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Calgary’s LGBT students offered $500 Acts of Greatness Bursary

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2013 Calgary Pride Parade

For most kids, high school is a difficult time. They are faced with pressures to achieve good grades, battle peer pressure, manage complicated friendships, and try to find a circle of like-minded people to fit in with, whether it be on the student council, the basketball team, earth action group, or year book committee. Admit it or not, all students deal with bullying too. But what makes it even more complicated, is when a student struggles with their sexual orientation.

For youth who have come to understand their sexual orientation and are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, it can be challenging. They’ve likely faced difficulties in the classroom, on the playground, amongst friends, and even at home with family members. Youth who come out are resilient and vibrant individuals with strong spirits and full of colourful spirit.

Founded in January 2014, Acts of Greatness is on a mission to support LGBT youth in the Calgary School District, with a new program designed to encourage ongoing education for queer students. In partnership with Education Matters, the two organizations have created a new awards program, recognizing students who identify or participate within the sexual and gender minority community.

“Our awards help support sexual and gender minority students achieve their full academic and leadership potential,” said Yiorgos Boudouris, Acts of Greatness Founder and CEO.

One award of $500 will be offered to a lucky student in the Calgary School District. The award is open to all senior high school students in Calgary, of any sexual or gender minority, who will be continuing on in post-secondary education. The applicant must also demonstrate strong leadership skills and have had a positive impact on the community.

Applications for the Acts of Greatness bursary are open until May 30, 2014.


The first gay beach pool party, Xposed, opens this weekend in Las Vegas

Xposed SaturGay Beach Pool Party Cabana

Xposed SaturGays Beach Pool PartyThe gays always love to make a splash, and this Saturday, March 29, they will be big waves as the newly renovated Tropicana Las Vegas welcomes the LGBT community for the first ever, gay pool party on the Las Vegas strip!

Having recently undergone a $200 million renovation, the Tropicana Las Vegas is proudly flinging open their doors and inviting the LGBT community to experience fun in the sun at what will be one of the hottest gay pool parties.

Every Saturday from 11am – 6pm, Xposed pool parties will feature some of North America’s top DJ talent, hot Go Go boys, and fabulous entertainment. Kicking off the season on March 29 will be DJ Ryan Kenney and DJ Kidd Madonny, and throughout the summer other headlining DJ’s will include DJ Hector Fonseca and DJ Roland Belmares.

The pool party will feature two different environments, one for the fun and flirty, and the other for the cool, calm, and collected.

General admission to the Xposed pool party is $20 USD per person. Trop Plus Players Club and Las Vegas locals with a Trop Plus card get in free before 1pm. Day beds can be reserved for $200 USD, and cabanas for $400 USD.

Tropicana Las Vegas Pools


Newsflash! 8 Dumb Questions You Should Stop Asking Gay Guys

Questions you should never ask a gay guy

Listen up, straights. The gay community has had enough of your inconsiderate, stereotypical questions. It’s time to let you in on eight questions you’re always asking your gay friends that you really shouldn’t.

Question 1: How did you know you were gay?

How did you know you weren’t gay? Gotcha.

Question 2: Were you born gay, or did you choose to like other guys?

To be fair, it’s not uncommon to meet a gay man who doesn’t think he was born gay. However, just because he wasn’t born gay doesn’t mean he chose being gay or who to like. At what point in your life did you choose to be straight? Oh, you were born that way? Sound familiar? It should.

Question 3: Who’s the woman in the relationship?

Pay a gay couple to take off their clothes if you want to know which one has a vagina. The answer might surprise you and so might the size of their dicks.

Question 4: Are you worried about getting HIV?

Gay men are about as worried about getting HIV as straight men and women are worried about getting cancer. We all know it’s there, we all have access to information on how to prevent it, and no one’s day is ruined by the thought of getting cancer or HIV. Asking this question is like any man asking a woman if she’s worried about getting pregnant. Both are an outcome of sex.

Question 5: Does it bother you that you’ll never have kids?

Does it bother you that gay men can have kids as easily as you can? Actually, gay men can have kids a lot easier. Gay parents don’t get fat. They don’t have to change their diets. They don’t have a lot of expensive medical bills depending on which route they go. Try asking your gay friend if he is interested in having kids before asking how he feels about never having them.

Question 6: Will you take me shopping?

A gay man with nothing better to do will say yes. A gay man with a life outside of your wardrobe will charge by the hour.

Question 7: You’re not trying to hit on me, are you?

Every gay man has been asked this question or something similar by a straight man. It’s practically a part of gay culture, but it’d be nice if it weren’t. Think about it, straight men. How would you feel if every lesbian you met thought you were hitting on her simply because you’re a straight guy? Unless the goal is to get into another guy’s pants, ignore the big gay elephant in the room. It’s only there because you make it be. The average gay man has as much logic, respectfulness, and decency as the average straight man.

Question 8: Do you like to wear women’s clothes?

Are you asking a gay man, a transgendered woman, or a drag queen? Notice how the italicized words are directly related to gender and can tell you what type of clothes the person you’re talking to enjoys wearing. This question is intrusive, period. Even if a gay guy does wear a dress from time to time, why do you think it’s okay to ask what he keeps hidden in his closet? You can guess he’s hiding the same thing you are: sex toys.

And for the gays: what are the most annoying questions you’ve had? Leave your comments below so our straight allies can have a better grasp of which questions they obviously should not be asking.


10 reasons why you should go clubbing with a gay guy

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If you don’t have any plans this Saturday night, you should probably hit up one of your gay friends. Gay guys love to go out and have a great time. They are always the life of the party, the social butterflies of the room, know where to get the best drinks in town and know the hot spot for the night. Need more convincing? Here are 10 reasons why you should go clubbing with a gay guy:

  1. He’ll go through your closet and make sure you look amazing
  2. There will be pre-drinking, either at someone’s house or a funky lounge
  3. They know all the hot clubs with the best music, drinks and entertainment
  4. You can wait in line together at the coat check, bar, and women’s washroom
  5. Gay guys know how to dance
  6. You’ll be surrounded by hot people all night long
  7. You’ll be introduced to all the drag queens, go-go dancers and performers at the club
  8. The gays love their vodka and they can drink, drink, drink!
  9. At the end of the night there’s always a stop for some fast food even through you’re all on a diet
  10. You’ll get home safely because he’ll put you into a cab or walk you home at the end of the night

Why do you love hanging out with your gay friends? Leave your comments below.


No Fun City to “Party for Life”

Vancouver's Davie VillageFor years Vancouver has had the dubious distinction of being nicknamed No Fun City. Metro Vancouver, home to over two million residents, earned the notorious reputation after the City of Vancouver enforced harsh bylaws and cancelled major events based on a few major incidents that caused millions of dollars in damage.

Despite 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs riots, when the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins, the Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia continue to push forward on initiatives to bring life, culture and community programs to the socially-depressed city. Upcoming changes to liquor laws in British Columbia and a New Years Eve celebration for 2014 are both in the works.

Fortunately for Vancouver, the LGBT community has flourished throughout the years as a shining beacon on how to organize and fun major events that raise awareness and raise funds for important causes. The cities largest outdoor festival and gathering, Vancouver Pride, attracts almost 250,000 people, and is popular with not only the LGBT community, but also families and destination guests.

Well, the LGBT community is at it again. On Saturday, February 1, many businesses are opening their doors and welcoming the community with the Party of Life. For one night Davie Village businesses will be working together to help the Vancouver Friends for Life Society, a Vancouver West End organization that has helped thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and cancer.

The Friends for Life House, Little Sisters Bookstore and participating Davie Street businesses will be selling $10 wristbands. These special wrist bands will give participants the VIP treatment and help benefit people in the community that require much needed support. Participating businesses will be offering wristband wearers everything from VIP line access to free cover (subject to capacity).

Participating businesses include Celebrities Nightclub, The Junction, Pumpjack Pub, The Oasis, and The FountainHead.

Let’s bring fun back to Vancouver!


Merry Christmas

Brian the Elf Merry Christmas and happy holidays! 2013 has been another exciting year and I would like to personally thank my readers for reading, commenting and sharing my stories over the past year, and to all the valuable partners which helped to make it all happen.

As one of North America’s leading gay lifestyle and entertainment guides, I’m passionate about sharing pivotal moments in life and stories that are of interest to you. This past year I’ve taken my readers along on my travels to off-the-wall destinations, kept you in shape with helpful health and fitness advice, and shared stories from role models and icons of the LGBT community. And more than a few of you have certainly enjoyed some of the lip-smacking cocktails I’ve posted in Cocktail of the Week.

This year HomoCulture.ca was awarded one of the top LGBT blogs in Canada from the Canadian weblog awards, an independent program dedicated to finding the best Canadian bloggers.

There are already plenty of great things lined up for 2014. Thank you again for helping make HomoCulture.ca part of your life to help discover special, life-defining moments.

Sincerely,

Brian

Brian Webb
Owner, Editor-in-Chief
HomoCulture.ca
Twitter   |   Facebook


Testing HIV Positive. “What if? What now?”

Corey Ouellet

HIV. It’s one of the biggest fears in the gay community. It has been since the early 1980′s, when AIDS was discovered and it became an epidemic. For over three decades millions of dollars has been poured into education and resources. While HIV/AIDS is no longer on the dramatic rise that it once was, there is still no cure. Unfortunately, not enough men get tested regularly to know their status.

“I had a friend who worked at Qmunity Resource Centre,” said 30 year old Vancouver resident, Corey Ouellet. Qmunity is a Vancouver-based not-for-profit resource centre providing support to the LGBT community across British Columbia. “I was taking him out for dinner and he had a couple of things to finish up before we left. Knowing there was a testing centre down the hall, I used the time to get tested.”

While his sexual encounters were adventurous, he made a point to always carry condoms with him. However, there were times in his past that the heat of the moment overtook logic and reason.

“I was diligent about getting tested every six to nine months,” said Corey, who self-admits he was extremely sexually active throughout his life. “I frequented bathhouses and cruised online sites.”

At the time, Corey has no idea how this simple blood test would change his life, forever.

“I didn’t even consider the chance of testing positive,” Corey said, remembering the day he went to get his test results.  Corey would learn at that moment that he was HIV positive.

“My first reaction was slightly alarming to the nurse,” Corey exclaimed. “I said ‘Thank God!’” His reaction wasn’t based on receiving news he was HIV positive. Corey had been suffering from severe tiredness for several months and wasn’t able to receive the medical care he required. “It was a sigh of relief knowing that I would now have some of the top medical minds at my reach to determine the cause of this fatigue.”

After receiving his test results Corey first action was to call a close friend who he knew was HIV positive. He had a lot of questions on his mind and wanted to get some real answers from a trusted source.

“I needed to tell someone,” said Corey, knowing full-well that his friend had gone through the exact same thing and would be a good starting point for this new chapter of his life. “Emotionally, at first, I was numb and I felt disconnected. My mind was racing with questions of, What if? and What now?

Corey would later learn that his fatigue was the result of a life-threatening platelet count, which was unrelated to him being HIV positive.

“I have been blessed with meeting some amazing survivors of HIV/AIDS and I have become more in touch with myself and my body,” Corey explained. “I have a nearly perfect bill-of-health and my outlook on life has changed for the better.”

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS today, and it is impossible to turn back time. Three years after learning he is HIV positive, Corey is still the same friendly and out-going person he has always been and remains up-beat. He is passionate about learning more about the subject, raising awareness for others, encouraging others to practice safe sex, sharing his story, and most importantly, offering advice to others to practice safer sex.

“Educate yourself and be aware of what you are getting into,” says Corey. “There are safe ways to explore sexuality and condoms are available within a couple of blocks of wherever you might find yourself. Understand the risks and if you are engaged in sexual activity, get tested regularly to protect yourself and your partner. The risks involved in sexual activity are not just limited to homosexuals, these transmissions occur amongst all people.”


10 Things You Need to Know About Being a Gay Bottom

Fiertre Montreal Pride Parade 2013

  1. Being a bottom is like being gay. It’s not a choice. It’s just the way you are. You were born that way. You like getting fucked and that’s all there is to it.
  2. Limited selection. A.K.A. gay bottom syndrome. Unfortunately, it seems that 9 out of every 10 gay men are bottoms. This means gay men trying to find a sexual partner find it almost impossible!
  3. People judge. Yes, that’s right. Straight or gay, as soon as someone outs you as being a bottom, people will instantly start judging you. It’s not like you’ve done something bad, they’ll just be all like “Oh, he’s a bottom!” Hunny, get over it… so are you!
  4. Just because you’re horny, doesn’t mean it’s a good time for anal sex. Remember the acronym, CCR: Clean, Calm and Relaxed – these are the three requirements before sex.
  5. If you’ve been lucky enough to score a top, doesn’t automatically mean he’s a good top. Ever had someone try to shove something inside you where things aren’t usually placed, especially when you’re not ready. Yeah, it’ can hurt like a bitch! Like a car on a cold winter morning in Canada… you gotta get it warmed up before you can get going.
  6. Premature ejaculation. Some tops cum right away, taking all the fun out of it and leaves you wondering why you spend so much time prepping for something that lasted less than a moment. Seems like a waste of time and effort.
  7. Just because you’re a bottom, doesn’t mean you’ll never top. Some bottoms do like to top. It’s allowed. It might not happen all the time, but sometimes it’s fun to switch it up.
  8. There’s always the fear and worry of what’ll happen when he pulls out. “Please be clean… please be clean!
  9. Douching isn’t fun or pleasant. Not only that, in some cases, it can put you at higher risk for STI’s and HIV/AIDs.
  10. Not all bottoms wanna be face down, ass up. Whatever happened to good ‘ol foreplay? Bottoms love jerking, oral sex, getting rimmed and passionate kissing before they get fucked.


Calgary Pride 2013… Meh…

Calgary Pride 2013

Hunny, you weren’t the only one with this look on your face this year at Calgary Pride.

This past weekend was Calgary Pride. While Pride events, festivals and parades are usually very exciting, for a city with over a million people, the Pride weekend was less that impressive.

Last year the Friday night events included both an official Pride Calgary event, plus events hosted by promoters. This year Pride Calgary opted not to host their event, and bill the other third-party events all as official events. While promoted as Pride Calgary events, really they were the same old events that happened in the past only they received official recognition. Big deal.

There were no major official events on Saturday; however, Pure Pride Calgary was also sanctioned as an official event, despite being an event completely run by a promoter. While this event is the largest night party of the weekend, the promoter fills the night with way too many acts that by the time a crowd starts to get into dancing it’s quickly over because of another performance. The event also has way too many VIP tickets sold, where over 1/3 of the people attending are huddled upstairs on a balcony wanting to feel exclusive (how can you feel exclusive when everyone and their dog is on the same balcony), and the dance floor is left half empty. Many people commented throughout the night that it seemed more like a party for the promoter than for the attendees.

RBC in the 2013 Calgary Pride Parade

2013 Calgary Pride ParadeSunday was the big parade. Calgary Pride needs to be commended for their organization and execution. The 45-minute parade was on time and offered a wide variety of entries from local organizations to corporations. While Shell, RBC, TD Bank, Virgin Radio, and other major corporate partners were in the parade, WestJet, who’s headquarters are located in Calgary was notably missing (they have had a presence in the Vancouver Pride parade for the last two years). In the true spirit of celebrating pride, diversity, and equality, there were many advocacy groups that participated in the parade. It was also noted that many notable local advocates and allies of the LGBT community, including political and media personalities were in the parade. While more pride parades in North America start at either 10 or 11am, Calgary’s starts at noon, which makes way more sense. The streets this year were notably quieter this year, with less people in attendance watching the parade. The parade also had great support from many youth, families and allies of the LGBT community. It’s also very notable that this is an incredibly family-friendly pride event, with little or no half-naked men and women, which tend to detract from family and ally attendance.

2013 Calgary Pride parade

Following the parade was the wrap-up festival in Shaw Millennium Park, located at the end of the parade route. Thousands came to hear Calgary’s mayor and Premier Redford speak, and for the afternoon DJ’s and entertainers performing on the main stage. Topping off the event, which supersedes even Vancouver Prides event, was the large beer gardens overlooking the festival grounds. It was incredibly well attended. There was a large police presence at the events, and they took a friendly, active role in their duty of engaging with festivalgoers, ensuring everyone had a great time.

2013 Calgary Pride Parade

Calgary Pride isn’t large enough in numbers of people or quality of events to put it on the map as a destination pride event. It’s just not big enough and doesn’t have the excitement behind it to make it desirable for out-of-town guests. However, for anyone living within a two-hour drive of Calgary and are looking to celebrate Pride, it’s a fantastic event and well worth the trip.


The Meaning of the Rainbow Pride Flag

The Rainbow Pride Flag

For over 35 years, since 1978, the rainbow flag has been the universal symbol of diversity for the LGBT community around the world. Each colour in the flag represents a specific meaning and purpose.

Red = Life

Orange = Healing

Yellow = Sunlight

Green = Nature

Blue = Harmony

Purple = Spirit

Today, the vibrant rainbow flag is accepted throughout society as vibrant sign of acceptance of the LGBT community.

 

 


Vancouver Pride Parade Brings Out The Best

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IMG_1809_smIt was picture-perfect weather all-day long for the annual Vancouver Pride Parade, held this past Sunday, August 4 in downtown Vancouver. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up for Vancouver’s largest parade to support the LGBT community.

The Vancouver Pride Parade has a 35-year history in the city. What started out as a march for equality has since become a celebration and is now an official civic event.

Hosted by Vancouver’s fun-loving drag queen, Joan-E, the parade included colourful floats and entries representing members of the LGBT community, local not-for-profit organizations, members from local, provincial and federal governments, corporate partners, community organizations, and local businesses.

IMG_1680_smPremier Christy Clark became the second Premier in British Columbia’s history to march in the Vancouver Pride Parade. Clark has been a long-time supporter of the anti-bullying day, Pink Shirt Day. Clark becomes the second female Premier in Canada to march in a pride parade, following Premier Redford who marched in the Calgary Pride parade last September.

Pride events, such as the Vancouver Pride parade are no longer targeted gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals; it has become an important part of the community attracting families, friends, allies, children, government officials and corporate organizations.

Pride events, including the Vancouver Pride Parade, are an opportunity to demonstrate around the world that we should celebrate diversity and respect the rights and freedoms of every individual. Organizers of the Vancouver Pride Parade hope that this years parade will help remind other countries and jurisdictions around the world that Canada is a leader in LGBT rights and equality, and that they should follow suit. This year’s message is particularly important given the recent law changes in Russia where it is illegal to promote homophobic messages.

Other official Vancouver Pride events over the weekend included the Davie Street Party, the Dave Wallace Pancake Breakfast, and the Pride Festival at Sunset Beach.


Mint Chip

Mint Chip Pinnacle Vodka CocktailAcross the world, governments, organizations and individuals are outraged over Russia’s recent law changes against the LGBT community. It’s put a big chip on the shoulder of many and people are now taking a stand against Russian vodka’s.

In West Hollywood, local bar owners, LGBT organizations and City of West Hollywood officials gathered in a ceremony to pour all Russian vodkas, including Stoli and Russian Standard, down the curbside drains. They did it as a statement in the boycott of Russian goods, specifically vodka.

“We come together to stand up against Russia’s treatment of its LGBT people,” says Micky’s bar owner Michael Niemeyer.  “While we can’t be on the streets of Russia protesting the recent anti-LGBT legislation, we can show support by not selling Russian brands in turn bringing national attention to these terrible crimes.”

Non-Profit LBGT organization Christopher Street West, longtime Producer of LA PRIDE, will also participate in the ceremony on Thursday.  “We support the city, the local businesses and the global community in the decision to boycott.’ It is critical that we call attention to the atrocities that are perpetuated against LGBT all over the world and we are encouraging other non-profit organizations to do the same,” said CSW President Rodney Scott.

In Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird denounced Russia’s controversial new anti-gay law as hateful, saying it could incite violence.

“This mean-spirited and hateful law will affect all Russians 365 days of the year, every year,” said Baird in a interview with the Associated Press. “It is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence.”

Baird has had eight meetings with Russian officials since January pleading for them not to pass the controversial law. Now, Canadian, American and British governments are coming together to continue to put pressure on Russia to reverse the laws.

Meanwhile, back in Vancouver it’s Vancouver Pride weekend. Vodka is the drink of choice for the majority of the LGBT community. While Russian vodka’s are currently being boycotted around the world, there are still other vodka options, including Pinnacle Vodka, which is based out of France. If you want to have another chip this weekend, make it a Mint Chip with Pinnacle Whipped vodka.

  • 2 oz Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
  • 1 oz Crème de Cocoa Liqueur
  • 1 oz Crème de Menthe Liqueur

Shake over ice and strain into a chocolate cookie martini glass drizzled with chocolate. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Find out how you could enter for a chance to win a trip to New York City or a Vancouver Pride Party Kit from Pinnacle Vodka and HomoCulture.ca.


How to be an awesome parent of a gay son

It’s important to really understand the gay community if you want to be an awesome parent of a gay sonCertainly no one said that being the parent of a gay son is easy. Sure, you’ll have a lot of your own emotions to deal with, especially when your son first comes out. Over time it gets easier. It’s important to really understand the gay community if you want to be an awesome parent of a gay son. Here’s how:

  1. Ask the right questions. Face it, you’re not expected to know all the answers to your questions, and you will have questions. Rather than having burning questions, talk about them openly with other parents of gay sons, do online research, and get informed. It’s your responsibility. In otherwords, if you have questions about gay sex, Google it, don’t ask your son, unless you have a relationship that would warrant that kind of question being asked.
  2. Don’t make it awkward. Asking questions about your son’s love life isn’t cool. If relationships are something you both equally, openly talk about, then cool. If not, leave it alone.
  3. Show your love. Don’t just say you love your son, no matter his sexual orientation; show it! Make an effort to be part of the LGBT community by joining the local PFLAG chapter or volunteer for a youth organization.
  4. Show your pride. Pride isn’t just for gay men. It’s for the entire LGBT community, including friends, family and allies to all come together to celebrate. Join the parade, attend the festivals, and be active. By attending Pride parades and festivals with your child, it validates that you support their sexuality and embrace the community. It’ll also help ease your own fears and anxieties by understanding that the gay community is diverse, fun, and welcoming.
  5. Don’t be embarrassed. The worst thing a parent of a gay son can do is to be embarrassed to say that they have a gay son. Be proud! There’s nothing wrong with having a gay kid. You didn’t do anything wrong. If someone else has a problem with your own child being gay, that’s their problem, not yours! If you do hear someone talking negatively about the gay community, speak up! The least you can do it stand up for your son’s sexuality and help put an end to hate.
  6. Stop worrying. Just because your son is gay doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to get HIV/AIDS and will get gay bashed every time he goes to a Pride event. The gay community is very supportive and times are changing; perhaps it’s time your views catch up to 2013.
  7. Don’t pressure your child to come out. If you suspect that your child is gay, don’t ask them outright if they are gay. All you’re doing is putting up barriers for them and making it more awkward. Your son, if he is gay, will come out when the time is right for him.
  8. Learn the correct terminology. Go look up on UrbanDictionary or Google to understand terminology like the differences between transsexual, transgendered, and transvestite.
  9. Don’t stereotype. Hate is spread through stereotyping. The gay community works hard to breakdown those tough barriers. Don’t be part of the problem.
  10. Understand that the gay community is diverse. From bears to twinks, power bottoms to circuit kids, to drag queens and old queens, there are many different types of gay people and each identify individually. Knowing and understanding the gay community and terminology is key.


The Largest Pride Parade in the World: NYC Pride March 2013

Over 2 million people showed up to watch the 2013 New York City Pride Parade

Since 1970, New York City has marched through the streets in recognition of civil rights, HIV/AIDS awareness, and to remember those who have been lost due to illness, violence, and neglect. The annual New York City pride march is the largest LGBT pride parade in the world, attracting over two million spectators.

The 2013 New York Pride March, held on Sunday, June 30, had over 300 marching contingents including activists, politicians, community organizations, not-for-profits, corporate partners, and small businesses. The Grand Marshal was Edie Windsor. There were over 50 brightly decorated floats and thousands of marchers dressed in vibrant costumes that made their way down 5th Avenue to Christopher Street.


New Jersey Celebrates Pride with Annual Sand Blast Weekend

Party goers at Ashbury Park's annual LGBT party, Sand Blast Weekend, on the Jersey Shore.It all started back in 2000 with a small house party in the little known seaside town of Asbury Park, where about 100 people gathered for a Saturday night party. Over a decade later, the once boarded up town is now a vibrant community rebuilt to it’s glorious Victorian splendour and hosting a fabulous weekend celebration, Sand Blast Weekend.

Much has changed. The annual LGBT party, Sand Blast Weekend, on the Jersey Shore attracts over 4,000 people. From Friday, July 19 through Sunday, July 21, there will be 23 activities including surfing, guided bike rides, beach dodge ball, a burlesque show, art gallery walk, two pool parties, a dance party, and the weekend’s feature event, The Beach Party, featuring music by DJ Tony Moran and DJ Hector Fonseca.

“Sand Blast is about discovering Asbury Park as a gay-friendly resort community and making it your own,” said Brad Hurtado, event founder & executive producer. “We want our guests to go off and explore the entire town and boardwalk and enjoy all that this jewel on the Jersey Shore has to offer. It’s not just a place to come once a year; it’s a destination we hope guests return to again and again.”

If the sun isn’t hot enough, there will be Olympic-caliber trampoline athletes at Saturday’s Beach Party, Team New York Aqutic’s gay water polo team performing a ten minute scrimmage, and an synchronized swimming show at Sunday’s Riptide Pool Party.

While much of the Jersey Shore was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Asbury Park only suffered minor damage along the mile-long boardwalk, which has since been repaired. Asbury Park’s quirky shopping district and the magnificent Victorian residential neighborhoods were also unscathed.

Sand Blast Weekend passes start at $165 and Saturday-only passes are $110. For more information visit the Sand Blast Weekend website.


Inaugural Fraser Valley Pride Scheduled this Weekend

Fraser Valley Youth Society to host Inaugural Pride ParadeIt’s time for the Fraser Valley to wake up and embrace the LGBT community! Organized by the Fraser Valley Youth Society, the inaugural Fraser Valley Pride Parade will take place on Saturday, May 25, 2013, marching through the streets of downtown Abbotsford.

Friends, family, allies, and members of the LGBT community are welcome to attend the Saturday afternoon parade. The organizers are quick to point out that this is not an official parade with street closures, so the parade will take place on the sidewalks, at least for this year. Parade participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the youth-led pride initiative and to bring rainbow flags to show their support.

The parade will start at the Matsqui Recreation Centre (3106 Clearbrook Road), at 3:00pm on Saturday, travel south on Clearbrook Road, then turn east on South Fraser Way, ending at Civic Plaza (32315 South Fraser Way).

Dubbed The Bible Belt, the Fraser Valley, located one hour east of Vancouver, BC, has a poor reputation in the region for not being gay-friendly. Members of the LGBT community, both youth and adults, who live in the Fraser Valley claim they do not feel safe or are not welcome based on their sexual orientation, and want to make a stand for equality. PFLAG will be participating in the parade.

In the recent BC provincial election, Todd Hauptman, campaign manager for BC Liberal MLA for Langley, Mary Polak, made headlines across the province as he resigned his position with the campaign just one week prior to the election over differences related to LGBT rights and issues To date, no members of the BC Liberal or BC NDP party have come forward confirming their attendance to the Fraser Valley Pride events.

The youth-led group has hosted a walk for the past five years, and this year has expanded the event to draw greater awareness and attention to the LGBT community.

Following the pride parade there will be speeches from members of the community. To wrap up the days events there will be a screening of She’s A Boy I Knew at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, hosted by the Fraser Valley Youth Society.


What’s Not Being Done to Protect LGBT Youth in BC Schools

Spencer Chandra Hebert, BC Provincial MLA for Vancouver-West End

Spencer Chandra Hebert, BC Provincial MLA for Vancouver-West End. Photo contributed.

Canada is regarded around the world for having created an environment of equality. Thanks to the Constitution of Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides same-sex couples equal rights to employment, health benefits, adoption, immigration, housing, finances and pensions, and marriage. Even with all these rights, bullying, specifically in schools, remains a sensitive and important issue today.

There are number of recent cases in Canada that have received international media attention where youth have committed suicide because they were faced with bulling by their school classmates. The public has been outraged and has are now calling on governments to take action.

Studies have shown the rate of suicide and depression of LGBT youth is higher than non-LGBT youth. To date, it has been the responsibility of schools to provide a safe education environment for students, free of discrimination and harassment. Most schools in Canada, public or private, can be held liable for harassment, name-calling and bullying of both students and staff under the Humans Rights Act.

Across Canada, most schools have not implemented specific anti-gay bullying or name-calling policies. The Yukon has excluded minors from protection of sexual orientation under the Human Rights Act, leaving youth vulnerable and at the highest risk of any other jurisdiction in Canada. Polar-opposite is British Columbia, which in updating school curriculums to incorporate LGBT topics; however, many believe more work needs to be done.

Without having specific policies or laws in any Province or Territory in Canada, some schools have taken action by setting up gay-straight alliances.

“One thing we’ve called for, for a long time now, is ensuring Codes of Conduct in all school districts across the province explicitly protect LGBT youth, and to ensure there are steps to deal with homophobia and trans-phobia,” said BC Provincial MLA for Vancouver-West End, Spencer Chandra Hebert.

“It’s not good enough to say we don’t think people should bully,” Spencer explains. You actually have to name the grounds of discrimination and explain them because people will sometimes discriminate against someone just because they don’t know any better, not because they actually hate gay people or because they’ve been told that gay people are bad.”

The BC Government is an advocate for Pink Shirt Day, a public awareness day in Canada asking for everyone to put a stop to bullying for both youth and adults. While the movement has sparked media attention and has raised awareness of the issues around bullying, the fundamental issues remain. The public is asking for new legislation to protect youth in British Columbia, and across Canada.

“A one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work,” Spencer said, explaining how new legislation needs to be specific. “It’s not one-size-fits-all bullying. It is explicit targets on LGBT kids back, and thus you need to respond to that specific action. The approach so far of ‘don’t do it, don’t be a bully’ hasn’t been all that successful.”

The Vancouver School District has been the most progressive district in the province, hiring an anti-bullying coordinator. School Boards are also working through co-governance, to find ways to help share knowledge around the province, educating both students and teachers. Other organizations, including, Out in Schools, are working with school districts on programing and resources to provide education and facilitate safer environment in public schools.

LGBT youth need the same rights as any other child in British Columbia. They deserve an opportunity to learn in a safe and welcoming environment, free of harassment and bullying. Although the BC Liberal Party has been in power for the last three consecutive terms, spanning 12 years, they have yet to announce plans to move forward with legislation or an all-encompassing strategy, and have left the duty and responsibility to the local school districts.

The BC Liberals were given the opportunity to respond to interview requests, however, at the time this post was published, all interview requests were denied citing it was too risky.

Since when is the protection of youth in British Columbia a risky subject? Leave your comments on this blog post.


Boy Scouts of America Urged to Lift Ban on Gay Scouts

Photo Credit: Express-Times File Photo

Photo Credit: Express-Times File Photo

This week the National Executive Council of the Boys Scouts of America are continuing discussions on dropping the ban on gay scouts and gay troop leaders. Over 1.4 million people have signed the petition urging the organization to change their controversial and discriminatory practice.

It’s not just the public that is outraged. United States President Barack Obama and Eagle Scouts – Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon – LGBT leaders, and corporate partners are also asking for an end to the outdated policy.

“With LGBT people more visible and more triumphant than at any other point in our community’s history, the timing is right for the Boy Scouts to finally embrace gay scouts and gay troop leadership and put an end to this shameful policy,” said Rodney Scott, Board President of Christopher Street West. “Christopher Street West produced the world’s first LGBT Pride Parade in 1970 and this type of discrimination is precisely what compelled us to organize. We wanted equality in employment, education, housing and parity when it came to our relationships. Now, for gay youth and their families, we want equality in scouting.”

The Boy Scouts of America have been delivering programming including character development and value-based leadership training for over 100 years.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” explained Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for Boy Scouts of America. “This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

While the Boy Scouts of America would not dictate a position to units, members of parents, the policy would not require chartered organizations to act in ways inconsistent with the principles, mission or religious beliefs.

In other words, the individual organizations the oversee and deliver programming would determine how to address the situation.

It’s expected that the National Executive Council for the Boy Scouts of America will take up the issue today, Wednesday, February 5, 2013, and potentially vote on policy.

 

What do you think of The Boy Scouts of America policy banning gay scouts and troop leaders? Sound off now. Leave a comment on this blog post.


Celebrating 30 Years of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

It’s been three decades since Canada brought in the 1982 Constitution Act, proclaiming the Charter of Rights and Freedom, granting equal rights to all Canadians. It was a momentous moment in Canadian history; something that has become celebrated, honoured and highly regarded in our culture.

After decades of protests, marches, and court battles court battles, the gay and lesbian community won the rights for same sex marriage across Canada in 2005. It brought a renewed commitment and new meaning to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for the lesbian and gay community. It brought hope and faith to the LGBT community.

Canada has been a recognized leader in equal rights around the globe. Although much work still needs to be done, including securing the right for men who sleep with men to donate blood, and for equal rights for transgendered people, Canada’s laws and equality rights have become a template for other nations.

Unfortunately, it’s not happening quick enough. In fact, 80 countries have laws that impression LGBT people, and seven countries still have the death penalty. It’s a harsh reality. The motivation is primarily based upon religious and cultural beliefs.

But there is hope. Today, 50 countries have anti-discriminatory laws, and 11 countries and two First Nations have legalized same-sex marriage, while another seven recognize same-sex unions. Adding to the count are a number of local jurisdictions which perform or recognize civil unions and/or marriage, including the most recent addition of three States in the recent US election.

While in Canada we celebrate our diversity openly and freely thanks to the Constitution Act of 1982 and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is important to recognize that oppression and silence can still be found around the world. It is important that every Canadian show respect for the LGBT community, and to get involved in helping to bring change in Canada and for those that still need our support around the world. Life is happier under the rainbow.


LGBT Musician, Tyrell Witherspoon, Looks To Fans to Help with New Album

Canadian based singer, songwriter, actor and dancer, Tyrell Witherspoon, has quickly become one of the fastest growing independent, openly gay recording artists in British Columbia. Since the release of his first single two years ago, Tyrell has travelled across Canada performing for thousands of people at a variety of festivals, Pride events, and at some of the hottest clubs.

Over the next two months, Tyrell will be working on the next part of his journey, expanding his music career through the help of his current and future fans.

“I have launched my first Pledge Music Campaign to raise money to help produce my new EP, Scorpio, which I would like to release this January,” Tyrell explained. “I’m looking to raise $3,000 to afford studio costs and production.”

As an independent recording artist, there are a lot of costs that go into producing an EP. Funds raised will be used to pay for studio sessions for vocal recordings, hire an engineer and producer to create the album’s overall sound, and to promote the album once it’s released to generate both awareness and sales.

“Twenty-five per cent of any dollars raised above and beyond my target will help benefit Out in Schools,” Tyrell said as he described how the organization helps combat bullying in public schools across British Columbia. “They truly do some amazing work that I absolutely stand behind and believe in.”

If you would like to make a contribution to the creation of Scorpio, you can make a pledge on Tyrell’s Pledge Music Campaign page. Each pledge comes with a  special thank you reward from Tyrell.


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