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Genderfest broadens Pride

'I would love to see Pride go in this direction,' co-organizer says

Clockwise, from back left: the Wellness Centre's Gwen Haworth, sTeam co-organizer Shayne Forster, Genderfest's Alice Bailey, Genderfest founder Pussy Liquor, sTeam's Jack Fox, Wellness Centre organizer Ray Ranger, and sTeam's Charlie Spats. Credit: Niko Bell photo

When Pussy Liquor picked up the Vancouver Pride schedule last year, she didn’t see any events that spoke to her. So this year, she organized her own addition to Pride Week.

Liquor says her celebration, Genderfest, will attract members of the community who do not fit in well at Vancouver Pride — transgender and transitioning people, queer people with disabilities and people with barriers to health or access.

Shayne Forster, who produces bathhouse events with Liquor and the sTeam collective, says that the gay- and lesbian-focused dance parties and socials at Pride feel less welcoming to trans people. Trans men, for instance, can find themselves surrounded by gay men who may not be comfortable with trans bodies. That’s why, he says, a space for more genders is important.

“There are a lot of people, particularly young people, who identify outside of those genders,” Liquor says. “I’m not interested in setting up something adversarial. This is not an us-against-them . . . This is a celebration of Pride that simply manifests differently than a lot of traditional activities.”

Out of about 100 events listed in Xtra’s Ultimate Pride Guide this year, 20 are specifically aimed at a gay, lesbian or gender-specific audience. Only five are aimed specifically at trans people. That’s an improvement since last year, when approximately 30 events were gay or gender-specific, while only one was trans-focused.

Genderfest will present the majority of this year’s trans-friendly events, starting on July 30 with a wellness clinic organized by the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, followed by the All Bodies Swim at Templeton Pool on July 31, an all-genders bathhouse event on Aug 2, and a dance party on Aug 5. Liquor hopes that pulling together preexisting events and adding a special party for Pride Week will help people with diverse genders and abilities feel more welcome and will influence the larger Pride celebration.

“I would love to see Pride go in this direction,” she says. “I would love to see Pride take on more.”

The Vancouver Pride Society’s communications director, Landon Krentz, says he is surprised to hear anyone say that trans people or people with disabilities feel left out of Pride. He says that his own presence as a deaf staff member proves just how inclusive Vancouver Pride can be.

Krentz says Pride has made a great effort to include people with disabilities — from reserving easily accessible spots along the parade route to providing American Sign Language translation.

As for trans people, he doesn’t think that more trans-focused events are the answer.

“We’re trying to move away from that,” he says. “I don’t think there should be more events that are exclusive to just one specific audience. I think everyone should be involved.”

Krentz says communities like queer people with disabilities or trans people are still very small. The best way to welcome them is by making events inclusive to everyone, he reiterates, noting that this year’s grand marshal is trans Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova. He also notes Pride’s close relationship with BC’s Trans Alliance Society.

The chair of Trans Alliance, however, thinks there is a problem with how Pride welcomes trans people. Marie Little says that for gay men and lesbians, Pride has become a celebration of acceptance and legal rights. Trans people, on the other hand, are still engaged in a political struggle. Little says that Pride should try to incorporate more trans people and trans issues into the celebration.

On the other hand, Little also thinks that it’s important not to create conflict within the queer community. “I’m just hoping that it doesn’t turn into an opposition to Pride,” she says. “And I’m hoping that over time Pride and the people who are organizing the trans events can cooperate.”

GENDERFEST

Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre Meet & Greet
Mon, July 30, 6-9pm
Grandview Park, Commercial Dr (between Charles and Williams streets)
All ages, free event
cwhwc.com

All-Bodies Swim
Tues, July 31, 9-11pm
Templeton Pool, 700 Templeton Dr
All ages, suggested donation $5-20
allbodiesswim.org

sTeam: All-Genders Bathhouse
Thurs, Aug 2, 9pm-1am
M2M, 1210 Granville St
$20 locker; $30 room; $35 deluxe/sling room
steambathhouse.com

Unicorn Born dance party
Sun, Aug 5, 9pm-2am
Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph St
$15 advance, $20 door
genderfest.ca