Gay Pride. A perfect time to take stock. Then go out and party, celebrate, meet new friends.
A lot has been accomplished since last Pride. I’d go so far as to say that our community, our queer Vancouver community, has left its childhood and entered adolescence. Consider:
*We turned out in large numbers to vote in the last municipal election and Xtra West’s poll analysis suggests we voted mainly for centre-left COPE candidates. And guess what? Our new queer COPE politicians are, so far, actually living up to their promises to work for our community. We’ve won more already in six months than we got in nearly two decades under the NPA. And there’s two-and-a-half years to go in this mandate.
*We’re claiming our space on Davie St. Gays and lesbians have a strong, though not majority, voice on the Davie Village Business Improvement Association. We have a gay presence on the Davie Community Policing Centre (and as a community we’re demanding increasing input into policing priorities in our neighbourhoods). We rose up to stop unacceptable redevelopment of the Parkhill Hotel. We’ve demanded-and will receive-a new plan for the Davie Vilage and the West End acknowledging the very real needs and aspirations of the gay community.
*We’ve started a campaign to reform Canada’s Criminal Code sections that outlaw various expressions of gay sexuality, including bathhouses and threesomes featuring anal sex. Now that we can get married, it would be nice to be allowed to have sex, too.
*Though it’s still embryonic, we’ve started down the path to make schools safe for queer students and friendly to children of queer parents. Vancouver and Victoria school boards are on side, after being lobbied by queer youth. A recent provincial task force’s gutless recommendations were disappointing, but there’s an opportunity to toughen them up this autumn.
There’s more, of course, way more.
My point is that we’re stretching, We’re asserting ourselves. We’re working for what we need to survive as a community-and as a culture that is defined by our sexuality, though not limited by it.
We can do great things for ourselves and for the world when we stretch and assert ourselves.
And our fight for sexual freedom is helping liberate the sexuality of heterosexuals, as well. Our culture’s more playful approach to sex is catching on everywhere.
Our work to make schools safe for gay kids will also do the same for straight kids who are seen as weird or different by their classmates. Our work celebrating diversity and difference is making the world a better place for all minorities.
Even our small efforts, like the decade-long work to take the prudishness out of provincial and municipal regulation of alcohol and bars, can help others. The move to 4 am bar closing originated with reports and opinion pieces in Xtra West; it’s no coincidence that gay city councillor Tim Stevenson spearheaded the work to make it happen.
So, here we are, Vancouver’s queer community asserting itself. Building community by stamping ourselves on geography. Working together to make the world a safer place for us by changing policing priorities and school curriculum. Rebuilding our Pride celebrations after a brutal couple of years. Celebrating 15 years of the Out on Screen, the queer film festival. Celebrating a decade of Xtra West serving our community.
There’s still a long, and at times difficult, journey ahead. At times it will seem exhausting. At times it will feel exhilarating.
But now, it’s time to party. Time to all come together to renew friendships, meet new people, get laid. Dance down the street. Dance at the parties.
Mayor Larry Campbell has declared Jul 30 to be Xtra West Day in the city of Vancouver.
Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.