Where’s my colour in Pride? Adding black and brown stripes to the rainbow flag

It has now been over a year since UBC’s rainbow Pride flag was burned down during the university’s annual OUTweek in February 2016. OUTweek is meant to bring recognition to students of diverse sexuality and gender identity backgrounds, and the burning of the rainbow Pride flag brought to the forefront a grim reality: not everyone agrees with what the flag stands for.

According to UBC student Brooklyn Fink, a transsexual woman who burned the flag down, “I intended in burning the flag only to illustrate my displeasure at the university’s failure to come to an agreement on the fact of the flag’s offensiveness.” As Fink stated in a VICE article, “I would like it if transsexual wasn’t included in LGBT.” What was clear in her motivation behind burning the flag — whether or not such an action was justified — is that Fink wished to express her disagreement in having her trans identity grouped together with the rest of the LGBTQ2+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirit) community.

Considering UBC’s rainbow Pride flag burning, some of you may be familiar with a more recent controversy within the LGBTQ2+ community regarding the rainbow Pride flag once again. There has been talk about adding black and brown stripes to the current rainbow Pride flag.

The addition of black and brown comes from Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, which unveiled the new Pride flag this month after saying, “It’s a push for people to start listening to people of colour in our community, start hearing what they’re saying, and really to believe them and to step up and say, ‘What can I do to help eradicate these issues in our community?’”.

On the other hand, disagreement to the addition of the black and brown stripes has stirred concern. One article from the Truth Revolt argues, “but wait, where’s the white stripe?  Is the flag — which now also has to represent skin tones — now discriminating against Caucasians?”

Since Gilbert Baker designed the original rainbow Pride flag in 1978, multiple interpretations of Pride flags have been created to reflect the nuanced identities within the LGBTQ2+ acronym. Take for example, that the colours blue, pink and white symbolize transgender people; pink, purple and blue for bisexuals; and black, grey, white, and purple for people who are asexual. Adding new colours to the Pride flag is not unprecedented – only this time black and brown are being considered to be added to the mainstream rainbow Pride flag rather than as a separate flag.

Vancouver City Hall raising the blue, pink and white transgender flag in July 2015.

Vancouver City Hall raising the blue, pink and white transgender flag in July 2015. Arlen Redekop/The Province

As a member of the LGBTQ2+ community, I personally have no issue with this.

I have no issue with adding black or brown because I acknowledge that right now, black and brown bodies are facing a disproportionate level of backlash within the LGBTQ2+ community for trying to make Pride parades political again by addressing the needs of their members who have not reached full equality yet. I know, controversial stuff, but I am siding with whichever groups of people currently continue to face ongoing systemic discrimination.

With that being said, is backlash to adding black and brown to the rainbow Pride flag in response to a certain demographic of LGBTQ2+ people who are seeking to assimilate into mainstream society? Does this assimilation include a resistance to political fragmentation?

According to Amin Ghaziani, associate professor of sociology at UBC and Canada research chair in sexuality and urban studies, we are living in a “post-gay” moment.

In a press release, he stated that our modern era is “characterized by a rapid assimilation of gays into the mainstream, not to mention the assimilation of straight culture into queer cultures as well.” In Ghaziani’s research of Princeton University’s LGBT student organizations’ name changes over a 38-year time-span (1972-2010) showed that LGBT student organizations gradually started to name themselves as more aligned to being as expansive and inclusive as possible — names like “Pride Alliance” replaced student organization names that had previously been more about distinct identities such as with the “Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Alliance.” I don’t think it is a coincidence that UBC’s very own “Pride Collective” follows this cultural shift too.

By moving towards an “Us and Them” rather than an “Us versus Them” logic, the change in LGBTQ2+ student organizations reflect the LGBTQ2+ community moving towards assimilation and inclusivity. No longer do some members within the LGBTQ2+ community see a need to distinguish themselves as separate from mainstream society. By understanding this important cultural shift in our society from Pride parades to LGBTQ2+ student organizations, how might we make sense of adding black and brown stripes to the rainbow Pride flag?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first Prime Minister to March in Vancouver’s 2016 Pride Parade.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first Prime Minister to March in Vancouver’s 2016 Pride Parade. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

While considering the addition of black and brown to the rainbow Pride flag, Ghaziani raises an important point to consider from an interview previously conducted by UBC: “Pride parades have become more community celebrations than political statements … [in which] concerns arise about the viability of distinct queer culture.” These “distinct queer cultures” are visible in the annual Vancouver Dyke March, Vancouver’s Queer People of Colour march last year, Winnipeg’s first-ever Transgender March this month and more recently the March on Pride in Vancouver in response to the police presence in Vancouver’s larger upcoming Pride parade this year. What these marches all share in common is a shared queer culture that is significant enough to be made into a separate march distinct from the annual Pride parade. Similar to how there are different types of Pride flags for transgender, bisexual, and asexual, there are different types of marches that signify contextually unique political needs.

Vancouver’s March On Pride held on Sunday, June 25, 2017 centered Black and Indigenous LGBTQ2+ voices.

Vancouver’s March On Pride held on Sunday, June 25, 2017 centered Black and Indigenous LGBTQ2+ voices. Janet Rerecich/DailyXtra

If there are multiple iterations of the annual Pride parade through separate marches, how might these help make sense of the controversy of adding black and brown stripes to the rainbow Pride flag? I think that as long as discrimination towards racialized black and brown queer people exists, the need for their existence must be acknowledged in the additional colours of the flag to reflect the most contemporary cultural issues in our society.

Just like how many of us make an effort to recognize and acknowledge that we are on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh land here at UBC as a form of activism until Indigenous rights are achieved, I see the additional colours to the Pride flag as a similar move — to soar with pride until racialized discrimination ceases to be an issue within the queer community.

So where does UBC proceed from here? Does UBC consider adding a black and brown stripe to the Pride flags they fly during their annual Pride week? Or does UBC consider raising the additional transgender flag, bisexual and asexual flags too? Such questions have no easy answers and should invoke deep critical thinking about the meaning of inclusivity within the LGBTQ2+ community.

In an ideal society, I would think that one symbol — which has undoubtedly been the mainstream rainbow flag — should represent and include everyone. But if it takes adding black and brown to the rainbow Pride flag to spark a discussion over the needs of racialized queer people, I am all for conversation starters about fighting against racism in the form of two additional black and brown stripes. Whether or not UBC chooses to add black and brown to their Pride flags next year, I hope that a conversation has precipitated over the fact that racialized issues are indeed relevant to the LGBTQ2+ community and are deserving of their own political rights.

Andy Holmes

It Runs in the Family: Vancouver Premiere

We recently spoke with Vancouver based filmmaker Joella Cabalu about her film It Runs in the Family – a film about her own family’s story about being Filipino immigrants in Canada, and their relationships to the queer people in their lives.
It Runs in the Family is premiering at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival:
Tuesday, August 16 at 9 pm, International Village
Tickets available starting July 14:
http://queerfilmfestival.ca/films/it-runs-in-the-family/

1) “It Runs in the Family” – why the title, and what inspired you to go on this journey with your brother?

Coming up with an intriguing title that captures the story and spirit of the film and catches people’s attentions is such a challenge! I had a placeholder title during the development and production of the film, but the current title came during an editing session. I had previously talked to a friend about the film and she suggested IRITF. It was in the back of my mind and I relayed it to my editor Alexandra Marriott. When I met with Alex the following day for an edit session, she had cut the title into the opening sequence and we (myself, producer Cari Green, Alex) all had the same “aha” moment! It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but also intrigues audiences into thinking what “it” could be!

The idea for the film sparked in my mind when I watched the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So”. Jay had recently come out to me and this film portrayed five American Christian families and how they each dealt with the coming out of their child. But I noticed that out of the five families only one was a family of colour, so it made me wonder what would that story look like for my own family – a Filipino immigrant family.

2) I love the premise of the film – a personal story of an immigrant family and their journey with the queer members of their own family.  What  surprised you about making a film about this topic, and what do you hope the film shares?

The film is cut in a way such that the audience is discovering things about our relatives just as Jay and I were learning about them. So one thing that I didn’t expect going into filming was how constructs like “coming out” are perceived very differently in North America than in the Philippines. It challenged our ideas around the politics of “coming out” and I hope that sparks dialogue amongst the audiences as well.

3) The film has had an incredibly successful film festival run, and is now premiering home in Vancouver! What have been audience responses? What reactions have stood out in the festival run?

We had our US premiere at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and that was the first time that the cast and crew watched the film together with an audience. And the response was absolutely incredible! We were actually awarded the Audience Choice Award! A common reaction to the film is that it’s refreshing to see a positive representation of an Asian / Filipino family as accepting and loving of their LGBTQ family members. One audience member remarked that it’s inspiring to know that these families exist! 

The Politics of Sexy: Race, Trans, Love

We spoke with Kai Cheng Thom – Artist, Activist, Therapist, Performer – about her journey being queer, trans, Asian, her relationship with feminism, amongst many other things! Here is a sneak preview of the clip:

”[…] When we can talk about being loved, and when we can talk about loving our bodies, and loving other people’s bodies outside of how much they are valued sexually – then we can talk about equality.”

Kira

A few months ago, we spoke with Kira about her journey coming out, and she generously shared with us her life and her dreams.  As a Trans* woman who came out and transitioned in adulthood, Kira explores some of the things she went through, and what it meant to come out later in life.

“10,579Km: A Queer Journey from Damascus to Vancouver”

A story of Danny Ramadan, a queer activist from Syria, who has recently made his home in Vancouver, after seeking refuge from imminent persecution. Danny shares with us his new life and home in Vancouver, some challenges integrating into the queer community as a gay Syrian refugee, as well some hopes that he has for the future.

Our newest film is “10,579Km: A Queer Journey from Damascus to Vancouver”- a story of Danny Ramadan, a queer activist from Syria, who has recently made his home in Vancouver, after seeking refuge from imminent persecution.  Danny shares with us his new life and home in Vancouver, some challenges integrating into the queer community as a gay Syrian refugee, as well some hopes that he has for the future.

Check out the trailer below.  For screening information, please email us! intersectinglove@gmail.com

Qmunity – the queer resource centre in Vancouver – has recently launched a queer drop in for refugees and newcomers, called ‘Routes to Roots’.  The next drop in is on June 7th at Qmunity.  For more info email volunteers@qmunity.ca

Routes to Roots: Building a community in Vancouver with LGBTQ newcomers and refugees

Our newest Love Intersections collaborator, the amazing Danny Ramadan, shares his experience coming to Vancouver as a queer Syrian refugee, and shares a new program he is spearheading with Qmunity (a queer resource centre in Vancouver), “Routes to Roots” – a drop in for LGBTQ newcomers and refugees.

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Imagine yourself as a tree; a beautiful, fully grown, tree that carries delicious fruits and spring flowers unmatchable to any other. Now, imagine a war on trees, those who want to cut that fruitful tree down, to burn it to ashes. Those who want to eradicate trees.

Like the hero of a story, the tree pulled itself out of the ground. It pulled up its own roots in a painful, unimaginable way, and managed to stand tall to escape that hateful land. It went through a lot of hardship, and traveled across many borders, until it finally found green, welcoming soil, and it decided to root itself there.

Like that tree, LGBTQ-identified refugees and newcomers had to uproot themselves from the soil of their home countries, seeking the promise of a bright future, escaping the fire of homophobia, and the axes of transphobia, in search of safety, security, and prosperity here in Canada.

But planting a tree in foreign soil is not easily done.

When I arrived in Vancouver among the very first LGBTQ-identified Syrian refugees, I was hit by a wave of happiness. I knew my future here would be bright, beautiful, and magical. I felt that I had finally found a place where I could be my true self, and represent who I am to the community at large, without fear of persecution, homophobia, or othering.

I didn’t realize, however, how much time and effort it would take for my roots to grow.

Integrating into a new country requires an equal effort from the newcomer themselves, to learn the traditions and the ways of the new culture, as well as the local community to welcome these newcomers and refugees, and support them as they go through this mesmerizing, yet challenging, transformation.

Building those roots and integrating into the Canadian community is a unique challenge for queer and trans refugees. While other refugees can rely on the local community native to their country of origin; LGBTQ-identified refugees and newcomers moved to escape that exact community back home, running away from homophobia and transphobia, and seeking freedom in Canada.

Queer and trans newcomers and refugees come across  challenges in finding solace engaging with their heterosexual compatriots in diaspora.

With this unique experience in our hands here at QMUNITY, we understood a distinctive need in this new and growing community: the need to integrate in an authentic and supportive environment.

That’s why QMUNITY is running its latest project: Routes to Roots!

Routes to Roots (R2R) is a drop-in group for queer and trans identified folks, from both the newcomer and refugee communities, as well as the local community.

The drop-in will act as a social hub to form a connection between those communities. It will include social games, hangouts, events, and fun nights together to create meaningful friendships within the local LGBTQ community, and the newcomers and refugees community. The hope is that we will be able to help the newcomers and refugees feel that sense of belonging that many of them need so desperately.

We aspire to have each drop-in facilitated in two languages: English and another language.

Our Kick-Off meeting is Thursday, the 5th of May, 2016 from 6 pm to 9 pm. We will be meeting in QMUNITY’s main office (1170 Bute Street). This drop-in is unique, as it will have a space for the newcomer and refugee folks to let us know what kind of social activities they would like to see. We hope that through this drop-in, we will be able to focus our services to provide solutions reflecting the challenges faced by this community.

During this month’s drop-in, facilitated in both English and Arabic, we will be collaging, playing social games, and getting to know each other for three hours. The space is located on the second level of the building, and attendees should be aware that there is a flight of 23 stairs to reach the office.

Depending on the season, we hope to provide a variety of activities: in summer time, we may go biking, hiking, or go to the beach together; in the winter season, we may go to the Aquarium, or to the Vancouver Public Library.

The program will also provide a unique opportunity for the local community of queer and trans people of colour, as it will be a meaningful space for them to integrate with the newcomers and refugees, and connect with them on matters of race, sexuality, and being settlers in the land of Canada.

Integration into a new community is hard, like planting a tree in foreign soil; I know that first hand. But here at QMUNITY, we hope that we will be able to provide a nourishing ground for these fruitful trees to grow and flourish.

Do you have questions? Get in touch with Danny and he will be here to answer them all: volunteers@qmunity.ca

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‘Hayfa’ – A Queer Palestinian-Lebanese-Canadian story

Hayfa shares her journey coming out to her Palestinian-Lebanese family, and how her mom became an ally. Hayfa talks about the impact of historical trauma – histories of violence and genocide – and how she came to understand where her parents came from…the love her parents have for their children’s future.

Hayfa shares her journey coming out to her Palestinian-Lebanese family, and how her mom became an ally. Hayfa talks about the impact of historical trauma – histories of violence and genocide – and how she came to understand where her parents came from…the love her parents have for their children’s future.

Love Intersections and Our City of Colours is crowdfunding until Nov 13th to raise $5000 towards next years Visibility Campaign! We want to make more videos like this, to share the stories of queer folks of diverse backgrounds. Please support us by donating!
https://crowdgift.ca/love-is-colourful

Launching the 2015 Visibility Campaign!

The Visibility Campaign hopes to increase the visibility of queer people of colour, including people
from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This year’s campaign has different movie poster themes, and some of them are currently being displayed in bus shelter ads across Vancouver!

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 8.54.09 PMLove Intersections is excited to be partnering with Our City of Colours on their 2015 Visibility Campaign!

The Visibility Campaign hopes to increase the visibility of queer people of colour, including people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This year’s campaign has different movie poster themes, and some of them are currently being displayed in bus shelter ads across Vancouver!

Love Intersections has also teamed up with Our City of Colours to share stories through video of people walking different experiences in the queer community.  We will be rolling out these video’s in the next few months, so be sure to stay tuned!

The posters are currently also being displayed at Heartwood Community Cafe at 317 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories.

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Joella and Jay: The Importance of Allyship and Family

while it may be challenging at times, queer folks can (and do) navigate the world on their own…but having an ally can make it easier, and more fun, to navigate the world together.

One of my favourite ways to explain the importance of allies, is something that I heard from Jen about allyship in the queer community. It’s this idea that while it may be challenging at times, queer folks can (and do) navigate the world on their own…but having an ally can make it easier, and more fun, to navigate the world together.

Allies are also critical to the queer movement, because allies can often access spaces more easily (and safely) than some folks, and can therefore advocate or do work in those spaces.

When we heard about Jay and Joella’s story, we were excited to capture and share this brother and sister relationship. After watching a documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So” on how five American Christian families dealt with their family members coming out, Joella was inspired to make a film about her own Filipino Roman Catholic family and when Jay came out to them. Though the film deeply resonated with Joella, she found that there was a lack of diverse representation of a person of colour’s experience coming out to their family (out of the five families, only one was a family of colour). This influenced the creation of their film “It Runs in the Family”, which documents Jay, his relationship with family and religion, and along with his sister traveling to the US and the Philippines to meet their other queer relatives. They have intimate conversations on how they have reconciled their Roman Catholic faith with their sexual orientation while maintaining their family ties.

“It Runs in the Family” produced by OUTtv Network and directed by Joella Cabalu will have a festival run starting late 2015 with a broadcast television release next summer 2016.

To find out more information please visit the Facebook page.

And be sure to check out the teaser below!

It Runs in the Family – Teaser – Courtesy of OUTtv Network from Joella Cabalu on Vimeo.

Connect with Joella on:
Twitter @joellacabalu
Instagram @joellacabalu
LinkedIn: Joella Cabalu

Connect with Jay on:

Website http://jaycabalu.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jaycabaluartworks

Twitter @jaycabalu

Instagram @jaycabalu_artworks

The Politics of Sexy: Race, Body Politics, and Desireability

Nomonde and I had conversation about sexual currency, “attractiveness”, race, and body politics

…and we filmed it for Love Intersections! 🙂
Sexual Currency is not something you choose, you are assigned it – but I think it’s something that, I think it’s important to emphasize, that you can reject. You don’t have to accept the way people see you or view you, you don’t have to accept the way people think about whether you are attractive or beautiful. That is something you choose. And the only way I think you survive this world? Is by deciding what your own sexual currency is going to be.”