This event, part of Vancouver Pride Week, and taking place on July 29th, featured two excellent—and locally-made!—documentaries.
she’s a boy i knew
This film by Gwen Haworth chronicles her transition from male to female over the course of several years. It uses her own narration, as well as interviews with her parents, sisters and ex-wife along with old photos and home movies of her family, to weave a brutally honest and moving story. She takes us through every step of her (complex, often frustrating) transition process and, without judging, lets her loved ones express their feelings and concerns, in their own words.
The movie’s message (at least, what I got from it) is that finding and accepting yourself is hard work, but definitely worth it in the end. It looks like Gwen is now closer to her parents and siblings than she had ever been as Steven. And her mother was there with her at the screening. How awesome is that?
Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride
I love this flag, no matter how many tchotchkes it’s been made into
These are the words of Ken Coolen, current President of the Vancouver Pride Society, in this documentary on Pride movements around the world: Vancouver (yay!), Toronto, New York, Sao Paulo, Warsaw and Moscow. It brings home the fact that while we’ve got it easy in Vancouver (and Toronto, and New York, and…) there are many parts of the world where waving a rainbow flag runs a real risk of getting you beat up, or worse. There are 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal, including a few carrying the death penalty.
Even when it doesn’t, things aren’t exactly rosy. Warsaw’s parade attracts a couple of thousand people (as of 2007), and at least that many police officers, to protect them from some really scary (nationalist/hard-right Catholic) protesters. Moscow has similar anti-gay forces, except that their parades are illegal. Mayor Lushkov has consistently denied Moscow Pride a parade permit, which forces them to sneak about and perform quick public actions (though with lots of media present). Things are changing, though. The police still does arrest marchers, but they’re not as rough and don’t detain arrestees as long. So that’s progress, and it’s thanks to a few score incredibly brave, incredibly stubborn individuals.
A couple of segments looked back on our history: Ken interviewed one participant of the Stonewall Riots, as well as Gilbert Baker (creator of the rainbow flag, and one of three Grand Marshalls in our 2008 parade). It’s easy to think that the old queer revolutionary spirit is gone, what with the relentless partying around Pride Week, the massive sponsorship and commercialisation. But no, it’s not gone: witness the hilarious (and unofficial) New York Drag March, witness InterPride, where Ken initially connected with many of the people we saw in this film; witness efforts in Vancouver events to put our rights and privileges in perspective, with (e.g.) posters on Vancouver/Canadian queer history at the Pride Picnic, as well as a map showing how queers are treated worldwide.
And it’s easy to think that these parades are pretty pointless, except as huge parties and billboards for corporations eager to court the queer dollar. But hey, there’s more to Pride than this. It’s about visibility, and empowerment, and connection. Ken argues that Pride marches/parades are not the end, but a step on the road to true equality and human rights. And that the rainbow flag—overexposed though it is, maybe—has meaning, beyond just a pretty pattern to put on your bath towel.
I’m not as cynical as I used to be, back when I stayed away from the parade altogether. But even when I went back to watch, and later participate, I think I was missing something, and now I know what it is: a sense of perspective. About where Vancouver Pride fits in the grand scheme of things, and how yours truly, with VGVA, fits in Vancouver Pride. Food for thought, definitely. And, a renewed belief in the value of the parade.
Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, was one of the special guests at the screening, and will be one of this year’s parade Grand Marshalls. After the screening I plunked down $5 for a lovely Moscow Pride ’06 keychain (which they were selling to raise funds). It’s the least I can do; gawd knows it’s not like they’ve got corporate sponsors!