The City of Vancouver kicked off its Year of the Queer on May 23 with a panel of local queer leaders at city hall.
Eleven speakers each gave their thoughts in a roundtable discussion moderated by Coun. Tim Stevenson, and much of the conversation centred around making queer spaces more diverse.
The Georgia Straight’s Year of the Queer cover was widely commented on by panelists, beginning with opening speaker Azuka Kamdibe from Black Lives Matter Vancouver.
“Some of you may have seen the Georgia Straight and may be wondering if they were in the right room with such a diversity of people in the panel, and not so much on the cover. I assure you, we are, and the Year of the Queer will be a year that includes all queer people,” Kamdibe said.
Kamdibe went on to speak about BLM’s work in removing armed police from marching in Vancouver Pride and raising awareness of anti-black violence within the city.
The discussion of the Straight cover was a lightning rod for further discussions of diversity and intersectionality.
Fatima Jaffer facilitates for Trikone Vancouver, a group for queer South Asians in the Lower Mainland.
“Trikone exists essentially because the needs of our membership were and still are not met by mainstream queer organizations, and because our membership has our own complex histories of what it means to be and live queer, trans and gender-variant,” Jaffer said.
She held up a copy of the Straight as she made her next point.
“This has been staring at us from boxes and in restaurants all week, and it adds to a larger and older...imagery of who is queer, what queer is, and whose queer history we’re talking about,” she said. “And my message is to queer organizations sitting round the table is that when these narrow constructions and narrow messages of queerness are put out there by media, objecting to this should not just be the role of QTBIPOC.”
Jaffer also commented on how slow progress had been in the queer community. While she acknowledged the need for organizations meet the needs of different groups and populations, she also lamented their necessity.
“In the [Straight] article, people are quoted saying there’s the need for greater inclusion of those who have been previously neglected and excluded. I was glad to read it, but...we’ve been saying that for the 27 years I’ve been living in Vancouver."
Other panelists addressed the need for diversity in different ways. David Ng of Love Intersections said that his organization, an art collective for queer people of colour, had been born after experiencing racism in Vancouver’s queer community. He sees Year of the Queer as a moment for expanding the queer conversation.
“When I think about Year of the Queer, I’m thinking about the ways that it’s not just a celebration but it’s also an opportunity to think about some of the untold stories in our community and how we can invite more people to the table,” he said.
The panel also included Dr Brian Chittock (AIDS Vancouver), Chief Byron Longclaws (Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society), Chris Morrissey (LEGIT), Hikmat Termos (Rainbow Refugee), Charmaine de Silva (Vancouver Pride Society), Kim Stacey (McLaren Housing Society of B.C.), and Gary Lising (Pinoy Pride).