Late author and activist Jane Rule has been posthumously selected as one of three grand marshalls for the 2008 Pride parade in what is being billed as the 30th anniversary of Pride in Vancouver. (The Vancouver Pride Society counts this year as the 30th anniversary, though some community members question that chronology and what qualifies as the city’s first Pride celebrations).
Rule, who passed away at 76 on Galiano Island Nov 27, is being recognized as a local hero and will be represented in the Aug 3 parade by a member of the community who would be “a perfect fit,” says Pride parade director Ken Coolen.
Coolen would only say that the Society had somebody in mind, declining to reveal the person’s name.
“I talked to a lot of people in the community,” he says. “I said, ‘What would you think about us doing this?’ and I got the same answer from all. It was, ‘That is definitely a right thing to do. It just needs to be done with the right amount of respect for [Rule].’ And so we’re working on that.”
It makes sense, says Coolen of Rule’s selection.
“We live such a fortunate life in Vancouver and very few of us know why. We don’t think that there were people like Jane Rule — [in the]1950s, she was openly lesbian. That’s very different from doing it today,” Coolen notes.
“[It’s] learning about people who set the path for all us, and so when she passed away I did a lot of reading on her. She really was out there long before it was even safe to be out there.”
The Pride Society has also invited Gilbert Baker, who created the now instantly recognizable Pride rainbow flag, and Sri Lankan queer rights activist Sahran Abeysundara to be parade grand marshalls.
The choice of Baker is fitting, says Pride Society president John Boychuk, as Vancouver Pride “enters its 30th year as an organization.”
“The gay and lesbian flag as we’ve come to know it around the world was developed by Gilbert Baker and first flew 30 years ago in San Francisco. With the Pride flag itself turning 30, we thought it was a great way to reflect on our history, as well as the history of the gay and lesbian movement, with the symbol of the rainbow flag,” Boychuk explains.
Celebrating 30 Years of the Rainbow is the theme for this year’s Pride celebrations.
Asked about Abeysundara participation, Boychuk says it’s in keeping with the Pride Society’s decision to “shed light” on the experiences of queers around the world.
“It allows people to once again evaluate where we are as a society [in] comparison to those who do not have the same rights, liberties and freedoms that we’ve been able to gain over 30 years of Vancouver Pride.
“It doesn’t mean that this is specifically a human rights campaign,” Boychuk adds. “It’s once again reaching out, making sure that we’re grounded, that we remember where we’ve come from and that we have a responsibility as a role model to support and to educate.”