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This Story of Change centres on Manny, a gay man and drag performer from Belmopan, Belize. Manny began participating in programming with Belize Youth Empowerment for Change (BYEC) after learning about their annual Pride event. His story explains the importance of breaking the silence brought on by bullying and homophobia in youth in order to empower oneself and others, as well as to build strong LGBTI communities.

Hear Manny speak about his experience

Manny expressed that by joining BYEC, “I felt like I was beginning to find my voice, to do more, and to help spread awareness, and as well to help educate others that were probably in a similar situation like me.” From this experience, Manny has been able to open up more about his sexuality to trusted friends and family members.

By joining BYEC, Manny was also able to open up more about his career as a makeup artist. “The mainstream society,” Manny said, “are not really okay with guys doing that, and by joining the organisation, they uplifted me, empowered me, helped me to believe in myself more.”

For the past three years, Manny has been invited to do drag performances at the annual Pride event. Following these performances, he has received many compliments and acknowledgements from the young LGBTI community in Belize. This has allowed Manny to see how being his authentic self has impacted others in a positive way.

Reaching out to the community in Belize is important for Manny, as it allows for a different side of the narrative to gain traction. In his experience, most homosexual people in Belize hear from society that their sexuality is wrong. By reaching out, Manny explains, it can “help them open their eyes and see themselves in a different way than the way others are seeing them.”

Manny hopes that by participating in workshops and events, other members of the LGBTI community in Belize will be able to accept themselves and other LGBTI people more easily.