10 min

Heroes 2008 nominees

Time to honour your heroes, celebrate their contributions and salute our strengths as a community

After hours of tallying your nominations and conferring with our new Community Panel of judges, Xtra West is proud to present the three finalists in each category.

But first a note on this year’s inaugural community judging panel. In the past, the Xtra West Heroes team has tabulated the community’s votes on its own and picked the winners in each category accordingly. This year, we wanted to bring more community voices into the actual tabulation and selection stage. So we created a Community Panel of judges, invited some key people to join, added two Xtra West staff to the mix, ordered pizza and rolled up our sleeves.

This year’s community judges are: Drew Dennis (executive director of Out on Screen), Janine Fuller (manager of Little Sister’s), Michael Harris (freelance writer and Writer of the Year in 2006), Spencer Herbert (queer parks board commissioner), Michael V Smith (author, performance artist and last year’s Community Hero of the Year), Mark Kowalk (community relations at Xtra West) and myself.

Michael V submitted his picks by email; everyone else met on Apr 4 and got one vote per category (except for Mark who abstained to preempt potential ties and ensure that Xtra West didn’t dominate the proceedings.)

Four and a half hours and only minimal bickering later, we had our list of finalists. They are all Heroes in our eyes.

Winners will be announced at this year’s Xtra West Community Achievement Awards on Sun May 11 at The Majestic Lounge on Davie St. Doors open at 5 pm, show starts at 6 pm. Tickets are just $5 at the door.

Please join us as we honour all our Heroes of 2007.

And the nominees are…



Joan-E for years of tireless fundraising for a number of charitable groups and community organizations, including Friends for Life (through her popular gay Bingo For Life), the Dr Peter Centre and A Loving Spoonful. Last year, Joan-E (whose boy name is Robert Kaiser) was also instrumental in carving a new space for drag in the Davie Village, as manager of the new Majestic Lounge.
Xtra West file photo

Steve LeBel for years of quietly (and not so quietly) working behind the scenes to make BC’s schools safer and more embracing to all queer students, parents and staff. As one of the earliest members of Gay and Lesbian Educators of BC (GALE), Steve has dedicated countless hours in the last 16 years to finding and creating gay-friendly teaching resources and convincing teachers and administrators to use them. He has also presented more than 150 workshops to teachers and education students.
James Loewen photo

Amber Dawn for her sexy, bold live performances and boundary-pushing contributions to our queer cultural landscape, her numerous fundraising initiatives, and the instrumental role she plays in creating new, alternative spaces for queers. Amber Dawn is a co-founder of the Odd Ball party, an Eastside response to Vancouver’s increasingly homogenized and segregated Pride parties, launched to popular acclaim in 2005. “For me to see some young drag king dancing with an older leather fag just makes my day,” she told Xtra West in 2006, adding that she gets a lot of joy “out of seeing people come together and celebrate together.” Amber Dawn also organizes a number of community fundraising events, including the annual For the Boys (and now For the Girls) event to support transfolks in need. She organized her first For the Boys in 2003 after a local trans group lost its meeting space and couldn’t afford a new one. She also co-edited the 2005 anthology With a Rough Tongue on, as she puts it, “intelligent smut.”
Janet Rerecich photo



gloria wong for a decade of contributions to our community’s queer film festival, produced by Out on Screen. Gloria is Out on Screen’s longest-serving board member, having sat on the board for the last 10 years. Consistently reliable, gloria has spearheaded several projects for the board, including the creation of its artists’ advisory panel in 2001. She is stepping down at the end of her term this year.
Photo courtesy of Out on Screen

Paul Blaney for chairing the board of Vancouver’s groundbreaking Community Based Research Centre (CBRC), the not-for-profit organization behind the annual Sex Now survey that’s been gauging sexual and health trends among men who have sex with men in BC since 2002 with the aim of building a supportive environment for gay men. Its motto: “Gay men’s health is our agenda. Research is showing us the way.” The CBRC also organizes the annual Gay Men’s Health Summit and Totally Outright, a sexual health leadership program for young gay men, ages 18 to 26. Paul has been chair of the board for two years, having joined the board four and a half years ago. He previously served for several years on AIDS Vancouver’s board of directors.
Robin Perelle photo

Craig Maynard for more than a decade of service to the community as a member of the The Centre’s board of directors. Craig has been co-chair of The Centre’s board since the late 1990s and has overseen the delivery of its many programs, support groups and services, as well as the organization’s shift to more independent fundraising. Craig was also the BC chapter coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage and worked for years to help secure equal access to marriage for same-sex couples.
Photo courtesy of Craig Maynard



Gwen Haworth for candidly capturing her own transition on film and having the courage to share it widely with trans and nontrans audiences alike. Gwen’s powerful self-portrait She’s a Boy I Knew offered viewers a groundbreaking, positive portrayal of one person’s coming out journey as trans, potentially reshaping many people’s understanding of gender and the challenges and rewards of transitioning. “When I came out, people important to me didn’t really know what it meant to be a transsexual. There were a lot of things to learn, yet there wasn’t anything out there to watch that we were aware of. There wasn’t anything that showed a family experience, to see other people like them going through the difficult questions but still being able to be there for each other through hard times,” Gwen told Xtra West on the eve of her documentary’s debut at the Vancouver International Film Festival (where it would go on to win two awards) last September. “I hope that by showing my family’s experience, that would give other people something to dialogue from.”
Photo: She’s a Boy I Knew

Bren Ryder for stepping off her conventional career track to fill a need she perceived in the dyke community for Good Dyke Porn. The website she created and the porn that she shoots, produces and posts are redefining lesbian porn and celebrating our sex and sexuality. “We all know that the mainstream lesbian porn is bad,” Bren says on her site. “It’s fake, it’s designed to please men and it’s so not hot. I found a Top 100 Lesbian Porn Websites list on a porn review site and it was SO BAD. So, by the simple fact of creating sexually explicit material with women who have relationships with other women and designing it to please me (a dyke) it is opposite of the mainstream porn, therefore, it’s good.” Good Dyke Porn won the Golden Beaver Award for Canadian Content at the Third Annual Feminist Porn Awards, Apr 4.
Photo: Good Dyke Porn

Femke van Delft for her provocative art installations, including last year’s Missing: A Guerilla Mapping Project, inspired by Vancouver’s “missing women” story of murdered sex workers. “I wanted to map our convoluted, our confused, our conflicted, our hidden, our hypocritical relationship to a much broader sex economy,” says Femke. “Creating a map of this complex story started with the question: Who gets to sell sex without any stigma? I began by searching for a familiar object that could equally link and evoke both the average consumer with a street level sex worker. I wanted this familiar object to grow out of the sidewalk as a temporary memorial.” She cast a pair of department store legs originally used to display nylon stockings and positioned and photographed them at key sites in Vancouver’s hostile-to-sex-worker history.
Photo: Missing: A Guerilla Mapping Project



The organizers of the International Drag King Extravaganza (IDKE) for bringing drag kings from around the world to Vancouver to enrich our local drag king scene with four days of subversive, sexy, campy celebration of gender non-conformity last October. As an added bonus, the IDKE organizing team saw local dykes and drag kings from many different groups collaborate on the project, few of whom had worked together in the past. “We sat in the room with all our differences and we’ve been able to work together. That’s been the most exciting thing in the whole process,” says co-organizer Luvia Peterson.
Janet Rerecich photo

Trikone Vancouver for providing an important point of first contact and coming out for queer South Asians in the Lower Mainland and beyond. Trikone has been an instrumental resource for queer South Asians in the last few years and was particularly vocal last year in response to homophobic comments made by a prominent member of the Sikh community, Balwant Singh Gill. Trikone was founded in 2005 by a lesbian, a gay man and a transgendered man to “make it more possible for South Asian LGBTs to come out without losing our cultures,” says Fatima Jaffer. “Now 100-members strong, we’ve been working at raising our visibility, both in straight South Asian societies and within the LGBT one.”
Janet Rerecich photo

Vancouver’s Rainbow Community Church for opening its doors to the wider West End community and sharing fellowship, food and resources with its homeless neighbours. The Rainbow Church had been watching its gay congregation shrink in the last few years when members suddenly noticed that homeless and low-income people were coming in off the street to share post-service refreshments. The congregation made a choice to open its membership and welcome these new people. Today, about 200 people regularly attend its gay-friendly services on Sundays, and the congregation is in the early stages of planning a Rainbow Dream Centre to offer resources, help and shelter to more homeless people.
Photo courtesy of Rainbow Community Church



Get Off the Cross, Mary for its truly original, irreverent, edgy and absolutely hilarious look at a once-famous fictional gay puppet who tries to make his big comeback by producing and starring in a queer disco remake of The Passion of the Christ.
Photo courtesy of Get Off the Cross, Mary

Not So Strictly Ballroom for organizing Western Canada’s first-ever same-sex ballroom dance competition, bringing queer ballroom dancers together to strut their stuff and queer the genre.
Michelle Mayne photo

Antoine Bédard for community-oriented performances and joyful boy-on-boy duets from his new album Going Places. “The whole record was inspired by my relationship with my boyfriend,” he told Xtra West last July. “The cheerfulness and the playfulness of the record come from this amazing relationship.”
Courtesy of Antoine Bédard (Heidi Zutter photo)



Stan Persky for his latest collection of astute commentaries, Topic Sentence: A Writer’s Education, released this fall. As reviewer Matthew Hays wrote in November, “Divided into three sections (Before, During, After), the book feels much like its author: epic, sprawling, eclectic, constantly thought-provoking and challenging.” The gay essays, falling largely into the During section, reflect the period of political struggle from which they were drawn in the early years of gay liberation.
Photo courtesy of New Star Books

Tony Correia for offering readers a candid, funny and accessible look at living with HIV, in his regular Xtra West column Queen’s Logic. Said one nominator, “Tony writes in a coffee-shop tone that makes people feel comfortable, normalizing the experience of being HIV-positive and offering an antidote to sterilized HIV pamphlets.”
James Loewen photo

CE Gatchalian for the publication of his play Broken by New Bard Press last December. First performed at the Firehall Arts Centre in March 2006, Broken is a suite of five one-act plays linked by common themes of obsession, alienation, physical and emotional violence and sexual identity.
Photo courtesy of CE Gatchalian



Carol and Dick Grier for leaping to a gay couple’s defence after the couple was targeted with homophobic posters on Salt Spring Island last summer. The Griers immediately launched a website to support the gay men and designed “Justice, equality, respect” stickers of rainbow-hued couples holding hands for neighbours to put up in their windows, which many promptly did. “There were [homophobic] posters all over town,” Carol told Xtra West in August. “I thought, ‘I have to do something.'”
“We want the LGBT community to know they’re not alone in battling discrimination,” Dick added. “It was a great opportunity for us to stand up and say so. We are all in this together.”
Deirdre Rowland photo

Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham for his unwavering support of same-sex blessings and for not backing down despite significant resistance and dissent from other sectors of the Anglican Church.
Xtra West file photo

The Safe Harbour program for creating safe spaces in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island for queers and for training participating venues to work towards a non-discriminatory society. The Safe Harbours program is a province-wide initiative, run by the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC, to train local organizations and businesses to act as havens for community members in trouble. As of last October, 22 communities across the province had signed up, including the Drive and the West End.



Members of Templeton Secondary School’s gay-straight alliance for organizing the school’s first-ever Day of Silence and showing their fellow students what it feels like to be silenced by homophobia. The GSA wanted to send the message that homophobia is “wrong and unacceptable in all its forms,” then-chair Virginia Berger-Hawthorne told Xtra West last April. Though she said Templeton has “come a long way” in its acceptance of queer students, comments like “that’s so gay” and other homophobic slurs are still too common.
Tallulah photo

Prince Rupert’s Queer Youth Alliance for having the courage to be out and proud in a northern fishing town where most adults are reluctant to publicly come out. Members of the Alliance say they’re not only finding hitherto unavailable support for themselves in the group, but that it’s changing the rest of the community as well. The Alliance even convinced City Hall to let them add a Pride float to last year’s Seafest parade.
Photo courtesy of Heidi Deagle

Jacks Cheng for creating and now directing the Vancouver Gay Straight Alliance Crew with the goal of uniting all the gay-straight alliances (GSA) in and around Vancouver. Jacks formed the youth-run group last year “to provide a strong backbone for GSAs” — to forge connections between existing GSAs, support the formation of new ones and share resources with queer students outside the Lower Mainland, and to provide a collective, united voice to advocate for queer youth and GSAs in the school system. He also volunteers with Out on Screen’s Out in Schools program that brings queer films to high schools.
Tallulah photo



Symone for years of high-calibre drag performances, most recently headlining the Majestic Lounge’s new drag nights.
Photo courtesy of Symone

Vera Way for her elaborate performances that push drag into new realms.
Photo courtesy of Vera Way (Kevin Spence photo)

Sammy Tomato for his thoughtful drag numbers that never shy away from making a political point, and for now co-producing Lick’s Man Up drag events.
Photo courtesy of The Drag King Project by Toni Latour (Portrait Gallery of Canada)



The Majestic Lounge for seizing the opportunity to take over an old Village venue and turn it into a new gay space, complete with regular drag nights and community fundraisers.
TJ Ngan photo

Rhizome for continuing to open its unique and cozy space to the queer community, for the countless queer gatherings, games nights and fundraisers that owners Lisa Moore and Vinetta Lenavat regularly host, and for creating a space where different communities can come together to forge new connections.
Jonathan Lee photo

Vancity for supporting alternative families and living arrangements through its new alternative mortgage program (and its public ad campaign). And for years of supporting the gay community through its explicitly gay-positive ad campaigns and community sponsorship programs.