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And the nominees are…

Presenting the finalists for the 2005 Xtra West Hero Awards

It’s that time of year again. Time to honour your heroes, celebrate their contributions and salute our strengths as a community.

This year’s nominations outnumbered those of the last few years’ combined, as readers cast their ballots in record numbers. Now, after hours of tallying, fact-checking and vigorous debate, Xtra West is proud to present the three finalists in each category. (Except the business categories which the Gay and Lesbian Business Association, our co-host, is tallying separately and will reveal shortly.)

Winners will be announced at this year’s Xtra West Community Achievement Awards on Sun May 14 at Celebrities. Doors open at 3 pm, show starts at 4 pm. Tickets are just $5 at the door. Please join us as we honour our Heroes of 2005.

And the nominees are…

Lifetime Achievement Award

Pat Hogan for decades of building lesbian community, culminating in last September’s groundbreaking, first-ever Western Canadian conference for lesbians aged 50 and older.

“I’ve always been drawn” to building community, Hogan says. “I think we’re here to be a part of something larger than ourselves.”

Born in a small mill town in Connecticut, Hogan moved to Canada in 1969, where she helped house Vietnam deserters and draft dodgers. She then hitchhiked around the continent as a hippie, and eventually settled in Vernon, BC in the mid-1970s.

“I jumped right into the decade of feminism,” she recalls, first starting an advocacy centre for women, then opening a transition house for battered women and later hosting the Okanagan’s first conference on wife battering, as it was called then.

It was during this time that she began to reconsider her sexuality. The lesbian seed had been planted.

Hogan soon moved to Vancouver and, in 1990, started her own production company, Sounds & Furies Productions, during the Gay Games. She wasn’t sure if anyone would attend her first event, she says. She remembers driving towards the WISE Hall thinking “please let someone be there when we get there.” She needn’t have worried; the place was packed.

And her shows would continue to be packed over the next 16 years, as Hogan brought lesbian performers from around the world to our doorstep.

From lesbian comics like Kate Clinton to pioneering musicians like Cris Williamson-Hogan has hosted them all, averaging approximately 15 performers a year. “These women, these performers meant something to me,” she says. “Not just me personally as a lesbian” but what they obviously meant to others as well. “It brings the community together when some of these concerts and events happen-and I like what I see.”

Hogan later sat on the Vancouver Pride Society board for four years, and now sits on the board of Team Vancouver and serves as a delegate to the Federation of Gay Games. She also helps organize dances and classes for Not So Strictly Ballroom.

“I love dancing,” she smiles. “I’ve always danced. It’s an amazing sport.”

It’s so amazing and beautiful to watch gay couples dance, she continues. “It’s the one sport that really honours same-sex.” Everything else lacks the intimacy of dancing, she explains. And since the Amsterdam Gay Games, the sport has become that much more queer, since leads can switch to follows and vice versa. “Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m following!”

As for last September’s conference, Hogan says it brought together “an amazing group of women from all over the United States and Canada.

“There was definitely a sense of community,” she says. She’s already planning this fall’s follow-up.

Community Hero of the Year

The Out in Schools team for bringing queer films and gay-positive images to several high schools and even a youth correctional facility in the Lower Mainland. In 2005, the committee’s volunteers, led by coordinator Ross Johnstone, reached at least 1,000 students, not to mention the residents of Burnaby’s youth correctional facility.

Stephen McManus for simultaneously co-founding the Save St Paul’s Coalition and finding the funds to launch the first-ever quit smoking campaign tailored specifically to the gay community. Since last year, the Save St Paul’s Coalition has been leading the grassroots charge to keep the hospital in the West End and working with a variety of gay and straight community groups to do so. Meanwhile, McManus’ Proud to Quit campaign-which grew out of his earlier West Coast Gay Men’s Health initiative-encouraged gays and lesbians to stop smoking and offered us our own support groups to facilitate the process.

Chris Morrissey for being the driving force behind The Centre’s Generations Project since its inception in 2001. As project coordinator, Morrissey continues to forge a space for older gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, both in our community and in society at large. Morrissey previously won an Xtra West Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 for playing a pivotal role in convincing the Canadian government to recognize same-sex couples as families for immigration purposes.

Straight Ally of the Year

Hedy Fry for her ongoing dedication to her gay and lesbian constituents. Fry, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, garnered a sizeable stack of nominations among the ballots distributed around the Davie Village, in the heart of her riding.

Betty Ewing for her many years of dedication to Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG). Through PFLAG, Ewing has been a chosen mother to many in the community. Now she is passing the torch to a new generation of supportive PFLAGers, even as she continues her work with the Gay and Lesbian Educators of BC and the Vancouver School Board’s Pride Advisory Committee.

Charley Beresford for using her position as a school board trustee to make schools in her district safer and friendlier for queers. Inspired by her gay son and horrified by Aaron Webster’s brutal beating in 2001, Beresford took it upon herself to ask how BC’s school system could raise such gaybashers and what she could do to change that. She spent the next few years lobbying for, then implementing and monitoring, one of BC’s few comprehensive, anti-homophobia school board policies. Last November, she easily won re-election and is now sitting for her fourth term as a school trustee in Victoria. “We all have some power to act, to speak, to make a difference,” Beresford told the audience at Salt Spring Island’s Pride panel last September. “Simply by raising our voice-collectively we can change a lot.”

Youth Activist of the Year

Lord Byng Secondary School’s drama students for courageously staging their own production of The Laramie Project. The play, about the aftermath of the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard, has always been controversial in high schools because of its violence and harsh language. The students of Lord Byng performed it anyway because they felt the play addressed important themes of hate, tolerance and inclusion.

Jacob Schweda for co-founding the Gulf Island’s first gay-straight alliance (GSA) and then lobbying the local school board for an anti-homophobia policy. Schweda was 15 when he founded the GSA and pushed for gay content to be added to the Grade 10 planning and life skills classes. In September 2005, he also helped organize Salt Spring Island’s first Pride celebration and participated in its public forum, where he made a lasting impression on audience members by candidly sharing his painful coming out story and talking about the changes he’d like to see in the school system. In his spare time, Schweda, who recently turned 17, volunteers with the Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse youth team. Writes one of his many nominators: “Jacob has shown a commanding strength in being okay with who he is and encouraging others to do the same. He is a beacon of light for the youth of this country!”

Marco Chan for recognizing the need for a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at his Port Moody high school and deciding to do something about it. After single-handedly founding the GSA, Chan, 17, then held federal politicians in the Port Moody area accountable for their positions on queer issues, sending them questionnaires to gauge their level of gay-friendliness during last December’s election campaign.

Vancity/Xtra West Volunteer of the Year

Stephen Bailey and Marcus Rodriguez for their work with Gayway’s Young and Fabulous group for gay men in their early 20s. The group runs social events and offers young gay men an opportunity and a space in which to connect with each other, to build community, and to find support among peers. As one nominator wrote: “Because of them, there is one more safe place for young gay guys to have fun!”

Richard O’Donnell for his ongoing work with Boys R Us. Run through the Three Bridges clinic, Boys R Us offers male sex workers a place to meet and to get meals and access to street nurses. O’Donnell had been volunteering with the program for several years before becoming its paid coordinator in August 2005. He also continues to volunteer with Gayway.

Mark Goodwin from Friends for Life for launching the organization’s brunch program 14 years ago and continuing to shop and cook for it ever since. Since the program’s inception, Goodwin has served thousands and thousands of HIV-positive people and others living with life-threatening illnesses.

Athlete/Sports Organization of the Year

Glenn MacDonald for being the face and voice of Team Vancouver and one of the key figures in its preparations for this summer’s Gay Games and Outgames. As president of the Team Vancouver Athletics Society, MacDonald has been working to build links among the organization’s member teams and to increase their sponsorship for this summer’s events, even as he trains for his own upcoming bridge matches.

Paul Campbell for sticking to his training despite all obstacles. Campbell has been a real fan of bodybuilding since he was a teenager but didn’t begin to pursue his dream until adulthood. Today, living with Meniere’s Disease, he endures dizziness and balance loss, making lifting weights a challenge. But he hasn’t given up. Even emergency gall bladder surgery didn’t derail his training for long. Campbell is determined to compete in Montreal’s Outgames this summer.

The English Bay Triathlon Club for continuing to open the world of triathlons to gays and lesbians. In addition to helping its members train to meet their race goals, the club also hosts the annual Lees Trail Triathlon-a fun, non-competitive mini-triathlon-at Second Beach in Stanley Park. In 2005, the Lees Trail Triathlon raised $1058 for the Gay and Lesbian Educators of BC to support their latest publication addressing homophobic name-calling in school.

Live Performance of the Year

The Bob Loblaw Queer Comedy Troupe for bringing laughter and joy to the gay community. In 2005, the Bob Loblaw troupe and its creator David C Jones performed at numerous fundraisers, including ones for Out on Screen, Friends for Life, and the BC Persons with AIDS Society. They also performed for elder gays and lesbians at the 411 Seniors Centre, and Jones ran gay improvisation workshops for interested community members.

“Hilarious,” writes one nominator. Jones “uses his skills and talent to give back to the queer community by offering improv comedy workshops, giving us the opportunity to use our own voices, when so often we’re afraid to use them,” writes another. “Finally queer comedy that doesn’t involve drag queens,” adds a third. Bob Loblaw received among the most nominations of anyone this year.

Morgan Brayton for her “fresh, gusty, political, entertaining comedy,” as one nominator put it.

“Morgan has been performing an amazing amount of work in Vancouver forever,” writes another nominator. “She’s super-funny, super-talented, and super-smart. And she’s also created fantastic opportunities for other queers in the community to see themselves up on stage. Morgan’s one of the most out, most committed, and most productive queer performers I know in Vancouver. I love her!”

“She is always there to volunteer her time to any community fundraiser and she is a local talent gem,” writes another nominator. In 2005, Brayton hosted many queer events, including Cabaret Q and the Dyke March. She also starred in her own one-woman show called Girls Like Me, which won rave reviews among her many nominators. “Simply put, Morgan Brayton is one of the funniest women in Vancouver and Canada,” writes one.

Brayton also topped the ballot box charts this year.

The Vancouver Lesbian and Gay Choir for getting Bent in June 2005. An enthusiastic tribute to all things twisted, Bent the concert featured sweet lesbian seduction numbers, its own Sugar Plum fairy, gay crooners reclaiming old torch songs and a lively rendition of the Masochism Tango.

Drag Queen/King of the Year

Buster Cherry for fulfilling his duties as Emperor of the Dogwood Monarchist Society (DMS) with generosity, dignity and flair. Buster Cherry’s name appeared over and over again in this year’s ballot boxes. He is only the second drag king in the history of the DMS to serve as emperor. Writes one nominator: “Buster Cherry is an amazing, soulful performer who’s been giving drag a good name for decades. As Emperor of the DMS, he has given his all to the community, often doing multiple charity shows weekly for 365 days.”

Buster Cherry also acts as a mentor for younger drag kings and performs with the popular drag king troupe, $3 Bill.

Daxx for years of making countless dykes wet throughout the Lower Mainland. Daxx is “one of the most electrifying performers in the drag scene,” writes one nominator. Although Daxx decided to hang up his crown and retire in 2005, he continues to be a presence on Vancouver’s drag king scene.

Symone for years of connecting with a variety of audiences, both within the local gay community and beyond. The gorgeous Symone consistently elevates drag to new heights of glamour.

Visual Artist of the Year

Patrick Fillion for rising to the height of the gay comic world with his Class Comics series. In 2005, Fillion’s drawings of orgies, over-gorged members and killer morphing cockrings not only proved popular with local fans but gained international acclaim as well, after they caught the eye of several key publishers of gay erotica who brought them to Europe.

Mark Kenneth Woods and the House of Venus Show team for queering the old variety show standard with their special mix of satire and gender theory, and bringing images of gay Vancouver to OUTtv viewers across Canada.

Shaira Holman for putting sexy, original photos of local leatherdykes on walls across Vancouver, in the leatherdyke calendar for 2005. As the calendar states, it “unrepentantly celebrates our lives, our loves, and our sexuality.”

Writer of the Year

Ivan E Coyote for years of talented and original storytelling capturing queer everyday living in East Van and, this year, in Squamish. In 2005, Coyote published her latest book called Loose End, featuring a collection of columns drawn from her work in Xtra West. It was promptly nominated for a gay Ferro-Grumley award for women’s fiction of the year.

Coyote previously shared an Xtra West Achievement in the Arts Award in 2002 for helping to queer the Canadian literature landscape, and in 1999 for the Taste This Collective’s gender-fucking book, Boys Like Her. This is Coyote’s first solo nomination for Writer of the Year.

Michael Harris for his intelligent, original, insightful and often lyrical storytelling and journalism. In the last few years, Harris has made tremendous strides as a writer examining, through the pages of Xtra West, everything from new forms of gay fidelity, to gay men’s obsession with body hair, to the many ideas presented by his fellow community members both on stage and beyond.

In 2005, Harris also brought his Campus Chronicles column to a moving close, and branched out to share his queer take on the arts with mainstream newspapers.

As one nominator succinctly put it: Michael Harris is a “funny, risky and creative writer.”

Francisco Ibáñez-Carrasco for unflinchingly exploring the more contentious facets of gay life, such as crystal meth use and barebacking, in Killing Me Softly. The anti-heroes of his 2005 book make no excuses for their choices, and instead take aim at the “good gays” and revel in the underbelly of Pride.