Partnering with the TWFF uplifts the whole arts community.

I have the unique pleasure this summer of working with a lot of local arts and service organizations to get the word out about the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Ian Lin (he, him), President of the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Society, a non-profit arts and culture initiative that produces the annual Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival, and our 2021 Community Partner for See You Then.

Since 2007, TWFF has introduced audiences to films from Taiwanese creators celebrating culture and history. In 2020, the Festival offered eight films for free on topics ranging from archiving film to systemic sexism in the entertainment industry. Ian says, “that by doing so we emphasize the cultural diversity of Canada and encourage dialogue between people.” As a result, Taiwanese audiences connect with their diaspora, and folks from other cultural backgrounds develop cultural intelligence.

Community partnership is crucial to engaging with the communities we seek to serve through our programming, and helps us meet many of the same goals as the TWFF: working together we build connection, understanding, and awareness of our similarities and beautiful differences.

During my conversation with Ian, we spoke about the significance of cross-promotion, which is when marketing information is exchanged between organizations to promote their programming to a broader audience. Cross-promotion allows more folks to learn about the entertaining and educational arts programming happening in Vancouver. Working together, we’re able to  “create a communication bridge between two different film industries,” as Ian puts it, allowing both organizations to reach a wider audience. As a community partner, Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will promote See You Then, a film which showcases 2SLGBTQIA+ authenticity behind the camera. The TWFF will promote our film partnership on Facebook and is hosting a ticket giveaway on their Instagram (a well-planned giveaway has the potential to grow a more engaged audience!)

In exchange, we’re happy to promote our relationship with the TWFF: listing them on our website, recognizing them in our announcements before the film, and promoting their festival materials later this fall. By sharing information, and audiences, both of our organizations are able to build new, meaningful connections with new film-lovers.

Directed by Mari Walker, a trans woman who uses cinema to speak on issues that have come to the forefront during her transition, See You Then is a drama about two ex-lovers.  Kris, who underwent a gender transition, invites Naomi – played by Taiwanese-American actress Lynn Chen – for a night out after an abrupt breakup a decade earlier. Their vulnerable conversation touches on unresolved conflicts, regrets and exposes their deepest scars. VQFF Artistic Director Anoushka Ratnarajah describes See You Then as a “cinematic exercise in compassion and empathy, for oneself as much as others.” The film inspires reflection from the audience on what it means to be a woman, and about the often difficult experiences we endure to survive. The heartbreaking ending is guaranteed to have audiences crying as they come to terms with the painful emotions that arise from reconnecting with ex-lovers, even when we long for their presence in our lives.  Folks can purchase tickets to See You Then on our website

As you probably already know, the theme of the 33rd Vancouver Queer Film Festival is Longing. I asked Ian what he has been longing for recently. Of course, answers to such an intimate question vary from person to person. However, Ian’s response speaks to a universal human desire that can often feel out of reach.. “Peace; everyone lives in harmony, accepts each other and no one will be judgmental of a group of people,” he says. When we welcome someone back into our lives who we haven’t seen in a while but long for their connection, we can only hope to receive unconditional acceptance. Far too often that isn’t the case as unresolved wounds come to the surface.

The 2021 Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will be presented virtually from September 11 to 19. The programme will be available to view online in August. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to receive updates.

The media we engage in shapes our culture and perception of the world around us. Despite an increase in positive representation of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community primarily due to commercial interest, queer folks are still underrepresented in the media. As an audience, we are subjected to queer baiting (the practice of hinting at or mimicking queerness without genuine representation), or queer coded characters who are far-too-often cis and/or white, without broader, authentic representation. The pervasiveness of heteronormativity and cisnormativity on and behind the screen reinforces and exacerbates harmful misconceptions. Authentic visibility however, validates and empowers sexual and gender minorities. 

The work done by the award-winning Out In Schools program empowers the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, particularly young people, through visibility and positive representation on screen. Film is a powerful educational tool that teaches us that we have the power to shape our stories. Out In Schools Program Coordinator Danny Laybbet (he/they) says, “by interacting with queer film, they get to see themselves reflected. They get to see possibilities for what they can be.” Program Coordinator, Avery Shannon (they/them), acknowledges that, students today know far more about queer issues than youth in previous generations. Thus, the team strives to meet the audience where they are. Working with Out In Schools since 2014, Education Director Gavin Somers (they/them) has firsthand experience of the impact having conversations about queer issues earlier on has for youth. After presenting to an engaged high school, a group of youth spoke to Gavin to say they attended an Out In Schools presentation a few years previous and, as a result, the youth knew queer lexicon and even spoke up to share their own stories. Reaching youth early and often is key to the program’s success. “You don’t have to do that unlearning [later in life],” says Gavin, when asked about what difference reaching younger audiences makes. “Because you’re provided access to tools and representation early on.”

Out In Schools presentations start with the opening question, “how would your story change the world?” before sharing films that showcase authentic queer representation. For many kids, it is the first time seeing themselves on screen. The presentation is structured to be relatable and geared to the audience, such as not showing films with too much jargon or complicated plots. Films selected for each presentation are age and grade appropriate, to enhance relatability and understanding. The team also factors in who is presenting. For example, if all facilitators are cis, they will showcase trans stories because the facilitators themselves will have an opportunity to share their own experiences alongside the films. Out In Schools also presents at corporate offices where the conversation is based around supporting adults as they unlearn misconceptions about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community perpetuated by the media and learn to step into allyship both in the office and in their wider communities. 

As a youth, I never had a chance to see an Out In School presentation. Instead, a man spoke at my school about conversion therapy. As a queer teen, this interaction reinforced shame, which is why the work done by Out In Schools is integral for transforming lives by showing that queerness is worth celebrating. In addition, the power of visibility allows students to see that they are not alone. The films reaffirm that their presence in the world matters; they matter.  Even more important, presenters and films show the power of exploring queer joy as contagious and transformative mediums. Danny shares that “more recently I’ve been really loving the celebration rather than tolerance aspect of life. We’re past the point of just needing to accept. Well, like, yeah, you need to accept trans people. But also that being trans is good.Each of us can carve a space for ourselves and shape our world. 

Discussions about 2SLGBTQIA+ issues are now a part of the BC curriculum however, the Out In Schools program is unique by showcasing films that uplift the lived queer experience. Out In Schools presentations are a continuously flowing conversation, where questions and discussions lead to films, and films spark new questions and audience engagements. These experiences  are empowering for youth, educators, and employees, and they move participants to action. The goal is that they continue to have conversations and promote safer, more inclusive spaces after Out In Schools departs. Allies develop empathy and learn how to use their visibility and power to conduct deliberate allyship. Meanwhile, queer folks gain a sense of belonging to a community. The films that are especially meaningful for Out In School’s staff are Meet the Transgender NCAA Swimmer from Harvard (Schuyler Bailar), Kapaemahu, Wendy’s Story aka The Healer, and Ur Aska.

Book a presentation with Out In Schools and empower queer folks in your community. For an extensive list of educational resources, access the Out In Schools website.


On August 15, during the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, we are collaborating with Out In Schools to deliver a presentation so attendees can witness the work done by the program firsthand. The Out In Schools team will share short films, present content, and engage viewers in a discussion about queer representation in media and allyship. Register for the presentation today and check out the rest of the Festival programme online!

What’s On Queer BC is an online magazine that shares community-driven resources, personal anecdotes, and astrology reports – basically everything queer’s need to get their day started. The magazine’s main draw however is their poster wall, a virtual bulletin board advertising events happening around the Lower Mainland, like the upcoming VQFF! The magazine began as a hobby project in 2015 for Founder Jude Goodwin (she/her) to  promote queer events happening around BC. I had an opportunity to speak with Jude this month about the evolution of the magazine and the importance of community partnership.

At the heart of What’s On Queer BC is  a need for connection. Therefore, the website evolves to meet the ever-changing needs of the queer community. When COVID-19 interfered with in-person events, the calendar became a senseless integration: what even is time under quarantine? Based on her role as an administrator for the Facebook page COVID-19 Coming Together (Vancouver), and in response to the rise of mutual aid, Jude replaced the calendar with an events tab and poster wall to promote online initiatives for bringing people together.

Another tab on the website, LGBTQI2S+ resources, is a collection of living resources, such as Facebook groups for accessing housing, cultivating friendships and queer-friendly fitness activities. “The resources served the community really well. What’s On Queer BC had a lot of traffic over most of the pandemic months,” says Jude. 

We are incredibly grateful for our community partners who publicize the work we do illuminating queer lives through film. “From our perspective, we want to do as much as we can to support,” says Jude. What’s On Queer BC endorses the Festival by sharing information about passes on their Facebook page and publishing press releases for their 200 daily visitors. Some of whom may have recently come to terms with their gender or sexuality, others are new to the Metro Vancouver area. Both are seeking a sense of belonging. Jude has fond memories of when she first came out and attended the Festival, she says “[that] standing in a lineup outside of Simon Fraser Theatre with a bunch of other community members was very fulfilling.”

Queer writers based in BC write the articles published in the magazine. A selection of written work is available to readers, including an article written by Jude, Braids and Cultural Responsibility in Changing Times. A personal story in which Jude grapples with her understanding of what constitutes a style of braids as cultural appropriation, and addressing a policy introduced by promoters ManUp in 2019 that bans appropriative hairstyles at events. In another article, Emory Oakley advises readers on How to Talk to your Child about Drag. Emory defines drag as “an opportunity to play with gender.” Families are welcome at Pride events and discussing the artistry of drag at a young age fosters an openness to all gender expressions.

The blogging industry doesn’t always compensate writers, but What’s On Queer BC is committed to supporting their content creators. As a freelance writer, when I started submitting pitches to magazines, many did not pay. Last time I checked, exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Jude hopes that the magazine can continue to grow into the future, providing even more opportunities for local queer writers to share their stories

There is a growing need for mainstream media representations of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and publications like What’s On Queer BC provide an outlet for queer folks to exist on and offline on their own terms, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to fall. The events tab and Poster Wall is a one-stop-shop for movie nights, drag shows, and dances happening around Greater Vancouver. As we collectively long to re-enter community spaces,strip ourselves of our inhibitions and shimmy onto the dancefloor, Jude is especially keen on attending Pride Dances for lesbian and queer women hosted by DJ Jakkie.

Check out the latest articles published by What’s On Queer BC and events happening in Vancouver, Victoria and beyond, today.

As we close this incredibly difficult year, many of us without our usual celebrations or gatherings, we’ll be looking to stories to affirm our experiences and connect us to the world and our communities. While we stay safe at home, here are a few films to get you through the last few days of 2020, that whether you’re looking for a cathartic cry, a gut-busting laugh, or a journey in a world different from your own surroundings.

Evening Shadows

Set in a village in South India, Evening Shadows follows Kartik, a young gay man in a happy relationship who has yet to come out to his family. When the prospects of an arranged marriage become more real, Kartik must figure out how to tell his family who he really is. Yes, this is another coming-out story, but it’s one which still needs screen time. For many queer folks of colour, the decision to come out is fraught with the fear of losing not only familial support, but also cultural connection. In tight knit South Asian communities, mutual support from family and community is essential to survival, and an integral aspect of culture. Evening Shadows illustrates these complexities with warmth and humour, making it a lovely family film to watch with your household or your family as you distance together.

Where to watch: Netflix

The Queen

This 1968 documentary is a precursor to Paris is Burning, and captures the antics, drama, intimacy and artistry of the Miss All America Camp Beauty Pageant. Audiences will be introduced to many a queen, including the legendary Crystal LaBeija, founder of The House of La Beija, and the contest’s Mistress of Ceremonies, Flawless Sabrina. In between rehearsing and performing, the contestants discuss relationships, drag, draft boards, race, class, sexual and gender identity, and creating space for elegance, art, and community. This glamourous time capsule is perfect viewing for the New Years parties we will not be having this year!

Where to watch: Netflix

Tangerine

When this film premiered in 2016, it was considered a phenomenon for the way it was shot (entirely on an Iphone), but it’s legacy also represents a milestone moment for trans representation on screen. The film stars Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in their breakout roles as Sin-Dee and Alexandra, and their Academy Award campaigns for best actress were the first ever in the history of the awards for trans actors playing trans characters. They also played critical roles informing the work behind the camera, knowing that films about Black women, trans women and sex workers continue misrepresent what are complex and dynamic stories of resilience, resourcefulness and humanity.  In the four years since Tangerine came out, trans representation behind and in front of the camera has only grown. And though it’s set during the holiday season, Tangerine is really a Christmas film because at its heart it is about family, the kind of family that Black trans women and sex workers create despite the ways in which the world maintains brutal repression on thier lives and bodies.

Where to watch: Rent on Google Play, Youtube

Happiest Season

What to say about this film that hasn’t already been subject to a truly deep dive analysis on every queer women’s wesbite on the internet? Clea Duvall’s return to film has prompted quite the passionate shipping of Aubrey Plaza and Kristen Stewart, and spawned a million memes, but more importantly, it’s given many queer women the holiday rom-com they’ve been waiting for.

Where to watch: Prime

Mucho Mucho Amor

This 2020 documentary is dedicated to the life of Latinx astrology icon Walter Mercado, who brought insight, comfort, laughter and high fashion into the lives of millions. Though not openly queer, Mercado’s style and gender-bent presentation was a light and inspiration to many Latinx folks throughout the world longing to see themselves represented in public. His kindness, opulence and charisma shine through in the film, an ode to a man who brought hope to many, and paved the way for Latinx queer and trans folks craving self-determination, optimism and community. Mucho Mucho Amor is a much needed loving balm to the end of an extremely difficult year.

Where to watch: Netflix

Carol

Carol’s stylish, isolated melancholy might feel a bit on the nose during this winter quarantine, but it’s also one of the best queer films of the last decade. Directed by Todd Haynes, whose 1991 film Poison is considered a seminal work of New Queer Cinema, Carol beautifully explores the ways in which patriarchal gender expectations isolate queer women, and the lengths we will go to in order to feel and explore connection and identity. 

Where to watch: Prime

I don’t mind sharing my story – it is an interesting journey.

I guess inside I always knew that I was different but never really knew what it was. I was born in a very small town in northern New Brunswick – very Catholic – the middle child of seven (five boys and two girls). We lived in a large family home that included my mothers’ parents and her sister – so all in all that was five adults and seven children with one bathroom – not a lot of privacy!  My grandfather died when I was in Grade 1 so that left 11 of us.

I was teased and bullied a lot not only in school but also in my family. My older brothers were in sports and were quite mean, as were my younger brothers, and all I wanted to do was play with my sisters’ things; guess I should have figured things out at an early age. My mother thought that these activities would make me into a “sissy” so she would push me into sports (which I failed at miserably except swimming). When I was in Grade 4 my life was to change dramatically – our family was moved to Moncton as my dad was transferred for work. 

While it was supposed to be exciting, it was scary. We went to a three-bedroom home with a finished basement… well you get the picture fast. The girls shared one room. My aunt and grandmother got the other and my parents got the third. The boys got the basement. Still one bathroom. The lineups in the mornings were atrocious! 

The following year, catastrophe hit. My young brother next to me was involved in a serious hockey accident on a neighbourhood rink that caused serious brain damage. As a result of two brain operations and much physical and speech therapies, etc., he returned home very different at the age of 11 and had to take occupancy of one of the bedrooms nearest the bathroom, and thus my aunt and grandmother had to move out. At the same time my grandmother had already started to enter the stages of dementia which would eventually claim her life a number of years later. So my mother would look after her and my brother daily which was a significant strain on her and the rest of the family. All that to say there was little time to deal with any of the bullying that was going on with me, or the issues that I was dealing with in my puberty: I was already recognizing I had an attraction to the same sex. I could not even start to talk about this then; the family was already dealing with very heavy issues.

So life was pretty bleak.

I spent a lot of my teen years suppressing these feelings and spending time with my aunt and grandmother at their apartment, learning how to cook and not talking about these feelings.  I graduated and went to college and tried to help out at home as much as I could. My parents had enough on their plate. As soon as I graduated college, I got a full time job with the government and went to work in Saint John. I completely buried myself in work and went home most every weekend.

In 1979 I met the person I would marry through a very good friend at work. I buried any same sex attraction that I had and I married as soon as I could. I worked every day of my life to make my marriage work. I loved my family and we went on to have three beautiful children together. But deep inside I was always haunted by these attractions. It would always come up. I had to disclose this to my wife and we struggled with this for years.

Then I met Derek.

I knew that I had to come out to my children. I knew that if I could tell them then there was nothing in the world outside that could hurt me. I thought it was going to be the hardest thing in the world to do, but it ended up to be more freeing than I ever thought. They all thought that I was gay from the start, though they didn’t all accept it right away. One would have preferred that I didn’t say anything. The other two were supportive that I leave the marriage and pursue my true self; the other needed time. But it was out there and they all came around and accepted me for who I was, as did my ex-wife. And we became real from that day on. And we are much closer because of it.  

So after I came out, Derek and I became partners and I moved to Ottawa and we were together for five wonderful years. We had a wonderful relationship and I think back that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t said “yes” to accept me for being myself.  It took a lot to come out to my family, my work, my friends, etc. but to me, once my children knew, nobody could hurt me anymore. Not everything was rosy. Sure, I lost friends; but I question whether they were friends if they couldn’t accept me for who I was, who I am.

After five beautiful years together, Derek died suddenly of a massive heart attack at the age of 38. It was such a shock. I said at his celebration of life that I can’t imagine not ever having the chance to have spent those years with him. As a memory of Derek, I promised that I would make sure that I would set aside an amount each year for a continuing education. For the longest time, this was in the form of a scholarship as Derek was a graduate of journalism so I set up a scholarship with his high school in St. Catharines. 

Then I moved to Vancouver for work and I met my present husband, Trevor, and we married in 2010 at the Sylvia Hotel. My son Ryan was my best man and my daughters Taryn and Kaitlyn gave me away. How proud I was to be able to marry a man and have my family (my brothers and sisters) there to celebrate my love!  

I now am the proud grandfather of four grandchildren – Lily 7, Hayley 6, Ben 4, and Olivia 1. They are my joy. My son and his daughter Hayley are deeply involved in PFLAG on PEI; my daughter Taryn is a cardiac nurse in the same Cardiac Institute where Derek died and she and her husband Terry along with Lily are always involved in community pride activities in Ottawa. My daughter Katie is a French Immersion Grade 6 teacher in Montreal and she and her husband Julien, along with Ben and Olivia, are involved in community pride activities in Montreal. All of them are very proud of their Grampy T and Grampy D and look forward to our FaceTime and our visits. 

So, you ask me why Out In Schools is so important to me:  I only wish that there was such a program for me back when I was in high school. When I moved to Vancouver, I started to go to the Out On Screen film festival and that is whereI heard about Out In Schools, and that is when I decided to transfer from the scholarship program for Derek to supporting the Out In Schools program. And that brings me to today.

This is why I have supported the Out In Schools program for the last number of years and will continue to do so. I believe in it. I may not have benefited from it, but in a way I had my own. I was blessed. 

Thanks for my chance to share. 

Darrell

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