It’s the dream we carry
that something wondrous will happen,
that it must happen-
time will open
hearts will open
doors will open
mountains will open
spring will gush forth from the ground-
that the dream itself will open
that one morning we’ll quietly drift
into a harbour we didn’t know was there.
– It’s the Dream, by Norwegian poet Olav H Hauge
I came to Xtra West for Issue 83 more than eight years ago. A career journalist, I intended to stay for two or three years, just long enough to grow the news section, add investigative journalism to the mix and help guide the paper in its search for a distinct personality.
In those first three years, I fell in love with Pink Triangle Press, the not-for-profit that publishes Xtra West, along with Toronto’s Xtra, Ottawa’s Capital Xtra, Xtra.ca and Squirt.org. So I stayed and watched Vancouver’s gay and lesbian community grow and transform itself.
But eight years is long enough at any one job-it’s two tours of duty in editorial terms. So, this summer I was asked if I’d apply for a job heading up our Ottawa operation. I put together a proposal about what I’d like to do to make it more useful and provocative. Ottawa is the nation’s capital, home to Parliament, the bureaucracy and the Supreme Court of Canada-a candy store for a career journalist. What goes on there affects all of us and our dreams of an ever-better Canada. The upshot is my proposal was accepted, I got promoted, and I’ll be sitting at a desk in the world’s second-coldest capital starting Feb 1. Truly, I’m very much looking forward to the job but I shall miss Vancouver’s lovely weather, including the rain: it’s always spring in Vancouver.
I leave with a sense of satisfaction. I have checked off every item but one on the list of changes I wanted to make to Xtra West that I brought with me when I started. The paper has grown in circulation over the past eight years despite increased competition for our readers.
Xtra West has its own personality and is provocative. There continues to be room for improvement and the fine editorial team will take Xtra West on new and exciting voyages.
I’m spending my last days here working on a special feature for our Issue 300. As I do my historical research, it’s wonderful to follow the growth of our community in the dozen years since the first issue of Xtra West-all 5,000 copies-hit the streets. As our confidence has grown, so has the panoply of issues and events worked on by queer activists, culture workers, and participants.
In the last decade, and this is something I’m particularly proud of, we’ve seen gay men re-emerge to co-lead our community after playing a secondary role for too long. And we’ve seen an increasing understanding in our community about the importance of gay male sex culture, of the central importance of nurturing our distinct culture in order to create a firm foundation for the evolution and growth of a community.
We’ve experienced people working on enhancing the vital role played by gay geography and queer space, and demanding that our various ways of experiencing sexuality and of building connections be respected.
Communities nurture movements and movements grow out of the experiences of individuals. Vancouver gays, two decades after the onset of AIDS, dare again to dream big and to transform the world around them to make space for those dreams.
I’ve felt honoured to write about those dreams and report on those transformations.
And I’ve much enjoyed helping build the creative and motivated team working at Xtra West. The staff at this paper rock. And the freelancers-well, we’ve nurtured and graduated a couple of generations of brilliant journalists, columnists, photographers and illustrators. May you fill the entire world with your creativity.
Oh, and one more thing. I’m a sailor and kayaker and love to hike mountains and swim in the ocean. I’ll be vacationing in BC-and I’m renting out my condo until my return. See you around.
Gareth Kirkby is Senior Editor for Xtra.