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Still fighting: What Pride means to the community, and why it's still needed

Last Updated Aug 3, 2019 at 11:05 am PDT


As Pride Week comes to an end in Vancouver, we're finding out why the movement is important to the people who live here

While there have been a number of 'wins' for the LGBT community since Stonewall, many say the work isn't over

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – This year marks 50 years since the beginning of the modern movement after Stonewall.

Many human rights advancements have been made in that half-a-century, so, NEWS 1130 is asking members of our community — why do we still need pride?

Serene Carter is a queer woman of colour who garnered attention and praise locally as a youth activist.

She admits, she’s had a conflicted relationship with Pride herself. It’s not an uncommon feeling for queer, trans, black, Indigenous people, or people of colour, who have long felt excluded from the mainstream Pride movement.

“Sometimes people forget that people of colour are queer as well, and we have the same right to celebrate and protest,” Carter says. “But I think there is a lot good work happening, and I’m proud to be a part of the good that’s happening currently, to include some of these more marginalized communities in mainstream celebrations, or supporting them in doing their own work for their communities.”

Carter adds it’s actually a great time to reflect on the duality of emotions associated with Pride — not just joy and celebration.

For Osmel Guerra Maynes, the executive director of Qmunity, which is B.C.’s queer, trans and two-spirit resource centre, the work is far from over.

“I want to also speak on (behalf of) the folks who are from my community, queer black people, queer people of colour, who are not still not able to put forward their voices or still have to fight to say we’re part of the community as well,” he tells NEWS 1130. “And then you have the trans community, where many folks are being attacked.”

Guerra Maynes says those discussions within the LGBTQ community can be hard, because people don’t realize their privilege.

Like Carter, he says the focus going forward needs to be on raising the voices of those ignored for far too long.

The reality for the LGBTQ community elsewhere in the world is also a big struggle, and it’s something Danny Ramadan knows well.

After coming to Canada as a refugee from Syria, the celebrated author and activist now helps others flee persecution through his annual fundraiser, An Evening in Damascus.

He says around the world, people are still forced to hide who they are.

“I’m not just gay when I’m hanging out with somebody who I love, who is from the same sex,” Ramadan explains.

“I’m gay when I’m eating breakfast, I’m gay when I’m walking in the streets, I’m gay when I go to sleep, I’m gay when I’m writing, I’m gay all the time,” Ramadan says. “And that is something I had to constantly hold back on when I was back living in places that are homophobic.”

For Ramadan, Pride is a celebration of his experience, and the courage it took to get to where he is today.

Progress made, but more needed

When Mabel Elmore first considered running for politics, she was advised not to be public about her sexual orientation. But — she didn’t listen.

“And I was elected as the first out lesbian of colour in B.C. and I believe the country … that was 10 years ago. I helped support Pinoy Pride Vancouver and the Filipino-Canadian community, and so that’s a big issue in terms of ensuring we have safety for folks across the community, but in particular, in immigrant communities and marginalized communities.”

The NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kensington is hosting a public forum during Pride Week, exploring the issues from a global context — in particular, her own Filipino-Canadian community.

“We’ve had the president, Duterte, make homophobic comments and that has an impact. And of course, Manny Pacquiao, the very famous boxer, he’s made homophobic comments, and that has an impact as well.”

Elmore says those comments highlight the continued need for advocacy around issues of Pride, not just here, but also around the world.

Meantime, B.C. MP Hedy Fry, who has represented the riding that includes Vancouver’s gay village for 26 years and is a known vocal advocate and ally in the community, agrees that by looking around the world, it’s evident that more needs to be done.

“You cannot take anything, any equality you have fought for for granted,” she says. “You have to always to be able to be on guard. I think there is important reasons that Pride is still relevant today. The whole community has to be sure that they are always on their guard for anything happening, that could create those types of governments here in Canada.”

Fry, who is also known for her elaborate floats in the Pride Parade, which takes place this Sunday, notes the celebration is a chance for the community to not only be proud, but to flaunt who it is.

Expressing who you are

They say when you become a parent, you wear your heart on the outside.

When Colin McKenna got involved with PFLAG Vancouver 20 years ago, much of the work involved helping parents come to term with their children’s sexuality. Things are a bit different today.

“Almost every single person that comes through our meeting door today says, ‘my kid is trans, I need to understand things about hormone therapy or how they operate at work,'” he explains. “So the concerns have changed. It’s very rare these days to say ‘my kid is gay and I don’t know what I did wrong.’ That dialogue has certainly changed over a period of time.”

McKenna says for him, Pride remains incredibly relevant as rights for the LGBTQ community are at risk of being stripped.

For Brad Dirks, protecting his child is his top priority. He says every day starts off with worry about what could happen to his transgender son.

“Any dad out there listening, any parent listening, their number one priority is the well-being and safety and security of their child,” he says. “So, we have that in common. I think we have more in common than I have different with most parents. And I think that’s something any parent could relate to. It’s just unfortunate that when you wake up in the morning and you go on with your day, this stuff weighs on you.

“It’s always on my shoulders,” Dirks admits. “You worry.”

Standing up for his kid has not come without a cost.

Dirks has found himself the target of anti-transgender activists, who have accused him of child abuse.

Youth and Pride

When many of us were kids, going to a Pride Parade was not something we got to do. But now, children and young people make up a huge part of the parade’s audience.

“I really love Pride because everyone can dress up, have fun, go out, express themselves, say this is who I am, if you don’t like it, well, that’s that,” seven-year-old Bailey says.

Bailey believes that without Pride, there would be one less place for people to show their “true colours.”

Eleven-year-old Tristan may have been born after same-sex marriage became legal, but regardless, she says it’s still important to celebrate pride.

“Maybe even a few years ago, if someone saw a man wearing makeup they would call them very bad words,” she says. “I think it’s pretty, and I’m accepting of it.”

Editor’s Note: Charmaine de Silva is NEWS 1130’s News Director, and is also the Co-Chair of the Vancouver Pride Society