Some people go to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival for the music. Seriously. But most people I know go for the vibe. And the vibe is pretty queer.
When I came out in 1993, I followed the lead of the dykes around me and signed up to volunteer at the Folk Fest.
That first summer I worked at Sage’s Kitchen, flipping burgers in support of the Vancouver Lesbian Connection. I sweated and burned myself, flirted my ass off with an older married dyke as we lay in the grass, and necked with a waitress from the Lotus in the pouring rain. Can’t remember the music at all.
For the next few years I was on the Recycling Crew, pushing around huge bins of garbage and getting all grubby and sweaty and feeling tough. A lot of the crew members on Recycling are dykes, though it’s nothing like Security, where they get to wear walkie-talkies.
You’d think that Folk Fest lezzies would be the earthy, flowing skirt type, and there are some of them, but there’s also plenty of butches and femmes and SM dykes, bar dykes and sporty dykes.
Most of the queer folks at the festival are dykes. But not all.
This year in particular seemed to be the year of the leather fag. The black leather and piercings kind of gave them away in spite of the flip-flops.
And then, of course, there is the whole contingent at the Disabled Access Area.
See, when my girlfriend and I go to Folk Fest, I push her in her wheelchair most of the time, because she can’t walk very far or stand for very long. And when it’s time for the evening concert on the main stage, we head to the seats reserved for people with disabilities. You might not know this, but it’s full of queers.
There are the dyke and trans volunteers on the Disabled Access Crew, who are not only super helpful but also quite cute. Then there are the dykes and fags in wheelchairs or on crutches, flirting and gossiping and even listening to the music sometimes. Their able-bodied lovers and friends are there too, in the minority for once.
It doesn’t do me any good to go to a queer event if the people I love can’t climb the stairs or stand in line for hours to join me. And it’s a drag to go to an accessible event where no one is out —let alone flirtatious.
This year I loved Folk Fest more than ever, because the welcoming of people with disabilities really sank in. It blew my mind and warmed my heart as much as the queer vibe. A sweet weekend of freedom with an excellent soundtrack.