Unity, diversity and humility were the pervading themes of the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) Legacy Awards on May 4. The recipients and finalists, ranging from 17-year-old Cory Oskam to local legends Mz Adrien and Chris Morrissey, were unanimously humbled and overwhelmed by their nominations. But they were also inspired by each other’s efforts to bring Vancouver’s queer community into an age of equality and the knowledge that there is still much work to be done.
“While it’s easy to dwell on how much further we have to go, Pride Legacy Awards is about looking at what we’ve already accomplished,” VPS general manager Ray Lam said. “My hope, leaving here tonight, is that people start asking the question, What is our legacy? What are we going to accomplish together as a community?”
Now in its second year, the Legacy Awards were conceived by Lam as a way to highlight the outstanding work being done by queer community leaders, activists and volunteers, using the eight colours and themes of Gilbert Baker’s original rainbow flag as categories.
“To be recognized for your 25 years of activism is something that beats the heart,” said Martin Rooney, Pink Award recipient for sexual health activism. In 2007, US Border Patrol picked on the wrong person when they barred Rooney, already an established activist, from entering because of his HIV status. His efforts to protest the American ban on HIV-positive visitors helped convince the government to lift it in 2010.
“My doctor said to me, Sometimes legacy is being in the right place at the right time, and if you take that into account, I was in a place, at a time, that I could make a difference. So when that difference is recognized, even seven years later, it makes you valid,” he said.
Archivist Ron Dutton received the Red Award for lifetime achievement for his decades of painstakingly collecting and cataloguing historical artifacts and documents from BC’s queer history.
“The reassembly of our story is very much a personal passion of mine, and it’s going to become only more important over time — that assemblage of stories that are our story,” Dutton said.
For her decades of work fighting for queer immigration and refugee rights and, more recently, queer seniors’ needs, Chris Morrissey received a standing ovation as she took the podium to accept her Blue Award for community leadership. “I look forward to the day when I am able to nominate and hopefully present one Legacy Award to one of the people who has arrived in Canada as a refugee, who has become a permanent resident, a Canadian citizen, and who also contributes to the work and life of the LGBTQ community in Vancouver,” she said.
Morrissey also thanked her partner of 37 years, Bridget, who has dementia and couldn’t attend the ceremony.
Lydia Luk, Andrew Shopland — who received the award — and Justin Saint had the unique experience of being friends and finalists for the Purple Award for youth. “Lydia being my youth worker [at Gab Youth Services], we are rooting for each other, and Andrew and I being such close friends, it is such a great honour to be nominated together in a category,” Saint said.
Shopland, who runs the Mpowerment peer-support program at YouthCO, urged the audience to listen to the community’s youth and to support their initiatives.
Dave Deveau — playwright, drag queen and event producer — received the Turquoise Award for art; Dean Nelson, WinterPride producer and Olympic Pride House co-founder, received the Orange Award for sports; Carl Meadows received the Yellow Award for his avid volunteerism; and Alex Sangha received the Green Award for creating safe spaces for South Asian and senior LGBT people and their allies.
“It’s incredible when you look at the diversity of the nominees and what they’ve contributed,” VPS president Tim Richards said. “It’s the hearts and minds of so many people, all wanting the same thing — equality — that really makes a difference at the end of the day, and it’s that will that makes all of these wonderful things happen.”