7 min

Xtra West’s Heroes 2009 winners

Honouring our community heroes

The gay community honoured its heroes Apr 26 as Xtra West pulled out all the stops to present the 2009 Community Achievement Awards to a packed house at the Vancity Theatre.

The set looked terrific with its brand new, pink Hero logos, the performances were high energy and captured a wide range of our community’s expressions, the hosts (Darcy Michael and Morgan Brayton) were always funny, the acceptance speeches never dull and the audience remained engaged — even though, in true Oscar style, the show went seriously long!

This year’s heroes were nominated by the community at large then shortlisted by a community panel of judges, who then selected the winners by secret ballot. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate their heroes, and of course to this year’s panel of judges. And congratulations to all the nominees and winners. Heroes one and all.

Straight Ally of the Year

Katie Stobbart

“When I was coming up to Grade 12, I knew that it was going to be a year to remember and I had no idea how true that would be, because the pursuit of social justice is definitely something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.

When I led — or rather ran behind as I escaped the reporters and tried to catch up to the rest of the students at the protest in September — I had no idea I would end up here.

It’s nine months later. We’ve had the social justice protests, the community rally, a BCTF regional conference on social justice. We’ve started the Fraser Valley Social Justice Society in Abbotsford.

I’m so honoured to be up here receiving this and to be in the same category as Chief Constable Jim Chu and Mary Yates.”

Youth Activist of the Year

Ryan Clayton

“I actually spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks trying to think about what I might say if I got called up here, and I thought of all these things political, and about homophobia and youth and schools and violence, and I got to the end of the day and I was completely at a loss for words.

And then finally last week I was watching Freedom Writers for the very first time and there was a speech in there by Miep Gies who sheltered Anne Frank during the Holocaust and it really spoke to what I was feeling. So here goes:

‘I’m not a hero. No, I did what I had to do because it was the right thing to do. That is all. No, we are all ordinary people but even an ordinary housewife or a secretary or a teenager can in their own small ways turn on a small light in a dark room. You are all heroes. You are heroes every day. And your faces are engraved in my heart.’

Thank you.”

Visual Artist of the Year

Claudia Morgado Escanilla, No Bikini

“I just want to thank Ivan [Coyote] for giving me the inspiration and to give me the chance to also express myself as an artist in my own way.”


Jane Rule Memorial Writer of the Year

Rev Gary Paterson

“This is what [American writer and activist] Marge Piercy spoke. She is a lesbian that comes from New England and did some amazing writing:

‘What can they do to you? They can set you up. They can bust you. They can break your fingers. They can blur your brain with electricity. They can burn you with drugs until you can’t remember, can’t walk. They can take away your child. They can wall up your lover. They can do whatever they want that you can’t stop them from doing.

‘How can you stop them? Alone, you can refuse. You can fight back. You can take whatever revenge you are capable of taking but they will roll right over you.

But two people, fighting back to back, can cut through a mob… Two people can keep each other sane, can give support, conviction, love, massage, hope, sex. Three people are a delegation, a wedge, a committee. Four people can play bridge and hold a fundraising party’ — even for The Centre…

‘Twelve people are a demonstration. A hundred people fill a hall. A thousand people, solidarity and your own newsletter. A hundred thousand, power and your own newspaper and media. Ten million, your own country.

‘It begins one person at a time. It begins when you care to act. It begins when you do it again when they say no. It begins when you say ‘we’ and you know who you mean.’

Thank you very much.”

Community Group of the Year

Trans Alliance Society (TAS)

“It means so much to us for a trans organization to be represented in the queer community these days. We are really honoured. To be in the same category as the Health Initiative for Men and The Centre is absolutely phenomenal. And once again, I need to say this: Please come together and help The Centre to stay where it is and raise funds. And if you don’t want to do that, send some money to Trans Alliance Society because we can always use that, because we’re a small group, we don’t get a lot of money.”

Drag Queen/King of the Year


“I’m quite shocked. I only get awards from straight organizations. I also have to say I just think it’s so wonderful that we live in a city where the Vancouver Police Department would bother to come [to our awards ceremony].

I just wanted to remind everyone that drag queens are the foot soldiers of this community and so many of them who never made a dollar off this community give so much of their time and so much of their talent, and when the shit hits the fan it’s always to the drag queens that the organizations come a-runnin’.

I just wanted to thank each and every one of you briefly, those of you who wrote city hall recently about the Odyssey. Had the Odyssey closed tonight, which it indeed was going to, this would have been my last show at the Odyssey. I’ve been doing Feather Boa on Sundays at the Odyssey for 14 and a half years. So I really wasn’t quite ready to pack up the dresses and go home yet.

Thanks to the power of so many of you who passionately and diligently wrote to city hall, the Odyssey got another extension until such a time as the funding for the social housing project goes through. And on behalf of all of the management and staff and certainly for little old me who gets to go do not my last show tonight at the Odyssey, I thank you so much.”

Volunteer of the Year

Raigen D’Angelo

“I’m really deeply honoured by this award. I think it was very important for me to come out this year and really do something for trans people because one of the problems we do have is transgendered people, transsexuals, are not included in the human rights code of British Columbia nor are they in Canada.

I don’t only help with Trans Alliance Society but also I do reception at The Centre, which really needs help. And if there’s something I really want to say, every one of you should help The Centre to try to raise funds so we can keep the location where it is.

Things have to change in this province and I really hope to God you go to all-candidate debates and [ask] — ‘What are you going to do for trans people in this province?’”

Business Citizen of the Year

The Coming Home Café (owner Guy Dubé)

“I opened the café three and half years ago in lovely, uptown New Westminster and I used to tell people that the café was the other gay space in New West where you didn’t need to wear a towel. Because if you know New Westminster, it’s got a bathhouse and a café.

What I love about the café is that I will have 75-year-old gay men sitting beside the church ladies that are two seats from the bears and we’re all just discussing life, whether it’s movies, whether it is just plain old jokes and being unabashedly gay, I guess.

For you guys who live in the downtown core, there are no bridges to New Westminster.”

Live Performance of the Year

Fighting Chance Productions, The Laramie Project

(Director Ryan Mooney accepted the award on behalf of the company)

“I was hoping to win a Tony at some point but this is probably the closest! It’s just as gay so I’m happy to be here!

We did a lot of discussion in rehearsal about people in Laramie and some people not agreeing with, say, homosexual life or some people like Fred Phelps, and trying not to just say, ‘I hate you because of what you feel’ — but really trying to wrap your brain around hate like that.

And I think it’s something we could all stand to do a little bit more in life: not just lash out at people whose opinions we disagree with, but really wrap our brains around where they’re coming from. You don’t have to agree with it but I think it’s really important to try and understand it.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

Peter and Murray Corren (via video from Mexico)

“People ask us: ‘How is it that you do what you do over the 15 years that you’ve been doing it?’ And somebody who was one of our opponents suggested that we have this huge organization behind us that will fund us and give us all the resources that we need to carry on these battles.

Little do they know that it’s the two of us, a computer and a fax machine.

Never doubt that you make a huge difference by taking on a challenge, particularly when you have a loving partner, and pursuing it with as much vigour and as much energy as you possibly can.

It’s amazing what you can achieve with as few resources as we’ve had. And we encourage everyone that if you feel that there are issues that you need to be addressing in our society, do so.

Thank you everybody.”

The Correns’ son Brent Powers (above left) accepted the award on his fathers’ behalf:

“It amazes me that even while they are [in Mexico], they are planning community work. They don’t have a lot of time together. Life hasn’t been very fair. And it’s surprising to me that the months and maybe years, if we’re lucky, that they have together are still going to be spent working for the community.

This for them really is a lifetime achievement award and thank you very much. You probably have no idea how much it means to them. It’s really a vindication of all the efforts they’ve made. Thank you.”

Photos by TJ Ngan, video by OUTtv.