So where the hell were you?
After weeks of complaints, critiques and legitimate concerns, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) took the admirable step of calling a public forum to discuss Pride 2008 with the community it’s supposed to be serving.
And you didn’t show up.
Correction: three people came and one fled when he saw the low turnout.
I thought you wanted to talk about Pride.
I thought you wanted to talk about how corporate our parade has become, how its original spirit is being submerged in a sea of straight spectators and product placements.
I thought you wanted a say in the parade route. I thought you cared if it stays in the West End or gets rerouted to one of the city’s mainstream parade routes that has little or nothing to do with our community.
I thought you wanted a say in the direction our Pride is taking.
I guess I was wrong. I guess it’s easier to bitch than to contribute something constructive.
It’s too bad you didn’t bother to come. You missed a good discussion.
While you were busy, VPS president John Boychuk sat down with forum attendees Angus Praught and Michael Harding and talked about Pride.
The discussion quickly turned to the parade route.
Praught says he doesn’t want it to leave the West End. “This is the community,” he says, “it’s our celebration. This is where we live.”
It seems the VPS doesn’t want it to leave either. “One way or another, we’re not going to remove it from the West End. We learned the first time from the community’s voice,” Boychuk says, remembering the last time the VPS tried to reroute the parade.
But we have to do something, Boychuk warns, because the number of spectators is still growing and we can’t safely pack that many people along the current route.
His compromise: he wants to keep the traditional route but extend it, so it goes past Sunset Beach and ends by the Roundhouse in Yaletown.
My question: why do we need all these straight spectators anyway?
No, really. What’s this parade all about? Earning approval and selling products or celebrating our own culture? Do we really need to put on such a huge parade, so huge that we have to change our route to accommodate the spectators and sell bits of our souls to cover its operating costs?
Why can’t we just go back to something smaller, more for us? Why can’t we return to our roots, to our original celebration of skin and sexuality, daring and defiance?
Not everybody wants that, Praught replies.
There’s value in visibility, Harding argues. The more front-page mainstream coverage we get, the easier it will be to maintain our rights.
Of course, in addition to the big parade, we could always hold other parades with different vibes, Harding suggests. “I’d love a night parade. Imagine all the costumes. It would be fabulous!”
Boychuk says he’s “entertaining” the idea of a night parade but won’t commit.
It’s a start.
In spite of the miniscule turnout and the fact that we don’t all share the same values or visions of Pride, we’re doing it: we’re talking about our celebration and where we’d like it to go. We’re having a community forum.
Maybe next time you’ll join us.
In the meantime, it’s not too late to have your say. Since you didn’t come to the forum, I’d like to bring a different forum to you.
Send me your suggestions for Pride; your hopes, your fears, your likes and dislikes. When you send me enough feedback, I’ll print a special Letters to the Editor page dedicated to your visions of Pride.
Pride 2008 may be almost a year away but the planning has already begun. Don’t miss this chance to have a say in your own celebration.