2 min

Hallowed ground

Gay Vancouverites traverse three decades of powerful history

These are hallowed grounds. Our community was built on the foundation of resistance, inclusion and accountability. Although we do not commemorate the Stonewall riots, Pride Day in Vancouver is still the benchmark between “Then” and “Now.” When we celebrate Pride, we honour our neighbourhood, our voice and our history.

On the surface, the stretch of Davie between Bute and Burrard looks like any other gay neighbourhood in North America. There are the obligatory gift shops, clothing stores, bars and freedom flags. Did a little deeper, and you will discover something many communities lack: integrity. In our neighbourhood, the simpler and more affordable something is, the better. We love our corner grocery, we indulge in our dollar stores and we over-indulge at our beer-busts. We lean towards small businesses as opposed to chains. As much as it has changed over the decades, Davie St has remained an active, vital neighbourhood and avoided becoming a tourist trap.

The voice of Vancouver’s gay community is a baritone that reverberates against the Rocky Mountains, echoing across our nation. Our voice is Joe Average’s AIDS awareness postage stamp. Our voice is Little Sister’s fight against censorship in the Supreme Court of Canada. Our voice is Svend Robinson demanding a hate-crimes law in the House of Parliament. Our voice is Dr Peter describing his struggle with HIV on the CBC. Our voice is Aaron Webster’s screaming for justice from beyond the grave. The magnitude of our voice can be measured in the glee taken by those who oppose us when one of our own fails. Our voice is palpable, our voice makes waves, but more important, our voice makes a difference.

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. The story of our community is one of solidarity, oppression and violence-a triumphant one at that. We have marched alongside prostitutes, labour unions and citizens groups. We have marched a portrait of the Queen down Granville St from The Castle to The Royal. Our establishments have been fire-bombed and yet they remained open in defiance. Disparate organizations came together to form a community centre and a newspaper. An athletic association was created to lure the first Gay Games outside of the United States, successfully and without controversy. We nursed our friends and lovers when they were sick and dying, them memorialized them so their deaths were not in vain. There are those who would like to take away our neighbourhood, stifle our voice, but it is our history that guarantees us our right to equality.

The time will come when Vancouver Pride no longer plays second fiddle to the Molson Indy and the Celebration of Light. Diligence has proven the key to our success. Ours is a community of leaders, and forward-thinking minds, challenging social conventions at every step. We are unique; therefore, it should come as no surprise that our Pride Day is not about Stonewall, it is about ourselves. These are hallowed grounds, but they are common grounds. For that, we should be proud.

*This piece won the annual Pride essay contest sponsored by Abasa Optical. Tony Correia is an occasional contributor to Xtra West.