According to the Georgia Straight, the festivities this morning at Helena Gutteridge Plaza drew quite a crowd. Deputy mayor Tim Stevenson even wore a rainbow-striped tie as he read the official proclamation opening Vancouver’s first-ever Year of the Queer, that will run through the summer.
“Once again it puts Vancouver at the forefront of the liberation movement,” Stevenson said, to enthusiastic applause. Also onstage were Sempulyan, a two-spirit member of Squamish and Musqueam Nations; Queer Arts Festival artistic director SD Holman; Frank Theatre artistic director Fay Nass; Queer Film Festival co-artistic director Anoushka Ratnarajah; and Vancouver Pride Society co-chair Charmaine de Silva.
Behind the speakers, fluttering in the breeze, were two rainbow flags and two trans pride flags. Additionally, for the first time in Vancouver, two two-spirit flags were also raised. For those who might not know, the term two-spirit was adopted in 1990 at an Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering in Winnipeg to encourage the replacement of the anthropological term berdache.
Two-spirit individuals usually are people who feel their body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit, or a different balance of masculine and feminine characteristics than usually seen in masculine men and feminine women.
Sempulyan spoke about the problems of two-spirit youths aging out of foster care. “They need support in every area of their lives if we want them to become healthy, responsible, respectable citizens,” he said.
And Fay Nass, an Iranian immigrant who came to B.C. 18 years ago at the age of 16, shared her story of being queer and non-binary. She said her classmates called her “FOB”, meaning fresh off the boat.
“In Farsi, we don’t use gender pronouns. There is no he or she, only third-person pronouns: u. U leaves a lot of room for interpretation because gender becomes interchangeable,” Nass said.
“Not having gender pronouns was very freeing for someone who always lived in a neither/or zone of gender. It allowed me to identify with any character I wanted.”
The point is, all the speakers had a uniform message, and that is we are all on the Earth together, and it is tragic that some people have to face loneliness, isolation, and the violence of racism and xenophobia, just because they are different from us.
This is why Vancouver’s event also included a panel discussion in council chambers, followed by an information fair where visitors can learn more about various queer community groups.
The anniversaries being celebrated include the following:
• 40th anniversary of Vancouver Pride Society’s Pride Parade and Sunset Beach Festival.
• 40th anniversary of Qmunity — B.C.’s Queer, Trans and Two-Spirited Resource Centre.
• 35th anniversary of AIDS Vancouver.
• 35th anniversary of Little Sisters Bookstore.
• 30th anniversary of Out on Screen’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
• 25th anniversary of LEGIT — Canadian Immigration for Same Sex Partners.
• 20th anniversary of Pride in Art Collective.
• 20th anniversary of Rainbow Refugee Society.
• 20th anniversary of Monsoon — Asian Lesbians, Bisexuals and Trans in Vancouver.
• 15th anniversary of Vancouver Dyke March.
• 10th anniversary of The Queer Arts Festival.
• 10th anniversary of The Frank Theatre Company.
• 10th anniversary of Sher Vancouver.
• 10th anniversary of Zee Zee Theatre.
• 10th anniversary of Health Initiative for Men.
Together, the organizations have provided 330 years of service to the city’s LGBTQ community, and continue to make significant contributions to the social, cultural and artistic landscape of Vancouver,” reads the proclamation.
The flags will fly from May 23, 2018, to August 19, 2018.