Opinion Column: U.S. Consul On LGBT Pride
[Opinion column written by U.S. Consul General to Bermuda Robert Settje] The Government of the United States supports and promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] rights.
As President Barack Obama has said, “LGBT rights are human rights. Human rights are inalienable and belong to each and every human being, no matter their race, religion, gender or gender orientation.”
The Government of Bermuda recognized the importance of LGBT rights last year when it approved the Human Rights Amendment Act 2013 [HRAA 2013] to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Despite government policies or changes in law, many LGBT individuals in Bermuda and elsewhere, including the U.S., still face bigotry and intolerance. They often feel excluded from the social fabric of their societies, whether in the realm of education, religion, or the workforce.
They also share the real fear of violence being perpetrated against them. It happens in the U.S., and it can happen in Bermuda. Indeed, it already has. This September will mark 21 years since Wilfred “Oopie” Ming, Jr., was stabbed to death in what can only be described as a hate crime.
Progress in any endeavor begins with honest discussion. Reaching understanding takes a willingness to see differences in belief as a reason to initiate conversation, not avoid it.
In Bermuda, several organizations have taken on that role with regard to LGBT matters, including the Rainbow Alliance, the Centre for Justice, Kinsfolk Bermuda, Two Words and a Comma, and, of course, the Bermuda Human Rights Commission. I applaud them for the important work they do.
To further that conversation, on June 23 the U.S. Consulate General and the Human Rights Commission will bring to the island two American LGBT speakers and rights advocates, Timothy Kane and Darnell Moore, to participate with Bermuda’s own Colwyn “Junior” Burchall in a three-day LGBT program to mark LGBT Pride Month.
Mr. Burchall, a Toronto-based author, educational consultant, and literacy specialist, is co-founder of the Fihankra Home Academy, an Afrocentric education co-operative.
He champions justice in general and challenges the oppression of sexual orientation in particular. Mr. Burchall is author of Look for Me in the Whirlwind: A Story of Marcus Garvey, Freedom’s Flames: Slavery in Bermuda, and The True Story of Sally Bassett and Dame Lois: The People’s Advocate. He has a Master’s Degree in Education from Mount Saint Vincent University.
Mr. Kane, the Associate Director for Inclusion Initiatives at George Washington University, directs the university’s LGBT Resource Center. He has developed LGBT, transgender, and religious diversity training programs for the public and private sectors, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Education. He has a Master’s Degree of Divinity from Harvard and a Master’s Degree of Theology from Maryknoll School of Theology.
Mr. Moore, a writer and advocate who co-founded YOU Belong to encourage inclusion and diversity, was the inaugural chair of former Mayor Newark Cory A. Booker’s Commission on LGBT Concerns and co-founder of the Queer Newark Oral History Project. He is Managing Editor/Partner of The Feminist Wire and a Fellow at the Center for African American Religion, Sexuality and Social Justice at Columbia University.
Mr. Moore has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Behavioral Science from Seton Hall University, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling from Eastern University [United States], and a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary.
The program will begin at Specialty Theater #2 at 6:00 PM on Monday, June 23, when we will screen the film Pariah, which follows 17-year-old Alike and the many issues she and her family face as she begins to embrace her identity as a lesbian. The film will be followed by an open discussion including our visiting speakers.
Trailer for Pariah:
On Tuesday, June 24, at 6:00 PM, we will host a panel discussion on LGBT inclusion at Hallet Hall at the Bermuda College, moderated by Tiffany Paynter. Along with Messrs. Burchall, Kane, and Moore, the Reverend Nicholas Tweed will sit on the panel. We will invite the audience to participate in the discussion.
During the speakers’ three-day visit to Bermuda, they will also meet with various community groups, including young people, clergy, professional groups, and groups that advocate on behalf of the LGBT community.
It is axiomatic that justice must prevail over ignorance, prejudice, and intolerance. In an April 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail to his fellow clergymen, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Rev. King, of course, was talking about racial injustice in the United States, but his statement applies to all people everywhere, including LGBT people. It is in recognition of that mutual network, that destiny we all share, that we sponsor the upcoming LGBT program.
In closing, I would like to offer my support to the Bermudians who will be participating in WorldPride 2014 in Toronto from June 20-29. Pride events mark the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village, which were the beginning of the modern LGBT liberation movement that has transformed oppression into pride.
I hope to see you on Monday, June 23, for the screening of Pariah and again on Tuesday, June 24, for the discussion at Bermuda College.
-U.S. Consul General to Bermuda Robert Settje