Vancouver Pride Parade gears toward future
"We haven't been able to keep an official count these past few years, but we know we broke the half-million mark," Vancouver Pride Society president Ken Coolen, said, reflecting on last week's Gay Pride March.
He said a wide range of people of different ages and cultural groops came to the event. In particular, a Muslim queer group, Salaam, drew loud applause from onlookers as they walked by. Coolen said that while many people still struggle with homosexuality, society on a whole has become more accepting of them.
"For some people, due to religious or cultural beliefs, sexual orientaiton is always going to be a challenge for them, but socially, things are definitely becoming better for them," Coolen said. "Whether people realize it or not, being gay, lesbian, bi, is not limited to any one ethnicity."
Coolen said that the while the gay, lesbian and transgendered community has gained more legal rights than ever, it still faces staggering obstacles around the world.
"We always hear there's more progress for gay rights, with New York being the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage," Coolen said. "But if you think about it, New York is only the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage."
"Locally, really severe hate crimes happening," he said, despite the city's image as a tolerant and diverse city. "Vancouver is actually the hate crime capital in Canada."
Coolen said that it has tried to involve more people from different sections of the gay community. One of the new events this year, he explained, was Grey & Glamorous, a dance event for gay seniors (and gay allies) which took place at the 411 Seniors Centre on Dunsumuir.
"A parade is a parade is a parade, but it brings together people from all sections in society," he said. "We're really focused on having smaller events so that people can celebrate the way that they want to."
As for new developments with the Pride Parade in the future, Coolen said that it was too early to tell, but that Sean Bickerton from the NPA was campaigning for the Pride parade to obtain civic status so that the city can pick up the policing and sanitation costs.
"The civic status thing is not something that we were instigating," he said. "But I think most people don't realize that when the Chinese New Year or any free event comes on, we're paying for all that."