Like everything else in this crazy year, Pride looks a little different in 2020. Instead of the usual colourful parade and weekend festivities, the event has moved online, gathering more than 30 online events, including anti-racism workshops, drag shows and a virtual parade.
While we can’t hang out and celebrate in person, Pride is something that can’t be cancelled. In fact, Pride is more important than ever in 2020. Amid the pandemic we’ve learned that when we come together as a community, we are stronger than ever.
At Small Business BC, we are proud of our community. We appreciate the invaluable contributions of our LGBTQ2S members and we celebrate their diversity. To mark this year’s Pride, we wanted to shine a spotlight on our community and team members that embody the spirit of Pride.
Max Rivest, Wize Coffee Leaf
To me, Pride is something I try to celebrate and infuse into every day, not just a month or a weekend a year. I share my passion for inclusivity with people around me and accept myself for who I am. Lots of this will sound like clichés, but they are clichés for good reason.
When I went to my first ever Pride weekend in Downtown Vancouver in 2014, I was scared, nervous, anxious… Didn’t know what to expect. I was blown away with the vibe, and it reminded me that everyone is their own brand of weird, and it’s not just me in this world that has alternative chemistry. Straight people also have their own brand of weird too, so it goes both ways. Love is love, however unexpected it may be.
The same thing can be said when I joined an LGBT hockey team; I was so worried it would be highly sexualized, but it wasn’t whatsoever. As a straight-passing gay athlete growing up, I was under lots of pressure from my community to be what was expected of me, but in the end, none of that mattered. We build up this idea that people are scrutinizing us, judging us, but in the end, they’re dealing with their own issues as is and just want you to be happy. If they can’t accept you, then it’s their loss.
Pride is freedom of self, and we need to advocate and educate as much as possible for the sake of our peers who are scared to accept their true self and come out. Don’t be afraid, it’s actually much easier than you think, and it only gets better from that first step. It is the biggest weight you’ll ever lift off your shoulders in your life, and it’s a lot easier to breathe once you do. The sooner you do it, the sooner you will live a full life.
If you’re an LGBTQ2S entrepreneur thinking of starting a business, don’t be afraid. It can be scary to enter a room of investors or business contacts that are all straight people. Get used to it. They might not understand you right away, but they will always remember you if you’re charismatic and show confidence. When it comes down to it, good investors know a great opportunity and a great founder when they see one, and they won’t discount you because of your chemistry. If they believe you will have success, they couldn’t care less who you love. Never forget that.
Karley Cunningham, Big Bold Brand
I am committed to being my authentic self at all times. The whole ‘being in the closet’ thing never really worked for me. It was a huge struggle as I’ve never dealt well with not being myself. However, to this day, often when I’m in a first conversation with someone I’ll say something that ‘outs’ me, like “my wife and I,” or something that identifies me as a member of the LGBTQ community, and inside I always feel like I’m holding my breath. I’m holding my breath because I’m waiting for a response, some sign or positive affirmation that my being queer is okay with them and that it’s safe.
The affirmation can come right away from someone that they’re totally ok, or it might take five or 10 minutes, or even an hour to come. Until that affirmation comes, I’m still holding my breath. I came out in a generation where it wasn’t always acceptable or safe to be myself and I still carry that with me. There is still a little part of me that is still acutely aware and always trying to figure out ‘is this safe?’ which is a whole other business dynamic to have to deal with.
That has led me to carefully choose the people who I surround myself with in the business community. What I tell other LGBTQ business owners is, “find your community, find your people, work with those who accept you as you are.” That means find a community that’s going to support you to authentically build your business. You don’t have to choose everybody as your clients either. If someone isn’t accepting of you, or their values don’t align with yours, you have the choice to do business with them. Business becomes much easier and so much more enjoyable when you’re working with people who believe what you believe and share the same values.
When I think of Pride, I come back to Stonewall and the people who fought for us. Those who stood up and said, “no, we are human beings too! We are not different and we deserve to be treated as equals.” Pride for me isn’t something that happens once a year. Pride for me is about gratitude for living in a country and community where I am safe and acceptable. It is also daily remembrance that there is still work to be done to ensure all of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are safe and able to live out lives.
Still today, suicide numbers are still high in our community, kids who come out to their families and are disowned, and there are states in North America where you can lose your job or be denied rights because of you are gay. It’s my hope, that in the near future, we’ll never have to think or worry about these things. It’s an ongoing movement.
Tom Conway, CEO, Small Business BC
As we approach this year’s annual celebration of LGBTQ2S Pride in B.C., I am proud to serve a Board and lead a staff team who celebrate the rich diversity of our greater provincial community and world. Our goal is to provide guidance that will foster the implementation of sustainable solutions that will enable our organization to expand on its success through a more inclusive and diverse workforce, clientele, partnerships and service/product delivery.
Like many of us who have been marginalized by society, I have fought hard, marched, protested and continue to advocate for LGBTQ2S rights and acceptance. There has been much progress, but it did not come without pain and suffering, sacrifice and even death. Each generation learns and builds off the work of the last.
I learned early on to hide myself in a closet because the world, including my own church and community, made me believe I was somehow morally reprehensible because I was attracted to men. The problem with closets is they become cluttered and filled with all sorts of things you learn aren’t “acceptable.”
I grew up in the golden age of disco – and I still love it! One song in particular, I Am What I Am sung by the fabulous Miss Gloria Gaynor, motivated my eventual coming out. So powerful in her words and music – and this verse in particular: “I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses. I deal my own deck, sometimes the ace sometimes the deuces. It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit. One life so it’s time to open up your closet. Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out I am what I am!”
From that day forward, I was determined to be me. As many people before me took that step outside of their closet prison, I learned the importance of being your authentic self. I will never not be authentic, and I will never ask anyone to be anything but who they truly are around me. I encourage you to do the same.
Jessie Anderson, Big Bro’s Barbershop
As a transgender man, I know firsthand that most trans people are no stranger to having to explain their experiences and needs to the professionals in their lives, from retail clerks to medical care providers. Though an increasing number of businesses are openly “LGBT-friendly,” many of those businesses are not familiar enough with the specific needs of their trans customers and clients to provide safe and comfortable services.
Big Bro’s Barbershop is one of the few brick-and-mortar spaces worldwide that is trans-owned and operated, meaning we can provide a unique peer-to-peer dynamic with our clients. We consider ourselves a beauty and resource centre designed with the needs of the transgender community in mind! Our business model is to offer judgement-free hair services that allow room for gendered (or de-gendered) expression. We are well known in our local community for our atmosphere of safety, compassion, and love.
Most of what I know about creative business approaches, I learned from artists, sex workers, QTIPOC, queer folks with disabilities, and other folks who have been shut out of the “normal” routes of employment. Use the internet; use your surrounding community; use your creativity! Queer people have thrived for decades by thinking outside of the box and writing their own stories.
Having Pride is the process of earnestly internalizing the knowledge that you, in and of yourself, are worthy, and that you deserve to exist in this world. It is easy to conflate the idea of Pride with coming out of the closet and living loud and proud, but that opportunity is not safely available for everyone. Plus, why should your Pride be dependent on how you are perceived and received by others? As long as you are shutting out the voices telling you that you are inherently evil, or “less-than,” and you are able to hold your head up high and have confidence in your own existence, you are living Proudly!
Learn More About Pride Across British Columbia
Find details on Pride events across British Columbia: