Celebrations started early for this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
At the 14th annual IDAHOT Breakfast hosted by Qmunity, the provincial resource centre for queer, trans and two-spirited people, Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson wore a rainbow tie while making his last speech as a representative for the event. His tie matched the one his husband had bought for them for the special occasion.
Stevenson started by celebrating the opening of QMunity’s new location later this year.
“I’ve been dreaming about a centre of this kind for 38 years,” Stevenson, who was president of QMunity in the early ’70s, told the crowd over the clinking of silverware on plates. By 7:30a.m. the banquet hall was full of queer organizations and allies, all of whom looked as amazing as the $150 breakfast burritos being served.
The new building will host a resource centre on the main level while supplying permanent housing to people living with HIV and AIDS through McLaren Housing Society of British Columbia, as well as for refugees escaping queer-hating communities.
“It’s the first centre I know of that’s combining these three initiatives under one roof,” says Stevenson.
Earlier this week, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to designate a “Year of the Queer.” On May 23, pride, trans and two-spirited flags will be raised at City Hall when festivities will be held to jointly celebrate the anniversary of 15 queer organizations.
But Stevenson says he is still concerned about the future of the queer community.
“None of the achievements we’ve made are written in stone and very few individuals in the community are stepping into politics,” Stevenson said, urging the crowd to consider getting involved.
“Otherwise it’s just straight people speculating about queer issues. We need to be elected not just to bring matters to the table, but also to be seen so people think of us and look out for us.”
Stevenson served as Gay UBC’s president before gaining attention for a 12-year battle with the United Church of Canada, which in 1992 ended in him being the first openly gay person ordained in a Christian denomination. After the NDP asked him to run for MLA, he became the first openly gay person elected to provincial parliament in 1996, cabinet minister in 2000, and city council in 2002.
When asked if he’ll run for city council, QMunity’s new executive director Osmel Guerra Maynes laughed.
“I just came here. Let me breathe a bit!” he said. Of Latino and black background, Maynes arrived in Vancouver one week before starting his new role on April 16.
“My work is on the ground, grassroots, pounding the pavement and ensuring that diverse voices are heard.”
He wants to help Vancouver understand that the queer community needs more diverse spaces. “The queer community encompasses everyone. Bi-POC folks, black, Indigenous, women, lesbians, trans people — we’re all part of that community.”
Speakers who shared the podium with Stevenson and Maynes included emcee Charmaine De Silva, NEWS 1130 director; Anita Braha, the chair of Vancity’s board of directors; Morgan Camley, chair of QMunity’s board of directors; Lucia Misch, a spoken word artist from the Bay Area; and Dr. Mary Bryson, the researcher behind Cancer Margins, a nationally funded project examining how minority sexuality and/or gender shape cancer health experiences.
Author: Becca Clarkson