LGBT activist Ellen Woodsworth emphasizes need for queer safe spaces throughout Metro Vancouver

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      Former city councillor Ellen Woodsworth is one of the LGBT trailblazers in our city who participated in both the women's movement as well as Vancouver's LGBT  communities.

      As part of a panel discussion on the history of queer activism at an SFU Geography class in June, Woodworth talked about a number of topics, including how, as a city councillor, she had worked with councillor Tim Stevenson, who was also openly gay, to create the city's first LGBTQ2s, women's, and multicultural advisory committees, as well as to hold the first Stonewall celebration in the city's council chambers.

      While Woodsworth said that she's been glad to see that it's easier to be out as queer in some places in the city, she said it's been a "big shocker" to her to see things getting worse.

      "I've never encountered such homophobia and racism, because I'm in an interracial couple, as I have walking around the Fraser River for 20 years—I don't think it's been as bad," she said.

      Consequently, she cited the need to expand Pride celebrations beyond specific areas, such as the West End or Commercial Drive.

      "That's another reason why you can't stop speaking out because you find you've created some space in one place but it doesn't mean you've built it up," she said. "I mean, we keep doing the Pride marches in the West End but we don't move them over to South Vancouver or to North Vancouver or even to Dunbar. And we need to do that—we need to create safe spaces wherever we are and we need to join forces with people so that it can have some meaning and shift the discussion and shift the freedom of people to come out, or be out, in those spaces."

      Nanaimo and Surrey both held their first Pride parades this year.

      For last year's Pride issue, the Georgia Straight explored what progress is being made in various suburbs. There's been progress in New Westminster, and emerging developments on the North Shore and in the Fraser Valley. While much criticism has concentrated on Surrey's delay in support for LGBT and Pride causes, Richmond also lags behind much of Metro Vancouver.

      This year's Fraser Valley Pride Celebration will be held on Saturday (July 16) in Abbotsford while New West Pride will be holding its celebrations in New Westminister from August 6 to 13.