Where Vancouver leads in LGBT progress: Local advocates break new ground in religious acceptance

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      In the past, many LGBT people may have felt rejected, unwelcome, or excluded from religion. Although some religious organizations and churches have been slow—or even unwilling—to become queer-inclusive, others have been quite progressive, and a number of local individuals and organizations have contributed to advances.

      Take, for instance, minister Gary Paterson, the first openly gay person elected to be moderator of the United Church of Canada (from 2012 to 2015). Paterson, who has served as minister at Ryerson, First, and St. Andrew’s–Wesley United churches, is married to Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson, who himself became the first openly gay person ordained by the United Church (in 1992) and performed some of the first legal same-sex weddings in the province.

      When Michael Ingham was the eighth bishop of the diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada from 1994 to 2013, his approval of his diocese’s decision to bless same-sex unions, after a lengthy process, sparked controversy, intense media attention, and a split within the Lower Mainland diocese. Meanwhile, Rev. Peter Elliott of Christ Church Cathedral legally married his male partner in 2009 in a civil ceremony and has worked toward the approval of same-sex unions by Anglican churches for about two decades, even making a presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council in England in 2005. In 2016, voting results against a resolution in favour of same-sex unions were reversed after a vote-count error was discovered—the resolution will become church law when ratified in Vancouver in 2019.

      Elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha told the Georgia Straight that in the past, he faced lack of support and even denial that LGBT Sikh people existed. But things have since changed: his Surrey-based social and resource group for South Asian LGBT people marched for the first time in Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade in March, as well as in the Surrey Vaisakhi parade in April.

      Tru Wilson (centre, between host Tamara Taggart and her mother Michelle) and her family will be 2017 Vancouver Pride parade marshals.

      This year, Tru Wilson and her family were chosen as marshals for the Vancouver Pride parade for their advocacy for trans youth. When Tru wasn’t allowed to attend Ladner’s Sacred Heart school as a girl, her family filed a human-rights complaint against the school and the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese. The result? In 2014, the Catholic school board became one of the first in North America to develop a gender-expression policy. The B.C.–based nonprofit Options for Sexual Health honoured Tru as this year’s Sexual Health Champion in February.

      When host Tamara Taggart asked Tru if she wanted to be an advocate for the rest of her life, Tru responded: “It’s not like I feel like I need to; I feel that I want to.”

      The Vancouver Pride parade takes place next Sunday (August 6).

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