Variety & Diversity VANCOUVER
by JIMMY IM
It’s 11 A.M. and sunny, and I’m standing next to the Outlook TV float with excited, local Vancouverites, preparing to ride two hours through Davie Street for Gay Pride Vancouver 2012. Paraders gather around their respective floats, wearing leather, masks, or even flamingos on their heads, amping the scene with a festive fervor—even I, a jaded New Yorker, am considerably moved. But there’s one dilemma: I find out that it’s mandatory for everyone on my float to take off their shirt. This generally isn’t a big deal, but after a road trip for the past two weeks and not having spent any time in the gym (not to mention generously eating my way through three cities), I have to admit I’m a little self-conscious. I also stand strongly on the fact that celebrating diversity has nothing to do with showing skin, and, furthermore, I don’t have much to show off. So what actually pushes my decision to strip down (other than the fact that I don’t want to walk the route as I’m wearing loafers) is justifying the idea Vancouver is a small city of just over 600,000, therefore it must be an appropriately scaled audience. I can’t be more wrong.
As we chug along Davie Street to celebrate the 35th anniversary of gay pride in Vancouver, we’re flanked by hundreds of spectators. The hundreds turn into thousands as we round the corner and parade along the water. The view from the float is beyond commanding and wildly patriotic as gay pride flags and Canadian flags are waved. I have long forgotten about my shirtless situation and ride, not only the float, but an infectious energy thriving in a unique, vivacious community. The turnout for the 2012 parade was close to a million, which almost doubles the population, a dramatic reflection that Vancouver is easily one of the most gay-friendly cities in North America.
On the West Coast of Canada, Vancouver is a rare cosmopolitan city that’s surrounded by nature. Even with mountains just minutes away, it’s all about beaches and islands, progressive neighborhoods and luxury hotels wrapped in a one-stop vacation. It has an edge over other top Canadian cities thanks to its commanding backdrops and wealth of outdoor activities—just an easy hour away, there’s Whistler, one of the top skiing destinations in the world. In fact, it’s rare anywhere in the world where a visitor can ski in the morning, cruise on the ocean in the afternoon, relax on a sandy beach at sundown, walk a few blocks to a buzzing restaurant, and finish off the night at an electric gay bar.
If there’s one thing Vancouver is most recognized for, it’s the Winter Olympics of 2010. While it put Vancouver on the global map, memories from the event will always resonate. “I can still remember how quiet the city suddenly got during the gold medal men’s hockey match between Canada and the US,” says openly gay Vancouver ambassador, Sean Horler. “When Team Canada scored the winning goal, there was this roar that came from nowhere and everywhere at the same time—like you were in the largest arena on earth—and everyone started pouring out onto the streets to celebrate. I don’t think Canadians are aggressively patriotic in the same way other countries are, but those games really made me feel different about Canada and being Canadian,” he says.