Column: ‘Will Not Accept Anything But Equality’

March 6, 2018

SONY DSC[Opinion column written by Kirkland Hamill]

When Bermuda repealed the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, I wrote an op-ed in The Advocate about not coming back to the island until it was repealed and marriage reinstated.

Some people thought that was extreme, and counter-productive, and would end up potentially punishing the people I wanted to help. I took that stand because I have learned that systems don’t change unless there is enough discomfort to create change, and because injustice and unfairness pisses me off.

I wasn’t born an activist; I was created.

The first seeds were planted when I was 4 years old and my mother made me parade in front of a group of adults at our annual Labor Day skit as the “female” half of a gay couple. My older brother was “the man.” She dressed me up in a halter-top, skirt and heels, draped me in pearls and hung a “gay liberation” sign around my neck, mocking a movement that had just started to take root.

I told her that I didn’t want to go, but she was having too much fun applying my make-up, and seemed annoyed that I was ruining her fun. I can still hear the laughter from the crowd 46 years later as I walked arm and arm with my brother, knowing that in some way I was the butt of a joke that I didn’t understand. I felt foolish, and ashamed, and kept running to my mother crying, but she would just peel my hands from her legs and push me back into the middle of the room, refusing to comfort me until I completed the procession. She was laughing the loudest of everyone.

My training as an activist continued throughout my early childhood, as I fielded the subtle looks and outright disgust of disapproving adults, particularly my parents, who wanted me to toughen up, or speak in a less girly tone, skip less enthusiastically and stop asking about how to needlepoint.

We lived on a horse farm when I was 7 years old, and the assistant manager of the barn slapped me across the face one day when I wouldn’t stop talking and waving my hands flamboyantly. I knew she wasn’t just telling me to stop saying words and to stop moving my hands; she was telling me that I needed to stop being me because who I was made her angry. I can still feel the sting of her hand, and the hatred behind it.

I need to acknowledge the classmate who honed in on me every recess, sniffing out my timidity like a truffle pig, so he could make daily deposits into what would eventually become my drive to ensure that society evolved into a place where kids didn’t have to hide who they were for fear of being brutalized.

I also need to thank, and apologize to, the kids who were more vulnerable than I was, who I treated badly, as the memories of my unkindness keep me up at night, and remind me to practice forgiveness with my resolve, understanding that we can all be victims and we all have the capacity to be perpetrators.

I finally had the strength to come out as gay when I was 30. My mother refused to acknowledge that I had said anything, ending our phone conversations quickly whenever I brought up something about my life that might pierce her denial.

My father, upon hearing the news, said “I won’t believe you’re gay until you bring somebody home, then I can begin having trouble accepting it” – a mind twister I’m still deciphering to this day.

My friends were supportive, but I was often on the receiving end of questions about who the “man” in any relationship was, because being gay to many people still elicits images of what we do in the bedroom, and not about who makes our palms sweat and hearts flutter. We are an oddity to many, an abomination to some, and – gratefully – just friends, neighbors, family members and citizens to an ever-expanding majority.

On February 7th, 2018, the Bermuda Government repealed marriage equality and replaced it with domestic partnerships – the equivalent of an open-handed slap across the face.

Those of us who have spent much of our lives being ridiculed, belittled, subtly dismissed and ignored have found solace in community, and strength through adversity. We will not accept anything short of full equality. We will not be bullied, or intimidated, or quieted. We will persist. We will win.

Kirkland Hamill is a dual citizen who lived in Bermuda from the ages of 8 to 16. He returned to the island for a year when he took a break from college, and after that returned to the island to visit family, with his last visit in 2005 for his mother’s funeral. He currently resides in Washington DC, recently celebrated his 50th birthday, and is working on a memoir — entitled ‘Filthy Beasts’ — partially set in Bermuda.


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Comments (36)

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  1. My favourite line “I wasn’t born an activist; I was created.”
    An absolutely beautiful and heartfelt sharing albeit painful I’m sure for you as it was to me as I read it. I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to come home until there’s full equality but should you change your mind, please look me up so I can give you the biggest hug!

    • Onion Juice says:

      Aint heard nothing about being involved with Civil Rights activism !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • BermieBorn says:

        Another sad example of our education system’s abject failure to teach basic grammar and objectivity, thinking for yourself skills. This juice has soured from inattention and ignorance.

        • Onion Juice says:

          Ya, but what I’ve noticed in Bermuda’s History there is only one group of people that have been fighting for Equal Rights and Justice and inclusion in a racist society.
          And over the years we have been labeled as trouble makers and

          • Double S says:

            Now you guys are the bigots and racists. Ironic huh?

          • Mike Hind says:

            That’s because you aren’t an equal rights activist.
            You are a supremacist who want to be the one oppressing people.

      • Youranorc says:

        Why would you detract from the above comment with your knee jerk race bating ignorance?

        • Youranorc says:

          You are missing my point either intentionally or through ignorance.

      • Anbu says:

        So u have heard something then? Please share

    • drunken ursula says:

      why haven’t you taken your thoughts to FCOG?????

  2. redamtibi says:

    First world problems. You have no idea what suffering is…

  3. Ellen Brown says:

    Dear Kirkland:

    It is hard to be different, which often requires, a journey, with learning to accept yourself and say “screw you” to others. Your opinion resonated with me. I was born with CP and my journey has had many challenges; however, I would not be here today stronger than when I was born, but showing people in the face of adversity that one can overcome and show the beauty of outer and inner strength. You are the beacon to many and I hope that those who fear SMM, that the fear is unwanted and born of ignorance. Love is love and it does not matter one’s orientation. We all want and need acceptance of being equal.

  4. Coffee says:

    I wasn’t born an activist; I was created.

    But at least you was born equal !

    • BermieBorn says:

      Unlike the PLP who have sadly and proactively sought to diminish equal treatment.

      So much for respecting their core progressive roots. They appear to have forgotten from whence they came and refused to respect their history and heritage in favor of political expediency and group think, no matter the social consequences or human implications.

  5. Mary says:

    Nothing can stand in the way of LOVE nothing ever did or will , LOVE is all we have left

  6. campervan says:

    Thanks for helping is all to visualise the bigotry and prejudice with your frank and enlightening honesty.

  7. Make a new plan Stan says:

    Two things:

    I sort of wish you would have left out the part about your mother forcing you to dress like a girl. I think that is something that religious people will point to as the reason “you turned”. So many people still refuse to believe people are born gay. It is your story and you have the right to tell it but the emotion and humiliation you expressed in that part sounded traumatic.

    I have no desire to be married myself but I think anyone who wants to be should be able to. I had a friend ask me what the limitations were to domestic partnerships that marriage would provide and I have no idea. I joked and said maybe it’s important to be able to divorce. If anyone can shed light on what the differences are that would improve my ability to make those who are not interested in your plight understand.

  8. Straight Bermudian Male says:

    Here’s an alternative point of view to the ‘bien pensant’, liberal self-hating dribble that’s being thrown up (literally) at this moment.

    There are plenty of people in Bermuda, probably a majority in fact, I am one, who have no issue with civil unions, shared pensions, one partner having first digs at the other one’s stuff after passing, and all the rest required for a safety net and security. But since when does that give a right to expropriate an entire institution and turn the meaning of it upside down on its head to the point that many thousands of straight couples who have taken solemn vows to uphold its sanctity are now deeply offended and possibly even prejudiced against? When gay couples can procreate and continue the species, maybe that day will come but in the meantime gays should find some other name and stop being such little bitches about this. Indeed, the gay community got everything it asked for except a name – very good, well done gays, especially considering that Mr. Wayne Furbert’s bill (which I suspect the majority of Bermudians supported) was on its way to becoming law.

    By the way, and again I think most would deep down inside agree, this is hardly a life choice (yes, it is a life choice) that any parent would want to see their child make. Putting it on a pedestal and calling it marriage might make for so called enlightened conversation at art openings, National Trust auctions, and wine tastings with stinky cheese in post industrial warehouses, but for the rest of us with lunches to make and kids to get to school, cut the self righteous bull and let’s get on with real issues like how to pay for college, or elderly parents care, cheaper medicine, anything but this mollycoddling.

    • shrew says:

      why do you think gay people cannot make solemn vows and uphold marriage? Straight people get married EVERY DAY withough relgious vows, without pro-creating. it’s called EQUALITY for a reason. Just because you and i are straight does not mean that we get to dictate! come on up to the 21st century it’s full of light and empathy up here!

      • Straight Bermudian Male says:

        Of course they can – if they marry a member of the opposite sex.

        The issue is that what is being sought is not marriage, regardless of how hard they may try to convince themselves and the rest of us otherwise. The gay community and its apologists need to find their own word for what it is they are seeking.

        • Anbu says:

          Because your definition of marraige is based on religious dogma. And last time i checked, your god said we have free will to make our own decisions. Telling religion to shove it just happens to be one

      • sandgrownan says:

        Because he’s a bigot – plain and simple. A stupid, ignorant bigot. It’s really that simple.

        The prose is interesting, it starts in a thoughtful tone and he has clearly considered his language. However, even the most cursory read indicates nothing more than ignorance.

        • Straight Bermudian Male says:

          You are stuck reciting and falling back on tired cliches. Don’t like what somebody has to say, easy: call them a bigot, claim they are ignorant, apparently no need to explain or justify; the name calling plain and simple will do. The problem the vocal minority like yourself who persist in shouting down those who take a different view face is that the only people you are impressing are yourselves. As I have already said, the fact is the vast majority of voters are not in favor and this has been expressed through their elected representatives. Are all these people bigots and ignorant ones at that?

    • sandgrownan says:

      A fundamentally ignorant comment.

      “When gay couples can procreate and continue the species, maybe that day will come but in the meantime gays should find some other name and stop being such little bitches about this”

      Really? You proud of that?

      • Straight Bermudian Male says:


        • sandgrownan says:

          I was going to comment of the “life choice” nonsense, but there’s little point. Sheer ignorance.

        • Double S says:

          So heterosexual couples who aren’t able to reproduce should also be banned from being married? Right?

    • Cow Polly says:

      Dear Straight Bermudian Male, firstly I’d like to thank you for writing your alternative point of view as I have been perplexed for sometime as to why there is such vehement opposition to the inclusion of homosexuals in the institution to marriage. And now, I would like to present you with my alternative view point for you to mull over.

      My view is that if we do not treat marriage as an institution inclusive to all, it might very well signal the end of marriage all together. Please allow me to explain. As we know, there are two parts to a marriage, the religious part and the legal part. The religious part is conducted in Churches some of whom still maintain their refusal to recognize divorce and the mixing of religions and can pick and choose who they marry. The legal part however, doesn’t care how many ex wives or husbands you’ve had or whether you’re catholic, protestant, black or white etc. etc. under the law everyone can marry (yes there are exceptions but you get the point).

      Now, suppose the religious part was allowed to override the legal part and all of us who have been married before could only enter into, for want of a better word, domestic partnerships? That those persons who were divorced had to have their marriages called something else because, using your words, “couples who have taken solemn vows to uphold its sanctity are now deeply offended and possibly even prejudiced against”. We would be living in a world where there are more people legally bound by ‘domestic partnership’ than there are ‘married’ as religious ceremonies become less common as younger people gravitate to the ‘all-inclusive’ legal alternative. As time goes on, I think you’ll agree that the alternative becomes the norm? And whilst the more conservative amongst us might disagree, I think we can generally agree that there is no shame associated with divorce or a mixed race couple or having children out of wedlock as there used to be.

      Bermuda has now legally created three types of ‘married’ persons – married, domestic partnership and gay married (those 10 or more who were married under SSM). Each with supposedly the same benefits but which one of those is mutually inclusive? The answer is Domestic Partnership.

      I can’t look into the future but I can certainly learn from the past and the past says that only the mutually inclusive will survive.

      • Straight Bermudian Male says:

        Thank You, a thoughtful reply though I obviously disagree. One small point – the Bermuda Supreme Court created three types of ‘married’ persons. Clearly the majority of Bermudian voters as expressed through their elected leaders (on both sides of the floor)see it very differently.

  9. New Day says:

    You have the rights you need.
    Pick another name for it because marriage is just a word.

    If you don’t have the same rights then fine keep fighting but just leave the word marriage alone.

    2 sets if people fighting over a word is silly.

    Just be sure you have the same rights and pick another damn word. It’s getting beyond silly.

    And I guess there are lots of places you won’t be going because of this issue. So that is also silly.

    • Anbu says:

      You just comtradicted yourself. If its “just a word” why donu care what people do with it? Makes no sense.

  10. Imjustsaying says:

    According to a newly released hypothesis, homosexuality might not lie in DNA itself. Instead, as an embryo develops, sex-related genes are turned on and off in response to fluctuating levels of hormones in the womb, produced by both mother and child. This benefits the unborn child, however if these epigenetic changes persist once the child is born, and has children of its own, some of these offspring may be

  11. Imjustsaying says:


  12. Mike Hind says:

    Procreation is not a requirement for marriage .

    Your position is incorrect and ignorant.