When Yogi Omar turned 30 in February, there was only one thing he wanted to do for his birthday: throw a fundraiser for Out in Schools.
“I always feel selfish when I’m having my birthday party because I didn’t really do anything to be born,” he says. Though originally he had planned to invite 100 people, the final guest list ballooned to 400.
Omar has volunteered with and supported Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival for the last 10 years: as a venue coordinator, as a programming coordinator, as a board member and now as a donor.
The festival’s educational arm, Out in Schools, is especially important to him since he remembers how difficult it was to be a gay teenager.
“Back in high school, I was a bully,” he says. “My best friend came out to me and I bullied him. It was horrible. Deep inside, I was scared that people would find out I was gay.”
He sees supporting causes like Out in Schools as an opportunity to fix some of the mistakes he made in the past.
“If [youth] have positive role models or positive images of gay people, it will definitely help gay students in those schools,” he says.
“I feel like movies and music are the most efficient way for people to reach other people.”
In August, Omar organized a kiss-in in front of the Russian consulate to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws and to stand up for human rights as Vancouver stepped into Pride mode. He organized an even bigger kiss-in for the opening night of the Queer Film Festival.
He has also been heavily involved in local choirs over the last decade: five years with the Glass Youth Choir, one with the Rainy City Gay Men’s Chorus and the last five with the Vancouver Men’s Chorus.
The It Gets Better video that he produced for the Vancouver Men’s Chorus in 2011 recently hit 20,000 views on YouTube.
“With choirs, it’s a sense of community,” he says. “When I first joined 10 years ago, I joined because it was a gay group and I wanted to see where I fit in and where I belonged. But then I stayed mostly because of the music, because I believe that you can change the world with music.”
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