Colours Cayman launches ‘Allies’ network

Initiative identifies LGBT-friendly establishments

Colours Cayman President Billie Bryan, left, and business owner Brigita Nemet inside Lucky Slice Pizza, one of the first restaurants to join the Allies network. - Photos: Kayla Young

Rainbow turtles have begun appearing in the doorways of some Cayman Islands businesses. The decals represent efforts by Colours Cayman to identify LGBT-friendly organisations on island and create safe spaces for all residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The new Allies network allows the public to easily locate establishments that have taken the Colours pledge to foster inclusivity. While the turtle decals offer a quick, visual confirmation, the initiative also includes a searchable, online database, https://colours.ky/allies.

While the list is currently small, Colours Cayman President Billie Bryan says interest is growing.

“We have far more allies here than many realise and now is the time for them to make themselves known,” Bryan said in a 1 July statement.

The announcement on Constitution Day – and the 10th anniversary of Cayman’s Bill of Rights – came with a symbolic element.

“The Government of the Cayman Islands has failed to uphold the Constitution by neglecting to adopt minimum standards to protect or even recognise LGBT Caymanian people,” Bryan said in the announcement.

“This Constitution Day, we no longer need to hold our Government to account in order to be recognised and respected. Today, we take matters into our own hands.”

The network is the culmination of years of efforts by Colours Cayman to empower to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, Bryan explained during an interview.

A rainbow turtle inside the window of Cayman Creperie indicates the business has taken a pledge against discrimination related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Since its inception, this is where I wanted us to strive for. We’re doing a lot more than this now. But it started off as a grassroots campaign to build that network of businesses and organisations that are LGBT friendly,” she said.

“At first, we just had a list of people, which wasn’t too helpful. So, I really wanted to do something more with it, hence the development of the website.”

Bryan is working now to add more functionality to the site, including a maps feature and the ability to rate organisations and add comments. Her vision is to eventually extend the database to other parts of the Caribbean.

She also wants to dispel the notion that the Cayman Islands is not a safe destination for LGBT travellers.

“I think Cayman is about ready now to embrace the rainbow dollar,” she said, pointing out that the islands are not immune to larger social movements happening across the world.

“In the grand scheme of things, the world at large is changing,” she said. “More than ever, people are coming out and making themselves heard, voicing their opinions and wanting to effect real change. I think people are more inspired and more motivated to do that, regardless of where they are.”

While some small businesses have been hesitant to take the Colours pledge, for fear of losing conservative, religious clientele, others have been quick to join the initiative.

Business owner Brigita Nemet said, for her, the idea is to let all residents and visitors know they are welcome at any of her businesses, including Cayman Creperie, Lucky Slice Pizza and Mojo Gastro Pub.

“My personal philosophy is that I would like my business to be a safe place for anybody to discuss ideas. To not just be a place where we are going to relax and chit chat but where we can discuss openly our ideas, not in an aggressive way but in a constructive way,” she said.

“In the same way, Bible study groups and the LGBT community are welcome here. I would love it if we could all talk constructively and lovingly.”

Other participating organisations include the Cayman Islands Red Cross, Cayman Animal Hospital, OnCourse Cayman, and Bread and Chocolate Vegan Bistro.

The pledge, Bryan explained, is a commitment by organisations to not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. This applies to both customers and employees.

“In the future, when we have LGBT people visiting, especially as tourists, they’re more likely to be frequenting those places that identify as allies,” Bryan said.

For young residents, as well, she sees the initiative as carrying particular importance. The database – in addition to the work Colours does with the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and through free educational workshops at the library – should help connect young people with community resources.

“We can’t just cater to adults, the elderly or more established, more privileged people. We need to really focus on, especially on, the ones who are most at risk, who need this more than others do,” Bryan said, adding, “This is what Colours was set up to be from the start. …

“So that people are no longer afraid to come out and be themselves, so that people know they are supported and they have places to go where they’ll be accepted.”

To learn more about the Allies network, visit https://colours.ky/allies.