Posts Tagged ‘West End’

Ian all set for the 2012 Pride Parade – and just about to ask when they’re going to start throwing candy.

What started as a protest march in 1978 is now a major celebration and a huge tourism draw. The first Sunday in August, the Vancouver Pride Parade brings an estimated 600,000 people to the West End to celebrate the city’s large and vibrant gay and lesbian community. It’s always a great show.

Yesterday’s edition was the first KJ and I attended here since 2008. It’s one of the things we have missed about Vancouver in the years we’ve been away, so we’d been looking forward to the Pride Parade ever since we moved back.

Ian was pretty excited, too – but he was just in it for the candy. A lot of candy was thrown his way at the Pride Parade in Victoria last year.

The first highlight of this year’s parade was Vancouver’s own Jenna Talackova. Jenna became famous earlier this year when she successfully battled to be included in the Miss Universe Canada pageant after originally being disqualified because she is transgendered.

Grand Marshall Jenna Talackova.

Shortly after Jenna, one of the perennial crowd pleasers of the Pride Parade came along.

Every year, two entries are consistently the most entertaining, in my opinion. Dykes on Bikes is one of them – and, you guessed it, they’re a bunch of lesbians riding motorbikes.

You hear them coming well before you see them, but as soon as they pull into view the crowd goes nuts. They’re just really good fun. I wanted to include a video, but I’m apparently not set up for that. For now, a picture will have to suffice. Video of Dykes on Bikes is at http://youtu.be/PP9CRNa3f5M

Dykes on Bikes bring the noise.

Now, since the days of the original protest march back in 1978, Vancouver’s gay and lesbian community has made some serious progress. Getting fired for being gay is no longer on, being denied an apartment is also out, and for some years now, gays and lesbians have enjoyed the right to get married – just like everybody else. A mixed blessing that last one, perhaps…

Anyways, the area of the West End called Davie Village, which centres on Davie Street, is a thriving section of the city where a great many businesses have rainbow flag stickers in their windows to show they are gay friendly. And a great many of these businesses also had entries in the parade.

In fact, early into the parade yesterday, I started to wonder if there was any major business or institution which did not have an entry in the parade.

There were the first responders:

The Vancouver Fire Department was on hand.

The Vancouver Police Department was on hand.

And the paramedics were also on hand, which was a particularly good thing since it was hot as hell, and it was nice to know help was close by in case somebody passed out.

All sorts of other groups were there, too:

The Vancouver Men’s Choir.

The Vancouver School Board, which is working hard to reduce bullying in schools, was out in force.

Some ladies who are clearly not fans of oil tankers or pipelines – quite a hot topic in B.C. at the moment.

Some folks looking to legalize cannabis – a much easier sell than the oil pipelines currently being discussed.

The Terminal City Rollergirls were there too, spreading the gospel of roller derby. No sign of Ellen Page or Drew Barrymore, though, unfortunately.

And (I'm not ashamed to admit it) one of my favourite entries in the parade, the Brazen Hussies.

And (I’m not ashamed to admit it) one of my favourite entries in the parade, the Brazen Hussies.

These are only a few of the groups we saw in the Pride Parade yesterday. And we only stayed for half of it, because it was so damn hot and Ian was starting to wilt. This gives you an idea of the liveliness of the gay and lesbian community, though.

An indication of the clout it now enjoys can be seen in the number of big companies which had entries in the parade:

The TD Bank is closed on Sundays, so one of Canada’s largest banks had a lot of folks in the parade.

The three major TV networks were represented:

CTV was on the scene.

So was Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC.

And B.C.’s top network, Global, was there in a big old bus.

Plenty of other companies were there, including two inspired entries from the good folks at Trojan Condoms and Viagra:

Whoever does the marketing for Trojan should get a raise.

Viagra was there to give folks a lift as well. (Sorry.)

Probably the best indication of how far the gay and lesbian community has come, though, is the fact that almost every political party from all levels of government made a point of being in the Pride Parade.

The BC Liberals, the BC NDP/Canada’s New Democrats, the Green Party, the Conservative Party of Canada were all there. And so was Dr. Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP for the host riding of Vancouver Centre – who, along with Dykes on Bikes, is one of the perennial crowd pleasers I mentioned earlier.

Full disclosure here: I worked on Hedy’s re-election campaign in the 2006 federal election. And I’ll tell you what, you have not worked hard until you have worked for Hedy.

While Hedy makes her people work hard, she also works hard herself. She provides excellent service to her constituents and is one of the best friends the gay and lesbian community has. She was a strong advocate for same-sex marriage before it became legal.

Hedy is very popular with the gay community, and she clearly loves them back. Every year, she has one of the most imaginative and fun entries in the Pride Parade.

This year, she was a mermaid. Video of Hedy the Mermaid and her entourage of sailors is here: http://tinyurl.com/bmt7dt2

The indomitable Dr. Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre, had yet another outstanding entry in this year’s Pride Parade. Sorry the photo isn’t better 😉

Now, every year when the Pride Parade rolls around, a few folks start griping. “Why do we need a Gay Pride Parade?” is one of the things you’ll hear. “We don’t have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.”

Well, it seems to me the folks who say such things are actually making the case for holding the Pride Parade. There are no Heterosexual Pride Parades because such parades are absolutely unnecessary.

I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where heterosexuals are murdered because they are sexually attracted to members of the opposite gender. Or where they are disowned by their families because of this. Or refused a job. Or fired from one. Or refused an apartment. Or beaten.

Gays and lesbians in Vancouver have moved beyond this for the most part. They have struggled for this and, in the process, helped Vancouverites reach a point where most of us couldn’t give a damn who anybody else sleeps with and where almost nobody bats an eye when they see a couple of guys, or a couple of women, holding hands or kissing.

But the fact is that this is a pretty unusual state of affairs. In most parts of the world – even some parts of B.C., unfortunately – gays and lesbians cannot live with anywhere near the level of freedom and safety enjoyed by the gay and lesbian community in Vancouver. And forget about holding a Pride Parade in a lot of these places.

Until gays and lesbians are fully accepted everywhere, and until Pride Parades can be held everywhere, Vancouver’s Pride Parade will continue to be not just a good time but a moral imperative.

P.S. – We – and by “we” I mean my son Ian – only found one fault with this year’s Pride Parade: not enough candy. Ian got lots of temporary tattoos, stickers, buttons and whatnot. But only one packet of Skittles. As far as he’s concerned, Victoria’s Pride Parade wins.

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This is how we roll in Vancouver.

This is how we roll in Vancouver.

A few years ago, my wife’s mother and father were visiting from Korea. During their visit, something happened that is a perfect illustration of what I think is the best thing about Vancouver’s West End – the incredible sense of freedom it provides.

We were at a noodle shop on Robson Street. The in-laws were facing the street. KJ and I were facing the kitchen. About midway through the meal, KJ’s mom suddenly started to exclaim something in Korean. I looked up and her eyes were wide with surprise.

KJ’s dad looked up to see what she was so startled by. His eyes went wide too, and then he also started speaking Korean excitedly.

KJ looked over her right shoulder towards the street, I looked over my left, we both saw about a hundred naked people riding bikes, and then we promptly turned our attention back to our noodles. We had both been living in the West End for years by the time this happened. Nothing shocked us any longer.

Our blasé attitude towards mass public nudity shocked KJ’s parents even more than that year’s edition of the Naked Bike Ride. This just isn’t done in Korea.

You’ll notice most of the naked bike riders are wearing helmets. That’s because it’s the law.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the West End is the only place in the world where folks feel free to ride their bikes naked. It’s called the World Naked Bike Ride, after all, and something like 70 cities took part last week. But I bet it takes a bit more courage to participate in most of those cities than it does in Vancouver.

As the naked bike riders rode past Ian and I along Denman Street, nobody said anything much about it. A bunch of folks watched, amused. A greater number of folks, though, just kept on walking as if nothing was happening. No insults hurled or anything like that. It was all very live-and-let-live, which sums up the West End quite nicely.

As long as you’re not hurting anybody, you can pretty much do whatever you like. You could probably walk naked down the street any day of the week if you wanted to. In fact, I once saw a dominatrix taking her “slave” out for a walk on Davie Street. She was wearing leather. He wasn’t wearing much of anything at all, except for some contraption around his willy – to which a leash was attached so his mistress could lead him around. As I recall, nobody said anything about that either.

The West End has to be one of the most tolerant and free places on Earth. I love it, and I couldn’t be happier to live here again after so many years away. A lot has changed in Vancouver, but the West End still seems to be as tolerant and free as ever.

Sure hope they put on some sunscreen.

No bike left behind.

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