The idea was suggested over coffee this spring. Little did Yogi Omar know that he would later make the list of BC’s brightest young queer people.
Little did I know the project would be so moving.
Yogi’s idea was simple: profile the young people in our community who are making a difference.
Its execution proved a little more challenging. First we had to find the youth.
For more than a month, freelance reporter Matthew DiMera canvassed a wide cross-section of our community, looking for the Top 30 Under 30. Each nominee was asked to nominate more people.
The list began to grow. As the profiles took shape, it became harder and harder to rank them all. Matthew put together a tentative order, trying to reflect the nominees’ contributions and their endorsement by their peers.
One afternoon in July, we laid out all the finished profiles on the couch in the office, then debated for hours about art, advocacy and the importance of creating community groups and gathering spaces where none had previously existed.
As I listened to Matthew advocate passionately for the various nominees, I began to realize how beautiful a list he had compiled and how much each person on it contributes to our community’s continued growth, strength and evolution.
People like Cellouin Eguia, who moved to BC when he was 16 years old hoping to enroll in a gay-friendly high school, only to discover that if he wanted a welcoming school environment, he would have to help create it himself.
Undeterred, Cellouin restarted and led Byrne Creek Secondary School’s gay-straight alliance, then began volunteering with the Vancouver Queer Film Festival and its educational arm, Out in Schools. This year, he sat on the youth steering committee for its Rise Against Homophobia video contest. His courage and contributions moved me.
So did Jaedyn Starr’s. “I was supposed to be a Jewish girl who would grow up to be a straight Jewish woman,” Starr says. “I tried to be the person that’s called ‘normal,’ and it didn’t work.” Jaedyn, too, joined the film fest and now coordinates its League of Diversicorns, in addition to independently running workshops on consent and gender issues.
Then there’s Brad Therrien, from Okanagan Pride; Ander Gates, from the Trans March; Joshun Dulai, from Totally Outright, a leadership program for young gay men; and multidimensional artist Kim Villagante, who last year also worked as a facilitator for Qmunity’s Routes to Roots program for immigrant youth and queer youth of colour and organized a conference for queer women of colour.
All people I had never heard of before. All people I’d like to get to know better.
Soon Matthew and I had profiles strewn all around us, and a tentative order emerged.
Click here to meet the members of our Top 30 Under 30, all equally deserving of our respect and appreciation.
And go to the Facebook event page that we created specifically for this project to find the hundreds of people who followed the countdown and posted their congratulatory comments and questions as we revealed each day’s profile for 30 days.
What better way to celebrate our 20th anniversary of publishing Xtra in Vancouver than by paying tribute to our community’s next generation of leaders?
I hope you’ll join me in thanking the Top 30 Under 30 — and all the other queer youth out there who are leading the way in all the ways that they do. It’s been an absolute pleasure to share their profiles and celebrate their work.
And I hope you’ll join us for our 20th birthday party on Oct 17 at Celebrities in Vancouver. Doors open at 9pm. See you there.