Olympic Pride House: The final hours
“This morning, I was watching CTV, and they were showing the highlights, and they talked about Pride House, and I just started to cry,” said Whistler Pride House’s Dean Nelson. “I’m just so emotional right now. It’s crazy.”
Nelson and his business partner, Ken Coolen, invested three years of work and close to C$100,000 of their own money into Whistler’s Olympic Pride House with the goal of raising awareness of homophobia in sport and giving LGBT sports fans a friendly place to watch the events. Vancouver’s LGBT community center, Qmunity, got on board last year to create a similar space in Vancouver–only with the added goal of providing immigration and refugee services to any LGBT Olympic visitors who might need them.
So was it a success?
“Well you know, our number one goal was to get people talking about it, and I think we achieved that goal,” said Nelson. ” The amount of press we were able to engage [to] get people thinking about fixing the system, that was really big for us. We’re moving in the right direction in that we’re making it much safer and more inclusive for all our athletes. It would’ve been nice if we’d had more athletes and maybe even more spectators come through and share that, but that was a secondary goal.”
“Even before Pride House started, there was some impact in the institutions around high performance sport,” said Pride House Vancouver’s Jennifer Breakspear. “One of my colleagues on the planning committee was asked to give some workshops to the [Canadian Olympic] mission team to talk about homophobia and LGTB sensitivity. So even before we’d opened our doors, we were starting to ease open that closet door.”
Immigration inquiries up
Breakspear added that the efforts to reach out to potential immigrants and refugees were also successful. Pride House Vancouver’s Rainbow Refugee Committee volunteers fielded at least seven inquiries during the games, more than the number Qmunity would ordinarily receive in such a short space of time. “I’ve heard that some of them were people that traveled here for the Olympics,” said Breakspear. “Whether they’re continuing to formally seek refugee status or seek immigration, we won’t know ‘til later on, but we’re quite happy that at least seven people came looking, and we had the services to offer them. It’s all been gratifying. It’s been a great experience.”
And how do the guests feel?
“I have spent every single day here,” said Kim Seiniger from Los Angeles, who had such a good time at Pride House Whistler she decided to stay for WinterPride. “I’m here alone, I don’t know anybody, and it’s kind of like I’ve found my peeps,” she said. “Everybody’s really friendly. I’ve found new friends here. It’s great.”
“I think it’s cool,” said Shawn King, who visited Pride House Vancouver from Salt Lake City. “I like that there’s community things in large events that happen. I just volunteered for the Sundance Festival, and they always have some sort of Pride celebration or queer lounge or place for us to feel comfortable, and I like that because it brings the event to a place where I feel comfortable.”
A Pride parade of a different sort
Anyone who believes that gay men don’t like sports should have been in Vancouver’s gay village Sunday afternoon. Pride in Canada’s hockey prowess unites Canadians of all sexual orientations, and LGBT folks were partying with the best of them. At times, the post-hockey victory festivities really did resemble a spontaneous Pride Parade, only with a different flag.
Fear not. No gay Americans were harmed in the making of this rowdy celebration. In fact, one American flag-sporting fan told me the Canadians all bought him drinks to console him.
Pride House celebrates the closing ceremonies
There were seats going empty as the Pride House closing ceremonies party kicked off at Score on Davie St., the Vancouver Pride House celebration venue. Following the excitement of a Canadian gold medal hockey game, the closing ceremonies must have seemed a little anti-climactic. Clearly, many LGBT people were still out cruising through the village in the backs of convertibles, screaming and waving flags. It took about a half hour for the seats in Score to all fill up. Here’s a bit of what it looked like. (Is it just me, or do some of these partiers looked exhausted?)
The closing ceremonies wrapped up at about 8:30pm local time. On Monday, Pride House Vancouver goes back to being Qmunity, Vancouver’s LGBT resource center. Pride House Whistler will become part of Whistler’s WinterPride celebrations. Following WinterPride, Pride House Whistler intends to stay open for the Paralympic Games, which kick off March 12th.
Signing off from the Vancouver Olympics, I’m Heather Kitching.