This is my last column. It’s been a year and I’ve had a great time writing for Xtra West but now it’s time for someone else to have the space.
I’ve learned a lot over the last year about writing for a community paper. Some very good writers have given me feedback and pointers on how to improve my writing. And I thank them all.
Readers have also responded to my columns with emails, letters, face-to-face conversations, and even some rather creepy telephone messages. Thanks as well to all of you. It’s been nice knowing someone reads what I write.
It’s nice knowing someone reads what I write because I don’t think of myself as a writer. I think of myself as opinionated. I think of myself as mildly obsessed with the many meanings and manifestations of community.
And I believe strongly that an important aspect of how we connect has to do with how we communicate. How we communicate our ideas and values about who we are, what we want for and from each other and how we want to achieve these things.
So I look for opportunities to communicate.
Good writing is definitely a skill. I think of great writing as a gift. But having the opportunity to communicate our views with others in our communities is, in my opinion, a right. Maybe even a responsibility.
While on a basic level community just happens-we come together because of some basic needs that together we hope to provide for-it takes enormous effort to ensure that our communities reflect the values of how we live together.
Those values can be shaped by a few who know they have the power or gift to raise their voices. But it’s essential that all of us add our voices, where possible, to the ongoing effort to define who we are as communities.
A community paper like Xtra West is a great way to help shape those values through dialogue, debate, and exploration. Letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and other contributions don’t require Pulitzer Prize-winning writing. I’m a great example of that.
And there are always other ways. Queer arts groups, community organizations, sports teams and social groups, support groups, queer businesses and more all contribute to who we are as one big community and many smaller communities.
Vancouver stands out for me as a model for how communities can happen when we create opportunities to come together, and then go beyond that to create ways for all of us to flourish together.
It’s hard work. That’s life. But the joy that comes from feeling like you can make a difference-that’s living.