Ottawa
3 min

Stroking our own

Communities are built from more than the gifts of geological upheavals. They’re also built from the dreams of visionaries and the time of members. They’re built on a foundation of optimism, using the bricks of commitment, and incorporating the flying buttresses of determination.

They’re built with the consent of all participants, and with the enthusiasm of people living examined lives.

“Through the customs of their people, the web of their associations, the output of their artists and the practice of their commerce, communities are made and know themselves,” reads the mission statement of this newspaper. “Through strife and argument they grow. Because communities give birth to movements, we nurture them.”

Ottawa’s queer community has a proud history of reaching for a better world, taking care of our own, building on the successes of the past. Creating the legal, social and, more recently, geographic space to live our lives, love our loves and honour our lust.

We all participate in building our community in the daily decisions we make about where to eat, drink, meet, read, walk and cruise. Larger decisions like where we live and work, how we spend our volunteer time and which charities we’ll support have a profound effect on the kind of queer community that emerges in Ottawa.

Many of us, I dare say most of us, care profoundly about the kind of world we live in. We care enough to work to change it, sometimes by forming a new activist group or a new sports team, sometimes by making creative career choices, sometimes by volunteering time and energy and money to our favourite groups or charities.

At Capital Xtra, we started an annual Community Heroes award ceremony to say thanks to those who have particularly shone in the past year. After a hiatus of a few years, we’re bringing the ceremony back this Oct 20 at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Check out the lineup of finalists in our ad on page 4; it promises to be both an affirming and a fun evening. As the new guy in town, I’d love the opportunity to meet you there.

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As with all things in life, sometimes the organizations that are the pillars of our community suffer temporary setbacks. Like the group that puts on our much-loved annual Pride celebration. For the last few years, they’ve accumulated a shudderingly large deficit. This year they managed to put on a decent festival and nearly break even. They need people with strong marketing, political lobbying and fundraising skills to run for their board at the Oct 11 annual general meeting.

The informal communication networks (a nice name for local gossip channels) have been abuzz in recent weeks with rumours about Pink Triangle Services. Investigative reporter Mike Cottingham dissects the strife in a report starting on page 7. He’s concentrated on the major issues at play – the need for board liability insurance, uncashed donor cheques, questions of the timing of financial reports and an intimate relationship among two of the three former executive members. We don’t enjoy having to write these kinds of reports, but given the swirl of rumours and the fact that PTS plays a vital, and increasingly important, role in our community, we would be remiss not to.

Still, it’s important that we, as a community, use this as an opportunity not to damage the organization, but to truly learn from the mistakes, correct them, and make sure we don’t repeat them at PTS or elsewhere. In this case, that may mean replacing the last remaining executive member from the old board, coming up with some new financial procedures and regulations preventing executive members from being involved intimately and perhaps reducing the number of board members so that quorum is more easily achieved. Finally, it’s important the board rapidly continue its transition from being one concerned with working to one concerned with policy.

None of us are perfect. When we make mistakes we need to acknowledge them and move on – sometimes by leaving the group, sometimes by staying on as someone who’s learned and grown. Come celebrate our heroes at the Achievement Awards on Oct 20. And then consider joining, or starting, a group. Building community is among the toughest, and most personally rewarding, work you can aspire to.