Monday, December 7, 2015

Bahamian LGBT community struggling with acceptance

By: Jennifer Nzeogu
Produced and edited by: Joshua Lim

The Apple group at the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade in 2015. Homosexuality
has become more widely accepted in the U.S., but the Bahamas hasn't progressed as much 
since its legalization in 1991.
(Photo courtesy of David Yu)

The Bahamas, a country once colonized by the British, is struggling with societal disapproval for homosexual practices.

From unanswered emails to people speaking in hushed tones on the phone, one can only assume that there is a low tolerance for homosexuality in this conservative country.

The silence of homosexuality

The gay community itself appears to have a very quiet presence in the Bahamas. This could be due to the fact that homosexuality is not widely accepted although it is legal.

Reddit user, ‘thajunk’ blatantly stated:

“If you’re gonna be openly gay in the Bahamas, you gonna have a bad time. Unless you just stay in the touristy areas.”

Even the comments section on travel blogs for the Bahamas ring the same tone. Expressing oneself as a homosexual in the Bahamas comes with the awareness that there will potentially be repercussions.

Differences between the United States and the Bahamas

In the United States, homosexuality has become more widely accepted, however, that doesn’t mean that everyone has grown to accept the lifestyle of same sex couples. Richard Ammon said that level of progress has yet to reach the Bahamas.

“There is no public gay life to celebrate, no parades, no Rainbow flags, no activist organization, no LGBT tour promotions, no legal protections and only a few quiet gay bars and clubs downtown in Nassau,” Ammon said.

In the news, Americans have seen coverage of unjust homicides and attacks of people, based solely on their sexual orientation.

Renaj Forbes understands the way Americans have slowly accepted LGBT people, but acknowledges that perhaps the Bahamas hasn’t progressed the same way.

“I haven't honestly heard of any positive experiences in the Bahamas in regard to the LGBT community,” Forbes said.  “I don't know of LGBT getting beat up or anything (I'm sure it happens) but the discrimination and prejudice attitudes towards them are so normalized that general mistreatment is not news.”

Homosexuality has been legal since 1991, however, same sex couples don’t receive legal recognition. The age of consent is 18 -- while it’s 16 for heterosexual couples -- and anti-discrimination laws in the country’s constitution don’t include gender identity or sexual orientation.

People within the gay community are being denied basic rights and freedoms. They’re denied the right to marriage, but are legally accepted.

The Festival Place building at Nassau Harbor, Bahamas.
Homosexuality has been legal in the Bahamas since 1991.
(via Wikimedia)
They’re protected as humans in every aspect except for the way they identify themselves and their orientation. In those ways, they are not recognized by the law and have zero protection.

Some churches in the United States, such as Methodist churches, open their doors to people in the homosexual community. Harewood Higgs said it’s not quite the same in the Bahamas, where the church people “are more or less confused.”

“They would accept their pastors and members of the church who are gay, or have not yet come out as gay but they will not accept the larger LGBT community,” Higgs said. “It’s a very disheartening issue, and you often see different Protestant religions, such as Baptists take a stance against LGBT members.”

The Rainbow Alliance of The Bahamas was a group formed in 2003 to advocate for the LGBT community in the Bahamas. However, some Bahamians are unaware of LGBT organizations within their country. Meanwhile this organization, which no longer stands, existed solely for that specific community.

An activist that was once within the group, Erin Greene, said no programs currently exist for LGBT youth.

The gay community has continuously shown an unwillingness to maintain the levels of visibility required to ensure the enforcement of existing legislation and legal protections that offer recourse for discrimination and crimes against sexual minorities.” Greene said. “Most members of the LGBT community are Christian and still wish to maintain strong ties to their church but face difficulties being visible in any activity that challenges the church or established religious doctrine.”

The Rainbow Alliance in The Bahamas tried to serve as strong support for its community, but they were unable to successfully convince people that it had indeed created a safe space for LGBT people. As a result, the group is no longer active.

The attitude towards LGBT people is something that will take time to come to terms with as a society, but the small steps towards that are definitely being made.

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