When I think of heroic moments from the last year I picture parallel rows of proud rainbow sentries standing in the rain, ready to drown out Fred Phelps and his fag-fearing bullshit if he and his followers dared venture into our backyard.
I picture a cold, wet, jubilant crowd of hundreds of gays, lesbians, trans folks and allies lining both sides of Commercial Dr in front of the Havana Theatre, clever signs shining on a dark November night.
I picture friends and strangers coming together with strength, spirit, and a determination to stand our ground, unintimidated.
I picture community.
The scene shifts.
It’s eight days later and I am once again surrounded by friends, acquaintances and friendly strangers, this time on a school bus bound for Abbotsford.
Soon we’re marching side by side with our Abbotsford sisters, sharing their moment as they proudly stand up to their school board, city council and neighbours. As they shed their previously quiet existence for a new, vocal presence in the heart of BC’s bible belt.
“I feel privileged to be part of such a powerful political moment,” Abbotsford lesbian Martha Dow tells the rally gathered at the University of the Fraser Valley.
So do I.
Two and a half months later, I still smile every time I think about the gutsy young people who put that Pride march together, who went on Facebook and ventured to create a reality they’d rather see.
“We’re just here being beautiful,” 16-year-old Chantell Gregg told the crowd that day. “We’re being us.”
I think of Gregg when I think about my community heroes of 2008.
I think of 23-year-old John Kuipers who stood up to Abbotsford’s city council and refused to call off the march despite the threat of hefty fines.
I think of the cast and crew behind The Laramie Project — ostensibly the object of Fred Phelps’ self-righteous wrath — who also refused to be intimidated.
They not only went on with the show and staged a tremendously powerful production of the play; they organized the rally in the rain to stand up to Phelps.
These are just a few examples.
How many of us stood up to those who would silence us last year and refused to back down?
How many of us proudly celebrated our sexuality?
How many of us had the courage to simply be ourselves?
Who do you picture when you think of last year’s most heroic moments?
Who are your community heroes of 2008?
I know I have a long list. The Vancouver Men’s Chorus is on it for its Voices Carry tribute to Little Sister’s and freedom of expression last May.
Lydia Luk and Ryan Clayton are on it for their tireless efforts to create gay-friendly schools within and beyond the Lower Mainland.
Jordan Smith is definitely on it for having the courage to publicly come out and tell the whole city he was gaybashed — and demand justice.
BC Attorney General Wally Oppal could be on it next year as a straight ally if he finds the courage to send a memo to the province’s Crown counsel instructing them to assertively seek hate crime designations for all convicted gaybashers. (What do you say, Wally?)
That’s just a snapshot of my list. I’m more interested in yours. Go to our website and cast your ballot today.
Help us all recognize the heroes among us.