we’ve put this humpty dumpty back together again. In a good enough way, I’m no longer hiding. I’m thriving now. It is from this new place of strength that I am able to take this stand against homophobia in Bermuda.
When I do find my future husband, I would love to share Bermuda with him. The Monarch butterflies. The spotted eagle rays. The green turtles. The pink sand. The loquats. The surinam cherries. For now, I just visit my family and friends on the island, waiting for a day when I feel welcome there, as a proud gay Bermudian.
Please help me bring that day closer by supporting this legal challenge.
If you’re a regular human being who supports this cause, please help us by going to our CrowdJustice page.
CrowdJustice is a legal crowdfunding site that works to increase access to justice.