Over dinner with their mother, Roan Reimer switches between conversations at breakneck speeds. An amazing podcast explaining how colour works; learning mandarin; scheduling a visit with their grandmother before playing a gig; attending roller derby practice despite injuring their knee at tryouts badly enough to need a cane.
“Most of the time I’m literally running from place to place — life is too fun to go slow,” says Reimer, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun they.
It’s that energy that got them through their last year of high school at Vancouver Technical Secondary, where Reimer graduated in June. With 13 classes squeezed into an eight-block schedule, appearances at the Higher Ground conference, Interesting Vancouver, and a TEDx talk in St John’s, Reimer hasn’t had much time to sleep.
It’s this same energy that earned them an invitation to be a grand marshal at this year’s Pride celebrations in Vancouver.
“I feel like I haven’t done enough to deserve it, but everyone else seems to think I have so I’m going to have to trust their opinion,” Reimer says.
Reimer is right to push aside any self-doubt. While serving as district student representative on the Vancouver School Board’s Pride advisory committee, Reimer helped draft revisions to the district’s sexual orientation and gender identity policy. At the school board’s public consultation meeting in May 2014, they were the first to take the floor. Their speech, simultaneously sobering and hopeful, helped make them the face of the movement, earning attention and support from the community.
Looking back on the experience, Reimer says it was terrifying.
“You could feel the weight of everyone behind you and how angry we were and how tired we were of being sat on every single day — and to feel the anger of the other side a lot of the time was also quite alarming. Mostly it was like standing in the middle of a giant river and trying to push back against it.”
While Reimer predicted that the passing of the policy wouldn’t instantly make the world a better place, there is no denying that the policies are already improving the lives of some students.
When Reimer first joined their school’s gay-straight alliance, it was a group of only six students — the majority of whom only attended because they happened to eat lunch in the room where the group met. Now there are more than 25 active members, with a steady flow of new students joining.
“We have kids asking, ‘How do I come out to my parents? How do I come out to my teachers? My teacher isn’t respecting this, how do I make them understand?’ It’s just so amazing how many kids know they can ask for support.” Reimer says.
Reimer says Pride week is a great time to connect with youth, especially those who might feel more isolated. “It’s really amazing to have people come in, especially from other small towns, and provide support for them as well.”
Reimer admits that, when they first received the invitation from the Vancouver Pride Society, they weren’t entirely sure what a grand marshal was. “I got a text and was like, friends do you know what this is? They started screaming and jumping up and down. I did a bunch of research into it and I was like, this is a huge honour and I’m super-excited and scared,” Reimer says.
“To have such a diverse group of grand marshals this year — mostly I’m just really excited.”