Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rainbow Warrior 2014 goes to...

TORONTO, ON, July 15, 2014 – Pride Toronto is pleased to announce that all the organizers and volunteers of WorldPride 2014 Toronto have been chosen by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network to receive the “Rainbow Warrior 2014” award “for their outstanding support for international LGBT solidarity and LGBT culture.”
"WorldPride 2014 Toronto has been an extraordinary LGBT happening on a global stage—confirming the strength of expanding the rainbow over international borders   and focusing on the powerful role of LGBT culture in the battle against homophobia, intolerance and silence," says Bill Schiller, secretary general of the ILGCN Information Secretariat - Stockholm.
The ILGCN is supported by the Nordic LGBT cultural organization Tupilak. Earlier ILGCN and Tupilak awards have gone to South Africa's Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, International Humanists, the Auschwitz Museum Poland, Sweden's Civil Rights Defenders, the European Union's LGBT network, the former Council of Europe's human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg and others.
WorldPride 2014 Toronto was an international gathering and celebration of human rights, featuring the Trans* Pride March, the Dyke March, the WorldPride parade, and Canada’s largest LGBTQ arts & culture festival. The WorldPride Human Rights Conference, presented by the Bonham Centre at the University of Toronto, drew participants from over 50 countries. Past Pride Toronto International Grand Marshals (IGMs)—activists who lead the Pride parade each year and represent a region of the world—also returned for the event, joining 2014 IGM Anna Rekhviashvili from Georgia.
“We are honoured that WorldPride 2014 Toronto has been chosen as the recipient of the “Rainbow Warrior 2014” award,” said Shelley Craig, co-chair of the Pride Toronto Board of Directors. “It was a 10-day celebration grounded in the struggle for global human rights, and the dialogue we were privileged to host will be the catalyst for future community-building around the world.”

For more information visit www.worldpridetoronto.com

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vancouver Pride Announces its 2014 Grand Marshals

Vancouver, BC (May 30, 2014) – The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) is proud to announce director Gwen Haworth, activist Dean Nelson, and the late ted northe as Grand Marshals for the 2014 #Vancouver Pride Parade.

Grand Marshals are local, national, or international heroes who have done great things to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues and create safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community. Grand Marshals inspire us with their courage, conviction and dedication. Each year, up to three outstanding individuals from the LGBTQ community are recognized and celebrated during Pride Week and lead our entries during the Pride Parade, occurring on August 3rd, 2014.

Gwen Haworth is a queer trans* filmmaker and community activist best known for her feature documentary She’s a Boy I Knew. Recently, her video work has included social equity projects for RainCity Housing and Support Society, installations for the Museum of Vancouver, and a new short film about local poet Antonette Rea entitled a woman with a past, which premiered at the 2014 Berlinale Film Festival.
Gwen works at Vancouver Coastal Health as the educator for Prism Services, facilitating LGBT2Q+ inclusion workshops within non-profit housing, social service and health care settings. She has volunteered with the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre and the Vancouver Parks Board's Trans* and Gender Variant Inclusion Working Group. She currently volunteers on the City of Vancouver's LGBTQ Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors for Out On Screen, and the Advisory Committee for Safe Choices, a program within the Ending Violence Association of BC.

In addition to producing the Whistler Ski and Pride Festival and co-founding the Mr. Gay World mentorship program, Dean Nelson co-founded the first Olympic Pride House at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The Olympic Pride House is a pavilion that celebrates diversity and creates a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer (LGBTQ) athletes. The Olympic Pride House shines a light on homophobia in sports, and has expanded to the 2012 Olympics in London Olympics, 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Rio FIFA World Cup 2014 and the PanAm Games in Toronto 2015.

ted northe, a local LGBTQ legend, contributed over 56 years of activism before unfortunately passing away this past spring. ted northe organized the first Pride March in Canada (1963); created the Courts of Canada (1964), the first Gay Businessman's Guild (1970), the first gay sports league in Canada (1974); and co-founded the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society (1975), the first LGBT First Nations Group in the country. He held the title of Empress of Canada for 50 years. In his lifetime, northe was a leader in the fight against the AIDS Epidemic and dedicated himself to the advancement of rights for the LGBTQ community. He was a driving force in defining the modern LGBTQ Community and Human Rights Movement in Canada.

This year, the annual Vancouver Pride Parade will occur on Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 along the streets of downtown Vancouver. The Vancouver Pride Parade is the largest single-day celebration in western Canada, with over 650,000 spectators coming out to watch 4,000 participants march along the streets of downtown Vancouver in a celebration of the diversity and spirit of the LGBTQ community.
The Pride Parade will begin at the intersection of Robson Street and Thurlow Street, travel west along Robson Street to Denman Street, turn left on Denman Street, travel south to Beach Avenue where it will turn left before ending in the Dispersal Area, located on Pacific Street from Jervis Street to Thurlow Street.

About the Vancouver Pride Society
The VPS is a not-for-profit organization that brings together members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirited and Queer (LGBTQ) community, their friends, allies and supporters in celebration of the unique spirit and culture of our community by producing quality, inclusive events. The VPS strengthens the sense of community and contributes to the vibrancy, health and overall well being of all persons in the LGBTQ community.

Vancouver Pride Events
In addition to the Pride Parade, the VPS will produce a full roster of exciting events this summer, including:
East Side Pride, Grandview Park, Saturday, June 28th from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm.
Gay Day @ Playland, PNE Grounds, Saturday, July 19th from 11:00 pm - 6:00 pm.
Pride Run & Walk, Brockton Oval, Saturday, July 26th from 8:00 am - 11:00 am.
Picnic in the Park, Brockton Oval, Saturday, July 26th from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm.
Davie Street Block Party, Davie Street Village, between Jervis Street and Burrard Street, Friday, August 1st, 4:00 pm - 12:00 pm.
Terry Wallace Memorial Breakfast, Davie St. and Bute Street, Saturday, August 2st, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm.

Sunset Beach Pride Festival, Sunset Beach, Sunday, August 3rd, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm.
Pride Parade, Downtown Vancouver, Sunday, August 3rd, 12:00 pm. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Russian Open Games in Moscow 26Feb-02Mar2014

Tomorrow, on 26 February 2014, 'Russian LGBT Sport Federation' launch the Open Games in Moscow. The Games will last from 26 February to 2 March, and will combine competitions in eight kinds of sport with a variety of educational, advocacy, cultural, and entertaining events. The Russian Open Games are now bringing together more than 300 guests and participants from 11 countries and 22 regions of Russia, being the first LGBT sport and advocacy event of such scale in Russia.

Inspired by the Olympic presence and by Gay Games, activists with 'Russian LGBT Sport Federation' now face a tough fight. No impressions or hopes should remain that the organizers of this sporting event get to benefit from the post-Olympic flair in Russia – because they do not. Naturally, the assurances of non-discrimination and equal access to sport by the Russian authorities do not extend to anything outside of the Sochi games. The ‘excellent’, ‘welcoming’ atmosphere at the Olympics that has been praised by athletes and by gay members of some country delegations was nothing but a privilege awarded to them, and has nothing to do with reality – including the reality of doing sports in Russia.

The word ‘open’ in the Open Games’ title, being a conventional reference to ‘open to all’, ‘with an open mind’ and many other wonderful concepts, comes at a special price for Elvina Yuvakaeva, Konstantin Yablotskiy, and their fellow activists from ‘Russian LGBT Sport Federation’. For them, making the Open Games happen means navigating their way to openness through barriers, threats, and prejudice. Even harder – it goes hand in hand with a must for them to constantly question their aspirations, boundaries, and tactics, and, most importantly, to redefine ‘openness’ itself.

Imagine: in order to secure venues for the competitions (note:  a whole variety of them is needed given the format of the event), Elvina and her colleagues have to conceal from venue owners what the event actually is. ‘After several refusals from venues, we made the decision to omit most details in our negotiations with potential lenders. At present, management at only one venue is informed about the nature of our event,’ says Elvina Yuvakaeva. Additionally, the organizers had to prepare to respond to any last-minute requirements from the management. Elvina says that, among other measures, they selected smaller, mobile banner holders ‘to be able to fold them up and remove right away should the venue owners request it’. Slogans and rainbow-themed decorations will not be used at most venues either.

A recent letter from the infamous St Petersburg deputy Vitaly Milonov to Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin requesting that the Open Games are cancelled means that the Open Games are for now the number one target for homophobic leaders and their support groups. Responding to ‘high risks of attacks by aggressive groups on the participants, simply speaking – pogroms’, Elvina says the Russian LGBT Sport Federation keeps all addresses and locations in secret, hires security guards, and has to close  the event’s doors to those who did not manage to register in advance and pass the security check.
Another difficult decision for the organizers was refusal of participation to people under 18 years old (and there were several who wanted to sign up) – yet another illustration of the isolation that the ‘propaganda’ law brings to young LGBTs.

Even one day before the event the organizers cannot be sure that homophobic groups do not attempt to threaten venues to cancel prior agreements. That their locations were not leaked to extremists and street thugs. That there won’t be bomb hoax calls – by example of St Petersburg’s Side by Side Film Festival. What the organizers are sure about, however, is that the event will take place despite all these risks, and that those who are coming to Moscow this week will be persistent and determined to make it happen – because they join not simply to compete, but to claim their rights and to work their way to greater openness.

Let’s all thank those who have supported the Open Games and help to make them happen through media and fundraising outreach, as well by participation. These are hundreds of individuals and more than a dozen of organizations and groups internationally, including the Federation of Gay Games, Open Society Foundations, Athlete Ally, Arcus Foundation, COC Nederland, Amnesty International, British Embassy and embassies of Finland and France in Moscow. Open Games are supported by the coalition of LGBT organizations: ‘Russian LGBT Network’, ‘Coming Out’, Side by Side, ‘Rakurs’, and Out Loud.

UESE IN SOCHI - An Interview with Konstantin Yablotskiy, Russian LGBT Sports Federation from UESE on Vimeo.

Let’s wish best of luck to friends at ‘Russian LGBT Sport Federation’, and let’s join them in their efforts at least by watching closely the developments.

Anastasia Smirnova

Spokesperson for the coalition of LGBT organizations:
‘Russian LGBT Network’ movement
‘Coming Out’ LGBT organization
Russian LGBT Sport Federation
‘Side by Side’ LGBT Film Festival
‘Rakurs’ LGBT organization

Out Loud project