By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE LGBTI community’s silence over the years has allowed it to become marginalised by the state and church, according to Pride Bahamas organisers.
But having been pushed to the sidelines this position is no longer accepted by younger generations who plan a series of events to shift cultural attitudes.
Spokeswoman Alexus D’Marco told The Tribune said the planned 2020 Pride parade will not be a celebration of decadence but education and awareness.
She said the success of next year’s event is critical to repairing a lingering international stigma against The Bahamas as a homophobic country and pushed back against propaganda that the event would be staged in the downtown area.
The group intends to use private and inclusive safe spaces to host an opening ceremony and flag-raising and a series of other events under the theme: “The Rebirth of Pride Bahamas Centering LGBTIQA people in the Bahamas’ Future”.
It’s a nod at previous attempts to host a national celebration that fell flat due to lack of support.
“We call it the rebirth because everything is timing,” Ms D’Marco said, “it takes community. I think the organisers last time didn’t have community. People were so in fear of who they are, but there is a new generation that is free and open and not afraid to tell you – ‘this is who I am’. We can respect people’s identity, it is okay to still be in the closet. But we have persons who are leaders in our community who identify as LGBTI.”
Ms D’Marco continued: “If I can’t host a pride (event) in my country, but I can go to another county and be prominent in those celebrations, be a grand marshal, then we have a problem. The world stage is recognising the work we are doing with other Caribbean countries.
“Jamaica known for its homophobia, and violence, and it is on its seventh year of pride. Barbados is in their second, Guyana on its second. The Bahamas has decriminalised same-sex relations since 1991, but countries who have not decriminalised are bold enough and hosting pride where they can be killed for that.
“Our community has sat back for too long and became invisible by the church, by people in government – (some) who even identify as LGBTI. The state has an obligation to protect all citizens, so if we assemble the state has an obligation to protect us.”
Ms D’Marco also called for the administrators of Facebook groups and social media platforms to stop using LGBTI issues to bait their audience and increase engagement.
She pointed to the damaging impact of the protest to US comedienne Rosie O’Donnell’s gay family cruise, which was met with scores of angry protestors when it docked in Nassau in July 2004, to the country’s human rights profile.
“Pride is not just for people who identify as LGBTI,” she said, “it’s for allies also and you don’t have to be LGBTI to be a part of pride because you have donors, corporations - the LGBTI community are also consumers, tourism. There is a lot of LGBTI people who are unsure about The Bahamas because of the Rosie O’Donnell cruise. They still feel the backlash from that and are thinking we’re this homophobic country.
“We’re trying to raise the human rights profile of The Bahamas. This is one way we’re going to raise the profile, not just with pride but through the OAS (Organisation of American States), the consultations with the government.
“It’s a shifting in the culture and attitudes of the LGBTI community in The Bahamas and the attitudes toward LGBTI community. This is not a parade of decadence, that’s not what it is for us, this is to educate our decision-makers, gatekeepers, and families as to who we are as human beings.”