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LGBTQ+

Life on St Helena

Queer people exist. Choosing not to accept them is not an option.{a}

In law, St Helena does not discriminate‍‍

LGBTQ+

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer with the + representing those who are part of the community, but for whom LGBTQ does not accurately capture or reflect their identity{b} (e.g. Intersex, Asexual, Aromantic and Agender){1}.

This page attempts{2} to describe the situation on St Helena with regard to members of the LGBTQ+ Community. It should be noted that this is a relatively fluid subject and we aim to update this page when developments come to our attention.

Unsure? Questioning? Go here: Seeking help?.

Law and Constitution

The St Helena Constitution states (in Section 21) that:

  1. No law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect.

  2. No person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any organ or officer of the executive or judicial branches of government or any person acting in the performance of the functions of the St Helena Public Service or any public authority.

  3. In this section, the expression discriminatory means affording different treatment to different persons on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, age, disability, birth or other status.

As a result, there are no prohibitions on LGBTQ+ activity, and people cannot be discrimiated against by government based on their sexuality. Prohibitions on LGBTQ+ activity (specifically, homosexuality, which was the only one criminalised) were withdrawn in 2000 for persons at or over the Age of Consent (currently, 16){3}.

Same-Sex marriage became legal here in 2017 and several same-sex weddings have since taken place, though at the time of writing none of our Religions will conduct same-sex marriages and the Anglican Church seems to use its influence to oppose LGBTQ+ Rights.

LGBT rights are considered Human Rights by Amnesty International and our Equality & Human Rights Commission.

LGBTQ+ Life on St Helena

Below: EmploymentSocial ActivitiesIssues

Employment

Below: GovernmentPrivate Sector

Government

In accordance with our Constitution the Government of St Helena does not ask for sexuality information, when recruiting or otherwise, and cannot discriminate on the grounds of sexuality.

Private Sector

The situation in the Private Sector is less clear. The Employment Rights Ordinance, 2010 (as amended) does not, at the time of writing, explicity prevent a private sector employer from discriminating against an employee on grounds of sexuality. It remains for Legislative Council to bring forth an amendment to this Ordinance to enact such protection, which it has not yet done.

There is some anecdotal evidence that some Private Sector employers do shun members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Social Activities

Below: Clubs, Bars, etc.Religion

Clubs, Bars, etc.

There are no dedicated LGBTQ+ pubs/bars/clubs etc. However, none of the island’s pubs/bars/clubs discriminates and there have been no recorded instances of violence or harrassment aimed at anybody because of their sexuality.

Religion

None of the island’s Religions openly accepts all members of the LGBTQ+ community, the usual position being that anybody who is not Heterosexual can only be a member of the religion if they abstain from non-Heterosexual activity.

Issues

Below: Social PressuresSeeking help?Denied your rights?

Social Pressures

While there are no legal impediments to being openly LGBTQ+, not all Saints feel comfortable with being ‘Out’ on St Helena. In many cases this seems to be for fear of attracting gossip, or because of the impact this might have on their families. Often Saints do not ‘Come Out’ until they have left the island, perhaps for work in the UK where there is an active LGBTQ+ community to interact with. Non-Saints working here commonly seem to find it easier to be open about their status.

It is not uncommon for openly anti-LGBTQ+ jokes to be told in public, even by prominent members of society. If world norms apply around 10% of Saints are LGBTQ+ but the number of openly ‘out’ Saints on St Helena is probably lower than 1%.

Seeking help?

On the island there are limited resources for teens, or anyone else, seeking advice about their sexuality. It is possible to access the (UK) Samaritans (+290) 20000 (NB: at the time of writing this number is not in the current Phone Book) but people would perhaps prefer to speak with somebody local? They could contact the Mental Health Team but firstly at the time of writing this number is also not in the current Phone Book and secondly the team is small and many would fear having to share their confused feelings with someone to whom they might be related{4}. At the time of writing the island’s secondary school, Prince Andrew School, provides no confidential counselling for its students. Finally there is the Internet, but this is well known be a minefield of misinformation. See the article (below) for one individual’s personal experience of understanding their sexuality.

Denied your rights?

Contact our Equality & Human Rights Commission. They should be able to help, or to direct you to someone who can.

Homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness.{c}

Pride

June is Pride Month on St Helena, as elsewhere in the world. Unlike many other countries there is not a Pride March. In some years the LGBTQ+ Flag has been flown by the Government of St Helena, at Plantation House and/or the Courthouse. The Equality & Human Rights Commission usually flies the flag from its offices in Napoleon Street, as below:

Read More

Below: Article: I Put the ‘B’ in LGBTQ+!Article: SHG fly Pride flag to show support for the LGBTQ+Pride Month Notice, 2020

Article: I Put the ‘B’ in LGBTQ+!

By Kenicke Andrews, published in The Sentinel 22nd June 2023{5}

One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.{d}

Kenicke Andrews

I am so proud of what I have done. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do for myself. Being Bisexual is simply part of who I am, this is not a temporary phase, and it is not something I ever chose or decided to be - just a part that I have been longing to share for quite some time on my own terms.

Sitting in a classroom surrounded by my classmates, I could feel my world slowly pulling itself apart in embarrassment as my teacher glared at me and said stop laughing too much because anyone would think you are a queer!

That was the day I realised that even in the school I still wasn’t safe from the daily torment received outside from bullies - bullies who mocked me and beat me for my name, for my voice being too high, for being shy or ‘surly’ as we say, for not playing football or cricket as my Dad did. I will always remember being held down, having my ears burned with a lighter on the playing field for not shouting out as loud as I could, I’m a gay boy! at the bullies’ smirking requests.

I always knew I was different - somehow. I remember the day I learnt the definition of being gay as a child, and I thought to myself I must be gay because I look at other boys. However, the next day, I thought girls were attractive too, and decided I couldn’t be gay because I also liked girls. No one ever told me there was an option of liking more than one gender, so it never even crossed my mind. It took me over 25 years to cast aside that closeminded view on sexuality. Even when I was older and learnt the definition of bisexuality, I didn’t consider myself ‘bi’.

On St Helena, within our small, highly diverse community, we have a small handful of ‘out’ members of the LGBTQ+ community on-Island. However, many of those who were open about their sexuality and gender identities were visibly excluded socially and, more often than not, judged for their divergence from the status quo. It’s sad to know that some of our fellow Saints could only truly be themselves while living aboard to avoid such behaviour and discrimination.

People seem to think that they can guess if a person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or any sexual orientation based on superficial factors like how they look, dress, or behave. These are stereotypes, or very simplified judgments, about how LBGQT+ people act. Using stereotypes to label someone’s sexual orientation can be inaccurate and hurtful. Some people struggle with coming out to others or even themselves because they’re afraid of homophobia and sexual orientation discrimination.

With minimal representation, I grew up learning to hate who I was and internalising toxic misconceptions about gender and sexuality and, to this day, I am still changing my outlook.

Queerness felt like a taboo, something rarely talked about aside from the occasional hushed rumours like I heard so-and-so is gay! Yet, at the end of the day, any sexual orientation mirrors straight sexuality in a lot of ways.

Let’s be real - in all cases we hook up, make out, fight, experiment, grow close to each other, get married, want our own families, seek to build a house in which to live together, to be happy - it’s all very similar, in a lot of ways, and just another part of the human experience. Everyone deserves to experience love fully and equally, without shame and without compromise.

Coming out at 28 was probably the most intense decision in my whole life, but enough was enough. Not only because I had to come out for my family or my friends, but for myself - I was going to be the person I was born to be!

My best friend and sisters were the first to know - it was a real struggle to admit to them how I had been feeling all these years, how hard it was denying the truth, how I felt that I was giving the bullies the satisfaction that they were some sort of ‘right all along’.

I was too afraid to tell my parents, the opportunities were there, but I was too scared to say something. Too scared of the many scenarios that my anxiety would play continually in my head - maybe this would happen, maybe that would happen, would they be ashamed of their son - it was all too much. In the end, a few months later, I gave them a ‘coming out letter’ in which I explained that I was born this way, that I love you both so much and I only want you to be proud of me. Sexuality should not define who someone is, but, it is what it is! Nothing prepared me for their reply: Don’t dare apologise for anything; you can’t change how you feel. You are still our son and we love you the same no matter what. Nothing will change our feelings towards you ever, remember that!

The next journey was telling my extended family and closest friends. Surrounded on a ‘something colourful themed’ booze cruise, sailing into the sunset, I revealed my custommade T-shirt under my jacket I PUT THE B IN LGBTQ+! I had never felt so proud and so brave of myself. I was shaking like a leaf, but, I will never forget that moment ever.

Right now, I’m still finding myself and introducing the new me to the world - it has been liberating, but, it has had its challenges. I have been accepted and I have been left out - the price you pay I suppose to be the real you. I have been asked why I am this way - purely, I believe this is a genuine question and not discrimination, more just a lack of community awareness. I tell them that I was born this way.

It was not something I decided overnight, people don’t decide who they’re attracted to, and therapy, treatment, or persuasion won’t change a person’s sexual orientation. You cannot ‘turn’ a person gay and it’s not the ‘first’ steps of becoming gay.

There are still mixed feedback from our community about LBGQT+,every person has their own journey in understanding what it means, how to support LGBTQ+ people, how to accept.

This is a question that many people have asked me and are often afraid to ask out loud: Is it possible that some people may wonder if I’m gay if I show support for LGBTQ+ issues? The simple answer is maybe, but who cares, at the same time, good people understand that supporting fairness and equality for LGBTQ+ people does not mean that a person is gay themselves, it just means that they value and respect acceptance for all people, regardless.

For a lot of people, learning that someone they know and care about is part of the LGBTQ+ community can open a range of emotions, from confused to concerned, awkward to honoured. My mum continues to be my number one cheerleader. It may be hard to know how to react, what to say, or how you can best be supportive. Having conversations about life as an LGBTQ+ person may feel strange at first, especially if these aren’t conversations you’re used to. It is normal to feel a little awkward, or to be a little afraid of saying the ‘wrong thing’ and ‘making it weird.’ Feeling confused or uncomfortable doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you are homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, etc. It does mean, however, that you should take the time to work through your feelings, on your own, fully and honestly so that you can reach a place of support for your friend, loved one or acquaintance without reservation.

The way we treat adolescents - especially those who do not fit neatly in the expectation of today’s society - can have serious detrimental impacts on the identities, sense of self, mental health, and future relationships of young queer people. The internalisation of shame and hatred can follow queer youth well into their adult lives, contributing to a sense of low self-worth and feelings of isolation. Thoughtless micro aggressions and slurs that seem inconsequential to those who say them can leave impressionable queer young people feeling invalidated in an immutable aspect of their identities. It is up to loved ones, peers, and communities to accept, rather than ostracize, our queer youth.

No matter who you are, or what you believe, all people should be afforded respect and dignity, including queer youth. Even a small amount of basic human decency can make all the difference in such a critical period for the development of identity and selfworth within young people.

This is the first PRIDE month I have celebrated where I could fly my pride flag with a smile. Mum and Dad brought me the biggest pride flag that they could find and it’s flying with satisfaction in my garden this month. June is Pride Month which is dedicated to raising LGBTQ+ voices, celebrating LGBTQ+ culture, and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. The rainbow flag is regarded as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride. The six-colour flag; red signifying life; orange representing healing; yellow representing sunshine; green representing nature; blue representing peace; and purple representing the spirit.

I am thankful for every day where I can be myself and I’m in a place where I want everything in my life to mean something. For me, life is about being positive and hopeful. I choose to be joyful, I choose to be encouraging and I choose to be empowering! The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you anymore by telling you what you have just told them.

Love is love, be proud of who you are and let no one rain on your parade.

HAPPY PRIDE MONTH 2023!

Article: SHG fly Pride flag to show support for the LGBTQ+

Pride Flag at Plantation House

By Andrew Turner, published in The Sentinel 1st July 2021{5}

SHG flew the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Plus (LGBTQ+) pride flag outside the Courthouse and Plantation House to mark the end of Pride Month.

Pride Month is celebrated every June to highlight the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community (both past and present) and to push for greater tolerance and inclusivity.

The flag was raised over Plantation House on Tuesday June 29th and was raised over the Courthouse on Wednesday June 30.

St Helena is one of just 28 countries that allow equal marriage for same-sex couples with 34 others providing some form of partnership recognition. 69 still criminalise being gay with penalties including imprisonment, beating and death.

Pride Month Notice, 2020

Published in The Sentinel 25th June 2020{5}

LOL

Credits:
{a} Daniel James Howell{b} Wikipedia{c} Sigmund Freud{d} Shannon L. Alder

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Footnotes:
{1} For more see The Wikipedia.{2} The editor of this website is not LGBTQ+ so this page may suffer from ‘outsider looking in’. If anything herein is inaccurate or misleading please Contact Us so we can correct our mistake.{3} In the UK, the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 made changes so that homosexual men over the age of 21 could have sexual relationships in private. In 1994 a further change saw it reduced to those aged over 18 and in 2000 it became legal at the Age of Consent (16).{4} And, philosophically, it could be argued that coming to terms with one’s sexuality is really not a Mental Health issue, with the implication that there is some kind of disorder…{5} @@RepDis@@

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