‘Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits’

We are very excited to finally be able to release the short film “Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits”, that premiered last night at the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival this year, at the Bright Eyes, Queer Hearts youth shorts program.

Last night, we premiered “Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits”, at the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival this year, at the Bright Eyes, Queer Hearts youth shorts program!

Regalia: Pride on Two Spirits from David Ng on Vimeo.

Big thank you to our team member and friend, Duane Stewart, who shares his story as a First Nations queer person, who identifies as “Two Spirited”.  Duane talks about the importance of culture in his life, and his journey coming out to his family!

Introducing Duane!

Duane R Stewart-Grant is Haisla from Kitamaat Village and Nuu-Chah-nuthl from Port Alberni. His Haisla name is c’ee’hixid and he is from the Raven clan.

Full Regalia shotIntroducing our newest collaborator and team member – Duane 🙂

Duane R Stewart-Grant is Haisla from Kitamaat Village and Nuu-Chah-nuthl from Port Alberni. His Haisla name is c’ee’hixid and he is from the Raven clan.

In 2006, when he was living in Kitamaat he worked for Kitamaat Village Radio (KVR 96.1FM), where in 2008 he became the radio station manager until 2010. While working at KVR he started learning and growing closer to his culture.

In 2006/2007 he participated in the Star in Your Own Stories with Chee Mamuk, Hello Cool World and 11 other youth from the Haisla Nation. In three days they produced and stared in their own little story called Stand True. Stand True talks about how rumors can spread around like HIV/AIDS. Through Stand True, Duane was able to travel all over BC and he even traveled outside BC for the first time!

Duane came out to his family on May 4, 2010, but knew he was two-spirited at an early age. Through his travels he did with Stand True he met many other Two-Spirited people who were out, strong and proud to be two-spirited, he looked up to them for guidance during his journey.

When he moved to Burnaby in 2013 he started dancing with the Git Hayetsk Dancers and started apprenticing with Mike & Mique’l Dangeli. He now is learning to carve, paint, create regalia, dance, and is drawing First Nation art. Duane hopes to one day bring his knowledge back home and start teaching the next generation what he has learned!

Reconstructing Gay Biracialism

I feel being mixed-race is an opportunity to interrogate how identities can be reconstructed, and envisioned into social change that mirrors the queer rights movement. When being mixed-race and gay challenges how I navigate my own sense of privilege within the queer community that has lacked acceptance, I can only think of where race and queerness intersect.

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Being biracial and gay is an interesting mix. By being mixed-race, I challenge categorical thinking and normativity that is too often encountered in our lives:

“What’s your race?” I’m asked.

“I’m half Chinese, English and a bit Scottish,” I reply.

When my biracial identity is neither accepted culturally as White nor Asian, when I am indeed literally Asian and White by blood, I feel this sense of non-belonging:

“Oh, you don’t speak Chinese?” I’m asked.

“No, but I wish I could,” I reply.

And perhaps this sense of non-belonging is perpetuated by my failure to pick up Chinese as a kid, or maybe because non-belonging feels synonymous with being gay, sometimes. When our identity becomes our sense of security, when race is so often embodied as our sense of community, when being gay severs our relationships with others and ourselves:

“So, do you have a girlfriend?” I’m asked.

“Umhh…no…” I reply.

I remember being told that being gay was a choice that would put me on “the bottom of society,” where I would find no success.

I can only think of how culture transforms our identities beyond race. I’ve noticed this insidious trend to normalize “gay culture” into something fathomable by the mainstream: the idealized body of an attractive, middle-upper class, cisgender white man who resonates images of power, authority, and acceptance (see this article). These images and identities that command respect contrast with the insecurity that “gay culture” has had to latch itself to. And in turn, much of what I feel I’ve had to embody as a gay individual has leaned towards this normalized, white, classed, “attractive” stereotyped fantasy.

I will never forget a quote by Fred Wah, a Canadian poet, who wrote about being mixed-race and his fear that his White privilege would make him become “not the target, but the gun.” I’m writing this piece so that as a mixed-race subject, I can tackle the pervasive racism and normalization within the queer community.

Of course, I think it helps that my last name, Holmes, can create this immediate sense of whiteness on paper, but how would that be different if my last name was Wong, my mother’s patriarchal name? Would people have an immediate change in expectation? Would something as trivial as a name convey different ideas about personality and culture? I think to an extent, I have autonomy over culture, but I don’t over race. How people perceive “Hawaiian, Filipino, “White”, “Asian”, “mixed”, Spanish, or however far or close people have been in guessing my “what are you?” will always portray immediate ideas from race that govern how people perceive me.

Yet, how, as individuals can we facilitate dialogue and movement surrounding this phenomenon? How do we start talking about race, gender, class, and the continuum of privilege and disprivilege when we are expected as a social justice movement to be focused solely on a singular issue? Is it tolerance, patience, respect, and understanding that are needed to understand each other from a privileged and marginalized vantage?

I think the answer lies within our lived experiences. I think back in history when interracial marriage was banned, when fears of miscegenation in post-colonial North America became a social threat. When homosexuality was greeted by the death penalty.

If anything, I feel being mixed-race is an opportunity to interrogate how identities can be reconstructed, and envisioned into social change that mirrors the queer rights movement. When being mixed-race and gay challenges how I navigate my own sense of privilege within the queer community that has lacked acceptance, I can only think of where race and queerness intersect. I think of how we can construct this façade to normalize “gay culture” within ourselves, and how we can connect historical racism to contemporary challenges faced within and beyond the gay community. Being mixed-race is a product of social change away from racism, and in turn, I see challenges within the queer community as an opportunity to connect in solidarity.

– Andy Holmes

New Friends Sharing Stories on Love Intersections

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Over the weekend, we met with Jay and Joella Cabalu, who are sharing their story about Jay’s journey with his sister, Joella, his family, faith, and sexuality.  They are also sharing part of that journey for Love Intersections 🙂

One of my favorite parts of this story, is how Joella talks about being an ally to Jay and the queer community, and what an important role allies play in the community.  Allies are part and parcel of the queer community – and we need more of them!

We are also excited to be bringing on board a friend of mine, Duane Stewart-Grant, a two-spirit artist, dancer, and activist from Haisla Nation, who will be sharing his story on Love Intersections as well.

Thank you to Jay, Joella, and Duane, for taking the time to share your stories with us!

in love and solidarity,

David Ng

Love Intersections: The Philosophy, The Love!

Check out our new trailer!

Jen, one of the co-founders of Love Intersections talks about the philosophy behind Love Intersections – the project itself, an intersection of art, activism, and love.

Love Intersections: Art as an Expression of Our Activism from David Ng on Vimeo.

Serums and Sacrilege

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I’m a second and half generation, queer, Canadian Born Chinese (“CBC”).  I grew up in a working class, quaint, Cantonese speaking immigrant neighbourhood on the edges of South Vancouver.

Coming out was challenging for me, mostly because there were not a lot of opportunities for me to connect with queer folks and allies that were “like me”.  GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliances) were a relatively new concept in the early 2000’s…and to join one was to immediately out yourself.  Something that I was not prepared to do at the age of 12-13, growing up in a relatively conservative evangelical Christian community.

 

Then I discovered the internet.  I remember staying up waiting till my parents were asleep to sneak to the common computer, to go onto gay websites.  Discovering porn (OMG), and also looking for support – of which there were (and are) very few in Vancouver.  The ones that were available were very far away – as in downtown – and excruciatingly expensive.  The $1.75 one way bus fare downtown was a lot, considering my $10 a month allowance.  I did manage to find some support from a few youth groups in town, but I never really joined them for long.  The youth workers were empathetic and caring, but I never really connected with them, because as much as they were trying to be supportive, it’s hard to be supportive if they were not from my community, and didn’t share my experiences as a queer person of colour (POC).

 

In the last few weeks, the Burnaby municipal elections hit the news stands, with an article about how information was being distributed in the Mandarin community about how schools were forcibly injecting “gay serums” into children, to “turn them gay/trans”.  (Ignoring the fact that the English translated word for “serum” and “hormone blocker” in Chinese can often mean the same thing.)

 

The very public ridicule – laced with a touch of racism – really struck a chord with me.  The targeting of the immigrant population for their ridiculous, backward, misogyny and homophobia – something that is not exclusive to Chinese immigrants.

 

It really made me reflect on my own experience as a queer person of colour, navigating the world, and the lack of resources available, and the resistance from society to embrace “us” immigrants.  I wonder about how other immigrants, and families of immigrants are doing today – trying to navigate these issues, while dealing with anti-immigrant state violence? How are the queer folks managing, in a community that not only marginalizes them as queer people, but also pushes away and rejects communities of immigrants?

 

The fact that immigrant communities are deliberately being marginalized, speaks volumes to the experiences that queer POC have within our communities.  If people of colour were actually embraced, there would be no opportunity for deliberate misinformation about “gay serums”, and the works, to be spread.  Instead, we’ve pushed a group of coloured people into the margins, and ridicule them because they are less versed on “progressive” language than we westerners are.

 

I wonder if instead of ridiculing immigrant communities, if we could, as queer people, consider the ways that we could build community, rather than build barriers.  Perhaps meeting people where they are (in both the physical and metaphoric sense) – instead of expecting “them” to understand “us”, think like “us”, and talk like “us”.  Perhaps instead of ridiculing the immigrant community that “came up” with the gay serum rumour, we could see how this is a failure of our own communities – including the queer community in Vancouver – to embrace people who don’t have access to the same resources, and even the same rights as we do.

 

In love and solidarity,
David Ng

Voices of Love

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In the spirit of love and intersectionality – we are super excited to be supporting this community dialogue about the controversy surrounding the recently passed Vancouver School Board gender/homophobia discrimination policies.  Please come and join us for an afternoon of creative dialogue and community building!

Theatre for Living is partnering with the Vancouver Public Library to present a theatrical dialogue about family values, gender, and the controversy surrounding the recently passed Vancouver School Board gender policy updates.

The theatrical dialogue will be facilitated by David Diamond on September 13, 2014, in the Alice MacKay room at the Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street), on unceded Coast Salish Territories.

We hope this is an opportunity for diverse opinions to come together in a way that builds community – instead of building barriers.

Everyone is welcome.

You can access the facebook event page here.

For more information visit the Theatre for Living website, or please contact David Ng, Outreach Coordinator at 604.871.0508 or email outreach@theatreforliving.com