• By Johanna Salinas

Pride takes pride in Guam's openness

Guam Pride members held a wave event at the ITC intersection on Marine Corps Drive in Tamuning June 12, 2020.

Photo by Johanna Salinas

As they join the nation's Black Lives Matter movement, members of Guam's LGBTQ community take pride in their own island community for its openness to alternative lifestyles.

“It’s important for us to remember and commemorate our LGBTQ pioneers and everything they’ve done to help us move forward in our community and to celebrate the LGBTQ people in our community. There are so many people who contribute to our island that are LGBTQ—doctors, teachers, and government workers and hospitality people,” said Lasia Casil, founder of Guam Pride.

For the LGBTQ community, Pride Month in June is a time to come together to celebrate and bring awareness to their journey. However, like many events in 2020, Covid-19 has cancelled the Pride Parades and Pride concerts.

Across America today, with many protests taking place over the deaths of George Floyd Jr., Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Guam Pride and GALA decided hold a rally in support of Black Lives Matter. The rally was in honor of African American LGBT activist Marsha P. Johnson who was murdered in 1992.

“There’s the youth—we need positive events like this so the youth will see that there are positive role models out there they can look up to and be positively influenced by. There are a whole bunch of reasons we do these rallies and why we continue to do these rallies and raise visibility and support the LGBTQ community,” said Casil, who is also the executive director of Hagatna Rehabilitation and Restoration Authority.

As a Chamoru LGBTQ, Casil has experienced both racial and sex discrimination. “In the ‘70s, I lived in the states, in the south. I remember being beaten up on a bus for being a person of color in Louisiana,” Casil said.

“I remember getting on a school bus and having to sit in the back because I have dark skin. As an LGBTQ person, I felt a lot of discrimination here on my island when I was young, so much discrimination that I felt I needed to leave and stay away from my island for 20 plus years. I still feel discrimination here sometimes. It shows when we still have to fight for equal rights and protection in public places. There’s still no laws protecting us from discrimination in healthcare and housing.”

Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz believes that oppressed people should help empower each other. “I really do think that all of us that have been and are currently oppressed need to join together to support each other. What happens to Black lives also happens to us gays—the very same kind of treatment,” said Cruz.

“We’ve had knees on our necks and some of us have been killed, especially the trans. Trans have been affected by people. We all have to stick together and assure everybody that Black Lives Matter. We should all work together.”

Cruz is a former Supreme Court justice and former speaker of the legislature. His orientation didn't impede his success in public service. He received overwhelming votes when he ran for public auditor.

“I’ve been gay the entire time and it hasn’t been held against me. I think Guam understands that if you have something to contribute and you do it well, you will be recognized. My concern is that I know I’ve been blessed, but I know a lot of the young gay kids haven’t been as fortunate as I have been," Cruz said.

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"Our trans community has especially suffered out here on island and I’m hoping we can protect them. We as a country—as a world—can join together to protect their rights and assure there are changes made in the way policing is done we would all be protected and benefit from it,” Cruz added.

The rally brought together all walks of the community—from elders to youth, longtime residents and new residents. Chris Johnson, who moved to Guam a few months ago, was proud to show his support. “As an African American, I understand what’s happening in the world,” said Johnson. “I’m also gay, so I have double discrimination. I’m still proud of being Black and being gay. I understand what’s cop brutality and being discriminated against.”

Johnson feels that Guam is very welcoming and accepting of Black Lives and LGBTQ. “Here on Guam, people are more accepting of everything,” he said. “There’s no judgment on anything. I want to say it’s better. There’s less prejudice here, than in the states. In the states in some areas, there is less prejudice too. It depends on where you are.”

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Another new resident, Sidney Fabre, was proud to attend the rally. “I’m a gay, Black woman,” said Fabre. “I’ve only been on Guam for a few months. Being out here feels nice that the islanders are being inclusive and aren’t just letting things that are happening in the states not affect the community.”

Although she is grateful to be on Guam, Fabre acknowledges that no place is perfect and society needs to be more accepting.

“Racism is everywhere,” she said. “I haven’t been here long and we’ve been locked down in the house, but my experience with racism doesn’t feel that different sometimes. I still get looks at the store or I’m being made to feel uncomfortable when I go places.”

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