Vancouver will have its own Pride House for gay athletes and their allies during the 2010 Olympics.
A similar facility is already in the works for Whistler, the main venue of the Winter Games.
“Just speaking with our community, there is a definite sense that they wanted to have a space down in Vancouver as well,” says Dean Nelson of GayWhistler, producer of WinterPride and now the Pride Houses.
Vancouver’s Pride House will likely launch Feb 10 to coincide with the opening day of the Winter Games, Nelson says.
Nelson is partnering with Qmunity (formerly The Centre) to produce Vancouver’s Pride House.
Located at Bute and Davie Sts, Qmunity will be Vancouver’s Pride House base.
There have also been initial discussions with Score on Davie to be a main celebration venue, but nothing has been finalized yet, says Nelson.
The focus of the Vancouver house will be on creating a safe space for athletes to access social, educational, health and support services, coupled with a celebratory aspect in an off-site venue.
“We’re using Qmunity as the organizational hub because we have infrastructure, the capacity and the non-profit status through which we can apply for grants,” says Qmunity’s executive director Jennifer Breakspear, who is also chair of the Vancouver Pride House steering committee.
“We thought we could do this multi-site idea, organizational stuff here [at Qmunity], celebration stuff focused primarily at one bar or restaurant that would be the Pride House’s celebration venue, but likely also staging things at different places in the city depending on the needs of the event,” Breakspear elaborates.
“We had some conversations with some others, but nothing finalized yet,” she adds.
Nelson says collaborating with Qmunity was “very natural” because they have a lot of resources that athletes and other visitors can access in areas such as immigration and asylum, for example.
“At these huge sporting events – gay or straight, it doesn’t matter – people do request asylum from established western nations, so we just anticipate that if we’re being so public about having a Pride House that some of these athletes that are having such turmoil back home about their sexuality, this could be an opportunity to escape that legitimately, [and] we ‘re there to support them,” Nelson says.
“I think we need to be very proactive and anticipate that type of request because if we don’t do that and somebody does request that, we’re going to be scrambling going, ‘What do we do now, what do we do now?’
“The one thing we have to be very careful of is we aren’t encouraging asylum either,” he adds. “We can’t, because if we do that, then some of the nations where they may have polices in place that are really stringent and discriminate against homosexuals, they may protest to our government and to the IOC, making it very uncomfortable and then we’re just shooting ourselves in the head.
“It’s a very fine line that we need to walk making sure we have information available, we have resources available, in place, to deal with those situations,” Nelson notes. “But we aren’t actively saying, ‘Come to Canada and immigrate, because that’s being totally irresponsible and counterintuitive.”
Under the Pride House umbrella, the idea is to have “a strategic and concentrated” media message that educates the wider Olympic audience about the “huge problem” of homophobia within sport.
While Whistler’s Pride House, which will be launched Feb 8 at the Pan Pacific hotel, will remain the focal Olympic venue for gay athletes to meet and watch the Games, Vancouver will also have its own celebration venues for gay athletes.
Nelson says the steering committee is also looking at ways to engage Davie St merchants and bars, as well as Commercial Dr community members, in the venture. “We’re going to have multiple venues,” he says.
Right now, sourcing funding for the venture is key, Nelson adds, noting he’s looking for sponsors.
Qmunity has also applied for a grant from the City of Vancouver, he says.
Breakspear confirms that Qmunity has applied for a Host A City Happening grant worth up to $10,000 to help fund the venture, and anticipates a decision on the application “any day now.”
“I’ve been told the city was going to push this one through pretty quickly,” she says.
Sitting with Breakspear on the Pride House steering committee are members of the Vancouver 2011 Out Games Society, the International Gay and Lesbian Association, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport, Egale, Canada, the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Task Force, the Rainbow Refugee Committee and the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQQI advisory group.