Alternative Pride Festival creates a new kind of inclusivity

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      It’s time to dust off your rainbow flags: Pride Week is nearly upon us. Hundreds of thousands of participants took to the streets for last year’s official parade—and with events scheduled to celebrate everything from spirituality and homosexuality, being a queer senior, and different facets of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay culture, the official festival allows different groups to honour their identity.

      Cultural organizer Matt Troy, however, believes that Pride can be improved. Recognizing that the city’s mainstream events are based on celebrating a specific trait, Troy created another option. With the Alternative Pride Festival—a multi-day grassroots music and arts celebration—Troy aims to offer an inclusivity that Vancouver’s existing festivities lack.

      “We’re very different to typical Pride events,” Troy tells the Straight at the Vancouver Art and Leisure office. “We offer parties for everyone—not just for individual categories. Pride isn’t simply for lesbians, or gay people, or another particular group. Aren’t we past that? It’s 2016. Pride is for everybody.

      “If you have a boyfriend and you’re a girl,” he continues, “be proud of that. If you’re straight but you like swinging, be proud of that. You should be happy whatever your preferences, regardless of your gender or sexual identification. There’s so much variation even on the straight spectrum. There’s kink, there’s fetish, there’s wife swapping, there’s group sex. We all have straight friends that are shamed for their own version of heterosexuality. Nobody should ever have to feel that. And that’s what our celebrations are about.”

      Curating six events over four days, Alternative Pride is dedicated to throwing parties all over the city. Staging activities in locations as obscure as Fortune Sound Club’s underground project space, the basement beneath Celebrities Nightclub, and a two-level shipbuilding warehouse, Troy has sourced settings that have never before been used for Pride events. By establishing new sites for art, culture and sexuality, the festival aims to challenge the public’s expectations.

      “We wanted to offer spaces that were free of any cultural baggage,” Troy says. “A place where people could bring their straight friends as well as their gay friends, or their friends who do art, or theatre, and have a little bit there for everyone. Alternative Pride is about creating a setting where people can be themselves, rather than using a location that implies how you’re supposed to act or look.”

      Not just eliminating discrimination with the locale, Troy has set up a number of opportunities to make sure the festival is accessible to everyone. Acknowledging that a multi-event wristband might price some customers out of the market, organizers have ensured that no-one will be turned away for a lack of means.

      “We don’t want Alternative Pride to propagate the same exclusivity that gay culture came out of,” Troy says. “And to be a post-exclusive society, we need everyone to be able to come. So we’re reserving a percentage of our tickets for those who don’t have the funds, or have recently experienced some tough times. It means that the general wristbands will cost a little bit more, but at the same time we’re creating an atmosphere that is more enriching and diverse for everyone.”

      “Alternative Pride was created to move Vancouver’s nightlife forward in terms of intersectionality between the city’s many communities,” Troy continues, “whether that be trans, gay, bi, straight, hipster, techno, underground, or anything. And to do that, we’ve created a festival where all those people can go and mingle. You’re never going to have new experiences if you don't integrate with different kinds of people. Alternative Pride is making that happen.”



      THURSDAY (JULY 28)
      Gallery 1965, 1965 Main St, Front Entrance
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      Following in the footsteps of other major cultural hubs in the world, Vancouver's first Trans Pride Art Showcase highlights the important contributions trans people make to the visual, musical, and performance arts. The night is open to everyone. 

      FRIDAY (JULY 29)
      Fortune Project Space, 147 E Pender
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      The event seeks to nurture youth LGBTQ+ talent through performances, artwork, workshops and talks from established queer artists and mentors in the city. This activity is for all ages, and has been curated by queer teens for everyone, with special emphasis on providing unique networking and learning opportunities to young people.

      Vancouver Art and Leisure, 1965 Main St, Backdoor entrance
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      Arguing that “love and dance floors are not exclusive”, Pride Is For Everyone invites you to dance the night away with old and new friends in a gender-positive, sexuality-positive, and body-positive space. Everyone is welcome. 

      Fortune Project Space
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      Pracehall is Western Canada's first LGBTQ dancehall night. For years, the dancehall genre has perpetuated homophobic and transphobic language. With Prancehall, Queer DJs reclaim the art-form and the floor. Very limited capacity.

      SATURDAY (JULY 30)
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      Mask for Mask is a masquerade ball in an epic and unforgettable location: Celebrities basement. This massive venue will play host to hundreds of veiled pride revellers, which encourages attendees to get as kinky or as artistic as their heart desires. Everyone is welcome, as long as you bring a mask. 

      SUNDAY (JULY 31)
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      One of Canada's most talked about and scandalous LGBTQ parties that has reclaimed the queer dance floor in incredible locations throughout the city. For this event, Backdoor will take over a two level ship-building warehouse (The Villa) for one night only. 

      Check out the Alternative Pride website for tickets and passes


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