A Statement by Billie “Bee” Bryan, Colours Caribbean
Those are the words so many have tried to placate me with whenever I’m enquired about my response to “Cayman Gay Pride.” As if to suggest that any action taken to uplift LGBTQIA+ people in the Cayman Islands is without scrutiny and that the event was “at least” a step in the right direction.
Well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t entirely agree. And while that viewpoint is sure to place me squarely in the crosshairs of so many, “at least” allow me to explain myself.
Pride began as a protest. And it continues as a protest. It was and still is meant to call attention to the many issues that our community struggles with on a daily basis and the neglect and oppression, be it intentional or unintentional, that we’re regularly subjected to. Yes, it’s also a celebration and is intended to be a bombastic display in support of our people but that’s still meant to be in utter defiance of our ongoing marginalisation.
Yet Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, who were responsible for organising the event and everything surrounding it, stipulated quite the opposite to its participants, restricting their conduct to be even more conservative than what we have come to expect from Batabano or CayMAS Carnival. This entirely defeats the purpose of Pride and likens our genuine and valid displays of affection towards our romantic partners to vile acts such as “public defecation and urination,” to quote the words of Cayman LGBTQ Foundation itself.
Furthermore, noticeably absent from the “Cayman Gay Pride” celebrations were our country’s most powerful activists.
Was there any recognition given to Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden-Bush, the two lesbian women who have been championing for marriage equality in the Cayman Islands for years now and are largely responsible for the success of the Civil Partnership Act? Was there any recognition given to Dr Leonardo Raznovich, internationally recognised LGBTQIA+ rights activist who was the catalyst for igniting the conversation surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights, equality and same-sex marriage in 2015?
Lastly, it is common knowledge to those in this line of work that Pride was started over 50 years ago by trans women, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera—was any recognition given to those two trailblazers or the significance of trans women spearheading this movement? Was any recognition given to Cayman’s own trans woman who founded and continues to operate our country’s first ever LGBTQIA+ non-profit organisation?
In short, our first “Cayman Gay Pride” was a Pride in name only and it should be recognised for what it truly is — a celebration. That does not discount the significance it had for our LGBTQIA+ community but we must also remain vigilant and recognise that we still have so much farther to go. The conversation surrounding what it means to be LGBTQIA+ in the Cayman Islands is only just beginning.
Yes, there is room for the conversation about class.
Yes, there is room for the conversation about privilege.
Yes, there is room for the conversation about racism.
Yes, there is room for the conversation about internalised homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and the divisive and negative impacts they have within our own community.
And yes, we have a right to call out those who are guilty of perpetuating the silencing of those so invested in the issues our community still faces—even if they themselves are a part of it.
As a queer activist who’s been fighting for so many for years now, it would be irresponsible of me not to call attention to the many crucial issues that were entirely ignored or individuals who were purposefully—some might argue even strategically—excluded from the festivities. And as much as I want to participate in the rejoicing of what should have been such a historic and meaningful moment for our cause, I cannot help but feel cast out and even more marginalised; and sadly, by the very same people who should be fighting alongside me.
That said, I am proud of how far we’ve come. And I’m proud of the people who worked so hard to get us there. I only wish that Cayman LGBTQ Foundation could be proud of us as well.
Billie “Bee” Bryan, Founder & President