Vancouver's Pride Legacy Awards 2016 celebrate LGBT community shining lights

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      It was a night celebrating the strengths and accomplishments of local individuals and organizations, who have contributed selflessly to social progress and improvement.

      Of course, it was also an evening with a recurring theme of gravity and regrouping.

      The 2016 Pride Legacy Awards, held at Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on June 18, brought together local LGBT communities one week after the shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub sent shockwaves across the world.

      Vancouver Pride Society president Alan Jernigan began the evening with a moment of silence for all those affected by the Orlando massacre.

      "The Vancouver Pride Society exists to bring the community together to celebrate, and after a week marked by pain, grief, and fear, I am so happy we can all be here tonight to celebrate the work of some amazing people who fill our community with love, light, and hope," Jernigan said.

      Vancouver Pride Society President Alan Jernigan
      Craig Takeuchi

      Host Barb Snelgrove kept things amusing with her biting humour but she also gave the audience a spirited pep talk.

      "I do want to tell everyone that this Pride season, with what happened in Orlando: don't be afraid," she said. "Be emboldened. Get out there. Make sure that everyone sees how loud and proud you are. Be louder, and prouder, than you have ever been before. Bring everyone with you. Strength in numbers."

      MC Barb Snelgrove
      Craig Takeuchi

      The acceptance speeches of award winners, with awards given out in each colour of the rainbow flag, were gracious, humble, and personal, and more often than not, stories touched upon deep emotional notes.

      Former Vancouver Pride Society president John Boychuk, who won the Red Legacy Award for lifetime achievement, talked about what Vancouver has become for LGBT people, but also gave a broader context for the incident in Orlando.

      "I didn't do what I did for my community because I wanted recognition," Boychuk said. "I wanted us to take a stand and be role models, to be role models for those people around the world that needed somewhere to go that was safe, and Vancouver became that as a destination, and in light of recent activities, sure, it brought a lot of emotion but we also see these atrocities happen every day in other countries around the world so if you think our work is done, it's not."

      Similarly, Montenegrin refugee and local activist Zdrávko Cimbaljevic drew attention to international struggles. In particular, Cimbaljevic, who won the Yellow Legacy Award for volunteer of the year, spoke about the plight of LGBT refugees, who seek to escape harsh circumstances in their home countries but often face discrimination here in Canada.

      "I never thought that I will be here today in Vancouver," Cimbaljevic said. "It was a struggling time as a gay refugee and when I speak about this, don't picture me but picture every gay, lesbian, bi, trans, two-spirit, queer refugee who's coming to this country because it is tough to leave everything behind, not because you want to, not because you plan to…you need to leave immediately. And that means leaving your family, your loved ones, your friends."

      Cimbaljevic continued on to elaborate upon perceptions of refugees.

      "It's tough to be different in the countries where difference is not accepted," he said. "I just want you to realize when someone is telling you they are [a] refugee in Canada, don't look at them differently. Look at them as a very good asset to this country, someone who can offer so much. I'm so, so proud to work in places where my differences are respected."

      However, LGBT people who have left home to find refuge in Vancouver don't just come from other countries.

      Artist John Ferrie, who won the Turquoise Legacy Award for art, talked about how he left Calgary because of homophobia he experience growing up there.

      "Growing up gay in Calgary in 1977 with the last name Ferrie was a hell like no other," Ferrie said. "I lived in my sketchbook, and I lived in fear, and I lived in self-loathing. But I found my self-esteem in Vancouver and man, oh, man, what a great city this is. And if somebody had told me in 1977, I would receive an award just for being me, man, oh, man, I would've thought they were goofed on skunk weed."

      Vancouver has its own history of attacks on the LGBT community, and this past year, the burning of a Pride rainbow flag at UBC made headlines.

      Rachel Garrett of UBC's Pride Collective, who won the Purple Legacy Award for youth, talked about the importance of safe spaces for LGBT people.

      "It really shook us to our core and challenged the safety that we had built on campus," Garrett said. "But in that moment, I knew instantly that if I went to the Pride Lounge on campus that there would be a collection of us there all going there to meet with each other and to share our feelings with each other….The safe feeling of community that we worked so hard to build, it was right there in that room with us, and that's the same feeling that I'm getting standing up here now with all of your amazing, powerful people in this room after the tragic events recently in Orlando."

      A new trans-activist award, coloured with a combination of pink and blue (reflecting the colours of the trans flag), was created in honour of Kimberly Nixon and sponsored by barbara findlay and Sheila Gilhooly. Nixon won a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal filed a case against Rape Relief, when she was rejected by the organization for not accepting her because she was transgender. Trans Alliance Society chair Morgane Oger won the inaugural award.

      The grand marshals for the 2016 Vancouver Pride parade were also announced: Syrian refugee and activist Danny Ramadan, Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha, Trans Alliance Society's Morgane Oger, and posthumous marshal Charity.

      This year, the Blue Award for community leaders was not given out due to a lack of nominations.

      The winners will also be honoured at the LOUD Legacy Luncheon at Forage restaurant on July 15.

      The winners are as follows:

      Pink Award: Sexual health and HIV/AIDS awareness

      Dean Thullner

      Thullner co-owns Volume Studio with his spouse, which is involved in fundraisers for AIDS Vancouver, A Loving Spoonful, and Friend for Life. He is the founder and producer for St. Paul's Hospital Foundation's Brilliant fundraising gala, and involved in other fundraising events such as Red: A Positive Day for Positive Living BC Society and Foundation of Hope's Strut Vancouver.

      Red Award: Lifetime achievement

      John Boychuk

      Boychuk served as Vancouver Pride Society board member, vice-president, and eventually president in 2009. He helped bring back events such as Gay Day at Playland and Picnic in the Park, and the creation of East Side Pride and Terry Wallace Memorial Breakfast.

      Orange Award: Sports

      Rohan Hare

      Hare has been a member of Vancouver Frontrunners since 2012, and he also works with Health Initiative for Men's Learn to Run clinics to coach apsiring runners.

      He became president of Vancouver Frontrunners in 2016 and a director of their annual Pride Run and Walk.

      Yellow Award: Volunteer of the Year

      Zdrávko Cimbaljevic

      Cimbaljevic, a refugee and activist from Montenegro, has been involved with Rainbow Refugee, which assists LGBTQ refugees, has participated in and spoken at numerous fundraising and activist events, and also works for AIDS Vancouver.

      Green Award: Safe Spaces

      Myriam Dumont

      Dumont has been an elementary school teacher since 2008 who makes social-justice issues central to her curriculum. She advised the LGBTQ policy for VSB to be trans-inclusive, is part of the Pride Education Network, is on the B.C.'s Teachers' Federation Committee for Action on Social Justice, has conducted workshops across B.C. for elementary and secondary teaching staff on LGBTQ issues, and created the group Queer Families of Vancouver.

      Turquoise Award: Art

      John Ferrie

      Ferrie attended Emily Carr College of Art and Design and started contributing his art work for fundraising purposes after the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He has donated up to 30 paintings a year to numerous HIV/AIDS or LGBT organizations such as B.C. Persons With AIDS, YouthCo, AIDS Vancouver, A Loving Spoonful, B.C. Positive Living, Friends for Life, and more.

      Purple Award: Youth

      Rachel Garrett

      At age 14, Garrett started alliance club for LGBTQ students, which presented anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia procedure to their school district. Garret also helps to run UBC's Pride Collective.

      Trans-activist award

      Morgane Oger

      Oger is a member of the City of Vancouver's LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee, a secretary of the Vancouver Board of Education's District Parent Advisory Committee, and the chair of the Vancouver-based Trans Alliance Society.

      Trans Alliance Chair Morgane Oger
      Craig Takeuchi