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Sexuality, sensitive personal information, and Pride

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Internationally, June is the month of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) Pride. Annually, throughout June, people around the world commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, also known as the Stonewall Uprising or simply, Stonewall. But why is that? And what is Pride?


Let us take you through a key aspect of the history of the LGBTI rights movement in the United States and globally, and demonstrate how, 54 years on, it is still relevant to civil rights and human rights, including privacy, globally and in Bermuda.


Pride and Stonewall in the context of the historic stigmatisation of LGBTI people


In the US, the 1960s, as well as the decades before had seen much hostility towards LGBTI people. Back then, due to the social stigmatisation of LGBTI people, LGBTI identities, and behaviours, the solicitation of same-sex relations was still illegal in New York City. This form of criminalisation and state-sponsored persecution resulted in LGBTI people creating private, safe spaces in the form of gay bars and clubs. Gay bars like the Stonewall Inn served as safe havens for LGBTI people to gather, socialise, and express their identities without fear of being persecuted or exposed. These spaces provided a sense of privacy and community in a world that largely rejected LGBTI people’s existence.


However, the New York State Liquor Authority imposed penalties on and closed establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBTI individuals: the authority apparently believed that the “mere gathering of homosexuals was disorderly.” These regulations were repealed in 1966, but engaging in gay behaviour in public, such as holding hands, kissing, or dancing with someone of the same sex, was still illegal. The police continued to harass gay bars, and many of them operated without liquor licences.


The Stonewall Riots erupted on 28 June 1969. On that day, the police in New York City raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. The police raid sparked an uprising among bar patrons, employees, and neighbourhood residents as police roughly hauled them out of the bar. Those pulled out of the bar were subjected to invasive searches, arrests, and public humiliation. The rioters fought back against the police, refusing to be silenced or marginalised any longer.

The raid was not an isolated incident but rather representative of a broader pattern of police harassment and persecution faced by LGBTI people. This important aspect led to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement officers outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighbouring streets and Christopher Park. The rioters’ resistance marked a major turning point in the fight for LGBTI rights and equality and is widely considered a catalyst for the modern LGBTI rights movement in the US and around the world. Since being LGBTI was seen as a source of shame – and is still seen in this negative, stigmatising light in many parts of the world – the resistance also involved reframing and changing the narrative from shame to pride. Therefore, Pride means the process of actively resisting discrimination against LGBTI people through social mobilisation for equality.


So, how are Pride and privacy related?


While the connection between Stonewall, Pride, and privacy may not be immediately apparent, it is important to understand the context of the time. Privacy played a significant role in the events leading up to Stonewall and its aftermath. As stated above, in the 1960s, homosexuality was largely stigmatised and criminalised in many parts of the world, including the US. LGBTI people faced widespread discrimination, harassment, and persecution, often with the backing of laws that criminalised same-sex relationships.


Stonewall Inn was a safe space and the police raid violated that sense of privacy and safety. The riots erupted as a direct response to this invasion of privacy and the long-standing mistreatment of the LGBTI community, sparking a global movement that sought to secure rights, including privacy, and equality for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


In the years following Stonewall, the LGBTI community worldwide, including in Bermuda, mobilised and fought for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, anti-discrimination, legal protections, and equality laws. Privacy, in both physical and informational contexts, has been a critical component in securing equality, dignity, and freedom for LGBTI people globally.


What about Bermuda?


In Bermuda, homosexuality was decriminalised in 1994 under the Stubbs Bill. This landmark law, submitted by Dr. John Stubbs, abolished an earlier law that made it a crime for gay people to have sex in the privacy of their home. Additionally, in August 2013, the Bermuda government amended its anti-discrimination law, the Human Rights Act, to include sexual orientation as a ground of discrimination.



The commemoration of these important milestones in the history of LGBTIQ Bermudians is a key reason why, since 2019, the annual Bermuda Pride march has been taking place in August (N.B., except for 2020 and 2021 when the march was not held due to the Covid 19 pandemic). OUTBermuda have recently announced this year’s Bermuda Pride for 26 August.


LGBTI people, privacy, and PIPA


Under PIPA’s section 7, along with race, national or ethnic origin, and other protected characteristics, sex, sexual orientation, sexual life, marital status, and family status constitute sensitive personal information. Under subsection 7(2), organisations are forbidden from using sensitive personal information to discriminate against any person contrary to any provision of Part 2 of the Human Rights Act 1981.


The right to privacy allows LGBTI individuals to express their identities without fear of persecution or discrimination. It provides the necessary spaces, both offline and online, for them to form supportive communities, seek legal redress, and advocate for equal rights.


The concept of privacy extends beyond physical spaces. It encompasses the protection of personal information, the right to control one's identity, and the freedom to engage in intimate relationships without societal interference. LGBTI people have fought for privacy in these aspects as well, advocating for policies that protect against discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, and other areas of life.


PrivCom stands with all individuals in our community by working to protect their rights and to ensure that any time personal information is used – for whatever reason – it is done in a way that is fair and empowering. For more information, contact our office at communications@privacy.bm

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