For the Georgia Straight’s 17th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to highlight. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2012.
Best Pride Parade moment
This year’s Pride march included a wonderfully emotional tribute to grand marshal David Holtzman, who died suddenly of a heart attack in Palm Springs. Signs by his friends and family declared that “David was a fighter”, “David was an uncle”, “David was a lover”, and “David was a prankster” to show his many sides. One of the signs even joked about his dancing. In his roles as director of operations with Out on Screen, executive director of A Loving Spoonful, and development director of Friends for Life, Holtzman left a lasting legacy. When the Holtzman contingent held up a giant photograph of him during the parade, it conveyed what a giant he was in our community.
Best local boundary breaker for beauty pageants
You’ve been living off the grid if you haven’t heard of Jenna Talackova. The Vancouver trans woman became an overnight international sensation after she was disqualified from the 2012 Miss Universe Canada competition because, according to officials, she was not a “naturally born female”. The Internet lit up with headlines, debate, and even a petition requesting her reinstatement. She was reinstated, and although she didn’t win the competition (she was named Miss Congeniality in a four-way tie), she won something else: the Miss Universe pageant opened up to include trans women. Bravo, Ms. Talackova, for adding to the ongoing struggle for trans rights. Hey, B.C. Human Rights Code: take notice, because you’re next.
Best efforts to hip-check homophobia in hockey
Talk about levelling the playing field. It’s been a promising year of Canadian efforts to address homophobia in sport, with some Vancouver connections. In March, the former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Burke, and his son, Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, launched the You Can Play campaign, which is designed to cultivate a more queer-inclusive environment in sport. The campaign was inspired by their son and brother, the Vancouver-born Brendan Burke, who came out while he was the student manager of Miami University’s hockey team and fought for gay rights in sports. (Sadly, he died in a 2010 car accident.) The campaign has released PSAs featuring everyone from NHL players to university athletes and officials expressing their commitment to ensuring a safe space for queer people. What’s more, the Vancouver Canucks’ Manny Malhotra showed what a real man is made of when he marched in this year’s Vancouver Pride parade alongside new defenceman Jason Garrison from White Rock.
Best proof that being a king can be a drag
You’ve undoubtedly heard lots about drag queens. But if you haven’t heard of Vancouver’s thriving drag-king scene, where have you been? Well, you obviously haven't been hanging out at the Cobalt, where the monthly queer variety show, Man Up, is now in its fourth year. Originally created by drag kings Sammy Tomato and Majik as a competition, it has since undergone a “manamorphosis” to become a showcase headed up by Ponyboy that includes performers who are gay, straight, bisexual, male, female, and everything under the sun. With Mancouver talents like Edward Malaprop and Cazzwell van Dyke genderfunking up the stage, expect to have your heart (and loins) stolen.
Best confrontation of HIV/AIDS stereotypes
What kind of person comes to mind when you imagine someone with AIDS? A triathlete? A mother? A grandmother? No? Then it’s time to reconsider any preconceptions you might have. The Vancouver-based organization Does HIV Look Like Me? International Society launched a web video campaign in January to do just that: Stop the Stigma featured several Vancouverites with HIV or AIDS talking about misconceptions, their experiences, and the real facts about HIV. Kudos to Does HIV Look Like Me? for reminding people that having HIV is not a look or a lifestyle, and for doing it all on zero budget.
Best reminders for queer people to mind their mental health
Sexual and physical health get a lot of emphasis in the gay male community. But something just as important, and related, are mental and emotional health. Having mental-health concerns, including depression or anxiety, can affect sexual behaviour or fitness and diet, for instance. Health Initiative for Men’s Take Time for Your Mind campaign reminded local queer men to take a pause to consider what areas—from financial or lifestyle concerns to psychological issues—they could improve upon. For those who want to take action, HIM offers three types of help: peer support, personal strategic advisors, and professional counsellors. What’s great is that most of these services are free. Full details are available at the appropriately named HIM website: checkhimout.ca/.
The dedicated folks at Qmunity, B.C.’s queer resource centre, offer free short-term counselling for all queer people for up to 12 sessions. They also have a list of other counselling resources available in Metro Vancouver for all queer people at www.qmunity.ca/home/free-counselling-program/. Qmunity also offers the Prideline, a peer-support, information, and referral line. Metro Vancouver residents can call 604-684-6869, and B.C. residents can call toll-free 1-800-566-1170.
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