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All together now: Xtra’s community portrait

A special commemorative photo to celebrate our final issue in print

Xtra presents a special tribute to some of the many people who have helped build the community that we call home. Here’s to all the people we’ve chronicled in our print edition in the last 21 years — and all the community builders yet to come! Credit: Belle Ancell

What better way to cap our 21-year print run than with a commemorative photo to honour some of the people who have helped shape our community?

Of course, it would be impossible to squeeze into one snapshot all the people who have nurtured our community’s growth over the decades. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s only a handful, a cross-section of people from a variety of fields who have all contributed something meaningful to the community we call home.

The photo shoot on Feb 1 was beautiful in itself, full of laughter and love. Though a few of our invited guests were, sadly, out of town or unavailable, everyone who attended seemed genuinely moved by the energy in the studio. I know I was. What an incredible group of people. What an honour to document them and preserve their legacy. Here’s to all of you, and here’s to many more decades of digitally documenting our community builders to come!

Back row, left to right

Tim Stevenson
After paving the way for gay ministers to be ordained by the United Church of Canada in 1988, Tim Stevenson became BC’s first openly gay MLA and Canada’s first openly gay cabinet minister in 2000. He is now serving his fifth term on Vancouver City Council.

Blair Smith
Blair Smith has been the volunteer director of the LOUD business association, fostering connection and strengthening BC’s LGBT business community, since 2009. He’s especially committed to mentoring our community’s youth and to that end helped launch the philanthropic LOUD Foundation “to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to budding community leaders.”

Willi Zwozdesky
When the conductor originally hired to lead the Vancouver Men’s Chorus couldn’t bring himself to publicly perform with a group of gay men in 1981, Willi Zwozdesky stepped up to lead Canada’s first gay men’s chorus in concert. He was only 25 at the time. He’s been conducting the chorus, arranging much of its music, and helping to nurture its members’ collective musical voice and foster their profound sense of brotherhood ever since.

Barb Snelgrove
There’s hardly an organization in our community that Barb Snelgrove hasn’t organized or hosted a fundraiser for or assisted in some capacity. Snelgrove has volunteered tens of thousands of hours to a variety of community groups, has sat on the Vancouver Pride Society and Qmunity boards, and still sits on the City of Vancouver’s LGBT advisory committee, Positive Living’s Red Ribbon advisory committee, the Vancouver Police Department’s diversity advisory committee and the selection panel for the LOUD Scholarship Foundation, to name a few.

Isolde N Barron
Since her Bent days in 2007, Isolde N Barron has helped create new queer spaces east of the traditional gay village, where community members can gather, freely express themselves and party. Now the matriarch of the Cobalt on Main Street, she continues to nurture new East Van talent, encouraging aspiring drag queens to step onstage. In boy form, Cameron Mackenzie is founder and managing artistic director of Zee Zee Theatre, a professional company mandated to explore the stories of the marginalized, now in its seventh season.

Dave Deveau
Award-winning playwright Dave Deveau divides his time between writing for theatre and creating new queer spaces. Though Deveau is only 31, his plays have been produced by local, national and international theatre companies. He is the playwright in residence at Zee Zee Theatre, where he works with his husband, Cameron Mackenzie (left), while his drag persona, Peach Cobblah, regularly joins Isolde N Barron onstage and branches out on her own to create new spaces in which to gather and party, especially east of Davie Street.

Spencer Chandra Herbert
When Spencer Chandra Herbert, then 24, was elected to the Vancouver Park Board in 2005, he was the youngest person to win a seat on the municipal board. (Gay parks commissioner Trevor Loke usurped that designation in 2011, when he won a seat at age 22.) Chandra Herbert made the jump to provincial politics in 2008. He’s been representing the West End as a proud, outspoken gay man, and advocating for our community in the legislature, ever since. (He is also married to activist Romi Chandra Herbert, in the front row.)

Jamie Lee Hamilton
Jamie Lee Hamilton has been a fearless, outspoken advocate for sex workers and transsexuals since the 1970s. When Vancouver police refused to take seriously the possibility that a serial killer (later identified as Robert Pickton) was preying on sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, Hamilton famously dumped 67 pairs of stilettos on the steps of city hall, one for each missing or murdered woman to that point.

Tim Richards
Having volunteered since 2008 with the Vancouver Pride Society, Tim Richards stepped up to lead the society in 2012 after members voted to nullify the previous election’s results because of allegations of “voting irregularities.” His term as president, now in its fourth year, has been comparatively calm and has seen him lead the society through a peaceful transition to more paid staff and less contentious board meetings.

Middle row, left to right

Jen Sung
As a facilitator and coordinator of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival’s educational outreach arm, Out in Schools, Jen Sung spent the last five years bringing queer stories to youth across BC, creating opportunities for constructive dialogue.

Shaira (SD) Holman
As the artistic director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival, Shaira (SD) Holman has been the driving force behind its growth and increasing depth, transforming a previously small festival into a three-week multidisciplinary event that adds an important layer to the city’s annual Pride festivities.

Ron Dutton
Ron Dutton has been our community’s unsung volunteer archivist since 1976. BC’s Gay and Lesbian Archives now take up most of his office in his West End condo, with carefully catalogued boxes of material in every available space.

barbara findlay
In her almost four decades of practising law, barbara findlay has played an instrumental role in numerous precedent-setting cases for the queer community, from the legalization of gay marriage in BC to parenting rights for same-sex families to trans rights, and more.

Pat Hogan
Pat Hogan has spent decades building lesbian community, organizing workshops and bringing in entertainers through her Sounds and Furies production company, running Josephine’s café off the Drive, and co-organizing Not So Strictly Ballroom dances for the broader LGBT community. Ten years ago, she founded the annual BOLD Old(er) Lesbian and Dyke Conference, which continues to draw lesbians aged 50 and older from across the continent.

Landon Krentz
When Landon Krentz moved to Vancouver at the age of 20 in 2010, he found little support for deaf queer people. So he resurrected BC’s Rainbow Alliance for the Deaf (BCRAD) while simultaneously reaching out to the hearing community to make room for deaf people and other people with disabilities and encouraging event organizers to be more inclusive. Now 24, he sits on the board of the new Foundation of Hope to assist gay refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers, and works with the Queer Arts Festival.

Rob Pont
Before he co-founded Vancouver Men in Leather (VML) in 2004, Rob Pont was the president of Western Canada Leather Pride, which sought to unite all the leather groups in the region, including bears and women, “so that everybody was working together.” He also represented Canada in San Francisco in 1999 as the last Mr Canadian Drummer to date. He now works on the annual Rubbout weekend and is still a member of VML.

Roan Reimer
As a student representative on the Vancouver School Board’s Pride advisory committee in 2013 and 2014, Roan Reimer helped draft the board’s revised LGBTQ+ policy to better welcome trans students, staff and families. Reimer, who is genderqueer and uses the gender-neutral pronoun they, was 16 when they began working on the draft policy and 17 when they spoke courageously and eloquently in its favour at often contentious public school board meetings. Despite opposition, the board passed the policy last June.

Chris Morrissey
An activist all her life, former nun Chris Morrissey co-founded the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Task Force with her partner, Bridget Coll, in 1992 to push the federal government to allow gay and lesbian Canadians to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners for immigration. When that succeeded, they broadened their efforts to help queer refugees. Morrissey then launched the Generations Project to support older LGBT people and bring attention to their needs as they age.

Front row, left to right

Paige Frewer
Paige Frewer and her alter ego, Ponyboy, have been creating lesbian space for the last six years since co-founding the monthly drag-king show and queer dance party ManUp, then moving it from the now-closed lesbian bar Lick to The Cobalt in 2011.

David C Jones
Actor, filmmaker, teacher and director David C Jones has been making the community laugh for longer than he would care to remember. He co-founded the Bobbers queer improv comedy troupe in 2004 and regularly hosts and performs at events for a variety of community groups.

Romi Chandra Herbert
Romi Chandra Herbert founded BC’s first gay-straight alliance in 1997 in Maple Ridge and has been helping queer and other youth blossom ever since. He worked with Youthquest and Qmunity’s Gab Youth program and today supports skills development for youth across the province as co-executive director of PeerNet BC. (He is also married to MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, in the back row.)

Drew Dennis
As the executive director of Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival since 2000, Drew Dennis has helped bring countless reflections of our lives to the screen, especially when such reflections were effectively non-existent elsewhere. Dennis (who uses no gender pronoun) also helped launch the festival’s educational outreach arm, Out in Schools, and sits on the Vancouver Park Board’s Trans and Gender-Variant Working Group, whose 77 recommendations to make parks, pools and recreation centres more trans-friendly were unanimously passed by the board last April.

Justin Saint
As a self-described “queer geek activist” and cosplay enthusiast, Justin Saint founded the Vancouver Gaymers five years ago and, more recently, BC Superfriends to educate allies and make room for queer identities in geek spaces. He is also a proud Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, where his alter ego, Sister Sweet Cherribum, volunteers her time each month to help raise money for community charities.