Last year, Glen Callender, founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project and Foreskin Pride, marched with full-frontal nudity for the first time in the three years he's participated in the Pride parade and events.
But after that revealing show-and-tell, he has found himself rejected from this year's upcoming parade to be held on August 4.
Callender received a letter on July 10 that Foreskin Pride, which raises awareness of circumcision on male minors, was denied participation in the 2013 Vancouver Pride parade, which will be held on August 4. Callender said that this year's application was rejected based on a violation of parade rules and regulations.
Callender claimed that he had cleared his plans to be nude in last year's parade with VPS parade director Tim Kraumanis prior to the event.
In a phone interview, Vancouver Pride Society general manager Ray Lam, however, told a different story.
"I have spoken to our parade director," he said. "He is very much aware of our rules and he would not have given any advice or any consent to a violation to the parade rules or Canadian law. That is just not something that we do."
Callender told the Georgia Straight by phone that he was informed that there were also complaints of harassment against his contingent of 13 people.
"I'm shocked to find out 339 days after the parade that there are these hidden harassment complaints against us," Callender said. "They won't show them. Ray Lam has said he is unable to reveal the names of people who decided Foreskin Pride would be banned from the parade. He is unable to disclose the documents that they cite in saying that we are refused. He won't show me that. He also told me that there is no mechanism available for me to dispute or challenge the decision…."
Lam said by phone that he couldn't discuss the complaints because they are trying to protect individuals from being targeted. He said that due to the number of applications they receive, they haven't been able to inform everyone who has a violation, but they're implementing a new system this year to inform people immediately after the parade.
Lam emphasized that the main issue is space.
"Every year, we receive over 200 applications for the parade," he said. "Due to size and length restrictions and the duration of the parade, we limit it to about 120 participants. So that means almost half of the people are declined. And that's just an unfortunate reality of the size of the parade. We get a lot more applications than we can accommodate."
He added that they have to make tough decisions to maintain the parade's three-hour length.
"We have a very rigorous selection process where we look at the organization's fit with the community, the fit with Pride, why they want to march in our parade, how they support the LGBT community, and we rank them based on that. However, a serious consideration is violation. So if someone has violated parade rules in the past, then that's obviously taken into consideration when we're looking at individual applications."
Lam emphasized that no one has been banned from the parade, and that Foreskin Pride can apply again next year.
Callender explained that he decided to use full-frontal nudity to convey his message of body acceptance.
"The idea that genitals are dirty and shameful is the basis of both the nudity taboos and the belief that there is something wrong with the boy's penis so you have to circumcise the baby because genitalia are dirty and need to be reduced," he said. "I'm proud to walk around the street with my completely healthy, normal, harmless body and make that statement, that I love my foreskin. It's a valuable body part."
He also argued that nudity in the Pride parade has a "long, historical basis" and is "an integral part of the heritage of Pride" and sexual liberation. He pointed to the example of the World Naked Bike Ride, which doesn't result in arrests.
Lam pointed out that women can participate in the parade barebreasted, which is not against the law, but bottom nudity is illegal, he said. He added that one of their priorities is to welcome everyone.
"The parade is a family event and the main consideration for us is the space that we're creating and the environment that we're creating. We want to make sure that people come out to the parade feel comfortable and that…they're not alienated in any way….Nudity is against the law and we want to make sure that the people who do come out who are law-abiding citizens are enjoying the parade to the extent that they should be enjoying the parade."
Callender theorized that the VPS was trying to "sanitize" the parade because it received civic status on May 29. Lam denied that the rejection had anything to do with that, or any of their partners.
Callender said that if they are not accepted in the parade, they may show up in protest.
"Nudity is the stupidest human taboo and we need to stop it," he said.