2 min

Doing it together

The meaning of community

Credit: Xtra West files

Patty Hails knows the real meaning of community. So does Lori Neuen.

When they saw a gay man being bashed on Jun 29, they didn’t run. They didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening or that it wasn’t about them.

No, they jumped in to help.

And took some nasty hits themselves.

Now, that’s the real meaning of community: people giving of themselves to help others. People compromising their own goals so as to build something bigger with those around them. And then celebrating the achievements together.

As bashings continue and if police responses continue to be, shall we say, inconsistent (and the police chief continues to wear blinders), I believe we’ll have to consider how we’re going to police ourselves. To be there as community, keeping an eye out for bashers and coming to the aide when one of our own is under attack.

The naturists at the straight part of Wreck Beach got the meaning of community last Saturday, Jul 5. A group of clothed rednecks climbed out of a jet boat to ogle naked women on the beach. After a while, they started a fight with some regulars.

What did the crowd do? Run away? Wait until cops came?

No, they surrounded the red-necks, told them they were in the wrong neighbourhood, herded them back onto their boat and off the beach. Cops came later to take statements-no doubt they were too busy busting people for enjoying a glass of wine on the sand.

When we act as community, great things get done.

Like the Pride Parade. And legal challenges. And our homegrown media. And local city politics of late.

When we act as community, making personal compromises that help the group interest, we get great celebrations like Vancouver Pride. When VPS was down to some $106,000 of red ink a few months ago, lots of us stepped forward to ensure the celebration would continue. There’s a new generation on the board of directors. At Xtra West, we offered to save the Society a chunk of change and did their Pride Guide-a value of some $51,000. And we know that you, dear reader, intend to volunteer for some aspect of the celebrations. Or join the Society for $10. Or buy beer at their first-ever street fair that will block off Davie St after the post-parade festival at Sunset Beach on Aug 3.

We each contribute to community in our own way.

James Chamberlain, the Surrey Kindergarten teacher sacrificed much to bring fairness to the children of queer parents in his schools. The distorting glare of television and the vitriol spewed by antediluvian columnists can wear down trained professionals, let alone a teacher daring to do the right thing by his charges and his community. Chamberlain lost his battle when, after a trying trip to the Supreme Court of Canada, his three requested books were rejected a second time by the Surrey School Board. Two weeks later, he won the war when a committee of the board approved two new gay-friendly resources for use in Kindergarten and Grade 1.

What a tremendous contribution to community. What an example for us all.

What proof that when good people step up to the plate, Team Queer can hit a home run.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.