Andra Simons doesn't feel he can be himself on his home ­island. He would love to be able to do the simple things other ­couples take for granted, such as kiss or hold hands in public.

But Andra had to leave his ­family and friends and move overseas - ­because he is a man who dates other men.

The 38-year-old - who is proud to be gay - said he "couldn't take it anymore" and moved to the U.K. about five years ago.

Andra claims that in Bermuda, he felt he could only show ­affection ­towards a partner in the privacy of his own home.

He had to be the person society wanted him to be and always had to introduce his partner as "a friend".

But he felt "a sense of freedom" and could be who he wanted as soon as he moved to London.

Andra describes himself as "openly gay", adding that he "never tried to hide it."

His sexuality is fully accepted by his family but he could "never fully be himself" while living on the island. He claims gays and ­lesbians living in Bermuda "just had to get by and try to deal with it".

Andra said: "Having a gay ­relationship in Bermuda is hard enough if it's a Bermudian and someone from overseas but for two Bermudians wanting to be ­together the pressure is even harder.

Sexuality

"I can't ever recall seeing two Bermudian people being openly affectionate. You can only be ­affectionate in private."

Andra moved to London about five years for two reasons - he wanted to "feel free with his ­sexuality" and wanted to "broaden his scope" as a writer.

He now ­"combines the two" by working as a writer, poet and ­performer, ­touring venues across the U.K.

On stage he says he "doesn't hold anything back" and talks openly about his upbringing and sexuality.

Andra said: "Being gay in Bermuda, there's a huge weight that you carry around with you.

"It's always present - you can't be yourself, there's always this weight hanging above you.

"There's a sense of repression and oppression. I was in my mid-30s and I couldn't take it anymore, I had to leave."

He added: "I still feel the same when I go back to visit - the ­moment I step off the plane, it all comes back."

As for the future, an optimistic Andra said Bermuda "can, will and should change".

He added: "I want to believe Bermuda will change, really I do.

"Visibility is the first step. We have to show people 'here we are, we're not going anywhere.'

"We are part of the community, we contribute to the community.

"It's much harder to discriminate if people see and know who we are."