For the Georgia Straight’s 19th 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 2014.
Best floating mystery art
You’ve probably seen it in False Creek and wondered if it’s a working barge, a squatter’s shanty, or some strange, seaborne industrial artifact. In fact, it’s a sculptural installation by Cedric, Nathan, and Jim Bomford. Built from salvaged materials, it’s meant to evoke the resource camps and residential settlements along the West Coast. Its name, Deadhead, refers to the way those communities, and our industrial-marine past, have been set adrift. Not everybody loves it, though: “We’ve even had people swim out to tell us it’s a horrible eyesore,” Cedric told the Straight, but the artist is just happy it’s arousing interest and questions.
Best literal sign of a transgender park
The Vancouver park board’s inclusive approach to transgender issues sure seemed to have an impact. In April, the board approved 77 recommendations to make its facilities more accessible for transgender and gender-variant individuals. Shortly thereafter, one of their parks decided to come out of the closet. Dude Chilling Park (otherwise known as Guelph Park) had its name changed yet again (albeit by spray-paint on the sign) to Girl Chilling Park in August. Then the sign went missing. We suspect it’s simply laying low as it undergoes its transition.
Best sign that Vancouver’s bear population is not endangered
After nine months of renovations, the PumpJack Pub unveiled its expansion into its neighbouring venue, thereby doubling its space and increasing its seating capacity from 107 to 244. That’s one massive man cave!
Best new additions to Vancouver’s rainbow connection
In 2013, rainbow crosswalks were unveiled at the intersection of Davie and Bute streets in the West End, along with a set of rainbow-coloured picnic tables in the popular cordoned-off Bute Street Plaza. This year, a Davie Village hotel joined in the colourful fun by unveiling a 17-metre-by-seven-metre rainbow up high on top of the Davie Street Sandman Suites. What’s more, three blocks of rainbow LED strip lighting along Davie Street (from Burrard to Jervis) went up permanently during Pride Week. As much as Vancouver has had a reputation for being No Fun City, the Davie Village certainly begs to differ.
Best way for Surrey to prove Rob Ford is not its mayor
Fly the rainbow flag on top of City Hall during Pride Week.
Best LGBT ally showing grace under pressure
The Vancouver school board faced the trying task of enduring three jam-packed and fiery public meetings in May about proposed updates to their sexual-orientation and gender-identity policy. More than 90 speakers had their say at these hearings, which ranged from the emotionally moving to the hateful. In June, Vancouver school trustees voted 7-2 in favour of the revisions, which were transgender- and gender-variant–inclusive. (The only two opposed were Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, who were expelled from the Non-Partisan Association for holding a news conference against the amendments.)
Best new home for Qmunity
B.C.’s queer resource centre has long languished at its long-overgrown space at the corner of Bute and Davie streets. As a cramped second-floor venue, it has struggled with being non–wheelchair-accessible and has been on a long-term search for a new location. Nonetheless, the organization, founded in 1979 and formerly known as the Centre (prior to 2009), was one of three recipients of the City of Vancouver Award of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion in June. It serves more than 35,000 people every year. When city council approved the West End community plan in November 2013, it included a new purpose-built facility for Qmunity. Cheers to all involved in giving the organization a much-needed, well-deserved, and overdue new home.
Best support for LGBT rights during the Sochi Games
The world turned its critical eye on Russia’s antigay legislation as the Sochi Winter Games took off in February. As Vancouver City Hall and the legislature in Victoria flew rainbow flags during the Olympics in solidarity with LGBT Russian people and athletes, Coun. Tim Stevenson headed a mission to Sochi to have a meeting with the International Olympic Committee about LGBT rights.
Best expansion of gay men’s health services in the suburbs
Health Initiative for Men
The Health Initiative for Men—which serves gay, bisexual, queer, and all men who have sex with men (MSM) with sexual-health information and STI–testing—previously expanded from its Davie Street location to open a second clinic on Commercial Drive. In August, HIM opened a third clinic in New Westminster, the first outside Vancouver, to serve the growing LGBT and MSM populations in the suburbs. More clinics are slated for Surrey and the Fraser Valley in the near future.
Best signs of increasing local LGBT acceptance
Rights don’t always translate into acceptance on an everyday level, so it’s not just the big news headlines of legislation changes that reflect shifts in acceptance. Rather, it’s the visible fact that LGBT couples feel more comfortable and confident enough to make public displays of affection throughout the Lower Mainland in areas not traditionally deemed LGBT–friendly. At a time when antigay legislation and persecution is a reality in numerous countries around the world, and when the same-sex-marriage debate continues on stateside, let’s give a huge high-five to local allies who are making LGBT dreams come true by not allowing baseless fears to get in the way of opening minds and hearts.