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Helsinki Will Be Beyond Gay Very Soon!

Every year since Beyond Gay was released there is a little rush of enquiries about screenings during Pride season, and this year there’s been more than in a long time, and they’re very exciting. Earlier this week our producer Charlie David presented the film in South Africa, and tonight I’ll host the first of a whirl wind tour of screenings in Northern Europe in Helsinki Finland. I just arrived last night and I was surprised how much it felt like home – not so much Vancouver as Northern British Columbia, it was sunny and warm and very green.  (This morning it’s very Vancouver though, the sky is that familiar grey and and it’s drizzling with rain.) The film is being presented with Helsinki Pride and the Canadian Embassy in Finland at Kino Dubrovnik/Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11. The doors open at 6 PM and I’ll be on hand to introduce the film and do a Q&A afterwards.

Helsinki Pride has an incredible line-up of events programmed, more than twenty different things just today and it’s only Wednesday. There is even a Barn Dance tonight (did I mention it felt like Northern BC..?), a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and talk., and the Miss and Mr. Gay Finland competitions to name just a few. There is an entire program of Youth Pride events as well – super impressed by the variety of things to do. I’ll also be participating in a LGBTI Human Rights forum hosted by the US Embassy alongside several Russian and other Eastern European activists. Based on the conversations I’ve had in the planning, this is sure to be a very interesting event. It’s very refreshing to know that my own government, as well as the US are taking part and supporting the organizers of Helsinki Pride. I will be on a float representing ten visiting countries of LGBTI people and our allays in the parade on Saturday. I’ll try to keep my shirt on.

As I mentioned there are more exciting screening travels aheads, so stay tuned for more news – the fun has just begun and I’ll have plenty more to tell you once things get rolling.

With Pride to the Finish,

Bob

 

EuroPride in Riga, Latvia. Changing History is Hot!

So as the snow melts here in the great white north of Canada, organizers around the world are once again gearing up for Pride season. Florida International University held a screening of Beyond Gay this month to celebrate Pride Week (more here about that). As always we’re thrilled that film continues to be relevant and find new audiences. The Pride event of the year will be EuroPride in Riga Lativa. The dates are June 15 – 21. I’m still figuring out how to get there, but anyone in the region and everyone with the resources should make an effort to get to this event. This is the first time EuroPride will be held in a former Soviet State, and the organizers are sure to throw a fantastic event. Their tag line: Changing History is Hot!  EuroPride 2010 in Warsaw Poland was an amazing experience for us; there was an incredible energy at the events that is so much more important than typical Pride celebrations in North America. Marching for LGBT* justice in places where our rights are still in question by much of society is empowering in a way that is impossible to describe – you have to feel it for yourself. Riga Pride has a fundraising campaign happening right now, if you can contribute please help out, because as usual finding sponsors in Latvia is much more difficult than in much of Europe and North America. We have more exciting news about screenings coming soon, so keep an eye here and on our Facebook page.

World Pride 2014

Premier Kathleen Wynne

It’s Pride Season! I’ve just had three amazing in Toronto at the World Pride Human Rights Conference. I’ve had the pleasure to meet and hear activists from more than fifty-one countries, including Brazil, Russia, Nigeria and Uganda. From the first session to the last, it was wonderful to participate in so many great discussions and share ideas with the hundreds of other delegates. One highlight was Edie Windsor, the 85 year old woman who sued the US government over DOMA and won, opening the door for same sex marriage throughout the United States. Another highlight was the reception last night at the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite in Ontario’s Parliament, and hearing Premier Kathleen Wynne, Canada’s first elected LGBT* head of government, discuss the importance of Pride.

I am here in Toronto doing research for my graduate studies in media and LGBT* activism at Simon Fraser University. All this Pride excitement reminded me of a paper I wrote in my first semester. It’s geeky and academic but it reflects on the potential of Pride, and I thought I would share a short excerpt from it before the big party starts this weekend.

I hope you enjoy it as well.  Happy Pride!

Bob outside the reception of the World Pride Human Rights Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride Affects: Queer Transformations in Public Spaces

(excerpt)

 

“Pride, really worldwide, it’s the same story. People are making costumes. They’re making music. They’re writing poetry. And all of that creative energy is so powerful. It’s our answer to guns and bombs, quite truthfully.”

Gilbert Baker – Artist and Activist

Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride (2009)

 

The power of Gay Pride events is not derived from simply representing a community, parading sexuality, attracting huge crowds, or making money. The true social and cultural power of Pride is its ability to create change in society by deterritorializing and reterritorializing the public sphere with a queer frame. It breaks down the inherent heterosexism of society that marginalizes LGBT* people, and this reframing removes the threat of violence that many people experience daily. It replaces the isolation, violence and danger of public displays of queerness with intense playfulness, humour, love, joy and community. Pride is extremely effective at initiating this process for a number of interconnected reasons. Its history, ritual and ceremonial aspects imbue it with an intrinsically meaningful component for many people, who are therefore very emotionally invested. Moreover, the duration, richness and complexity of the shared sensory experience gives Pride incredible affective power for social change.

I didn’t fully experience the powerful force of Pride until many years after first celebrating it in nightclubs. The difference was that I was involved and I shared the experience in public. I volunteered. My duty was to be the liaison between the parade director and the police officer patrolling the route before the parade. The assignment was with Officer Chris, a handsome, straight, city police officer who slowly drove the route in his cruiser while I walked alongside. I had no idea that our presence would be profoundly symbolic for so many people, and it was on this day that I first recognized the magnitude of the transformations taking place at Pride. Transformative forces are much more powerful when the experience includes performing the rituals; participation in the parade heightens the intensity of the experience, as does the huge scale of the event.

A Pride parade is what Brian Massumi (2011) characterizes as an “occurrent art” that transforms the potential into the actual. The qualitative component of an event, like Pride, depends upon how it unfolds, how it becomes co-felt, and the immediacy of the experience (Massumi, 4). There is a relational and participatory element to activist art that is in essence political, as well as a creative, self-enjoyment aspect that is an aesthetic experience. Along with the aesthetico-political, there is a speculative realm that relates to the shaping of social activity and worldly potential, and a pragmatic force that directs the “how” of the experience of becoming, the process of change (Massumi, 16).

Pride is an occurrent art, steeped in creative self – enjoyment, as well as socio-political purpose. Its speculative sphere envisions a more inclusive, less discriminatory future; the pragmatics involve organizing the parade, and the event unfolding. Officer Chris and I were the first dimension in a world of activity larger than our own – larger than the parade waiting behind us – larger even than the hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets. The ritual that was about to be performed was a step towards establishing equal rights for people worldwide. Claiming social justice for LGBT* Vancouverites was merely the activity of the day, and like all Pride parades since Stonewall, this process is primarily about reshaping the territory of gender and sexuality in both the social sphere and individual minds. When we appeared on the parade route, the crowd saw the happening just beginning to stir, “the cusp of the ‘more’ of the general activity of the world-ongoing turning into the singularity of the coming event” (Massumi, 3). The anticipation and enthusiasm of the crowd was palpable. They cheered loudly, and literally screamed out “Thank you” to Officer Chris for the entire route. People ran up and shook his hand, and gushed appreciation towards him. I was overwhelmed by the fact that his presence caused such unbridled excitement and emotion in people, but I soon understood why. He was the established authority securing safe space for the further acts of deterritorialization that were about to take place. In many parts of the world this is unthinkable. By his side, dressed as queer cowboy, I operated as the figure of a parallel yet to be realized future territory; I indicated the possibility of more than what was now. I was also unprepared for how many people would recognize me, thank me, hug me, scream and cheer just because I was there. The crowd was feeling the potential of what was coming; we were all literally on the cusp of becoming more than before, and there was powerful energy resonating between us.

I also felt the affects of the crowd; the just-beginning forces of Pride. Joy, excitement, appreciation, anticipation, everything was unfolding in the moment as we reterritorialized the streets. There are many understandings of this term “affect.” In her book The Affect Theory Reader, Melissa Gregg describes an in-between-ness “in many ways synonymous with force or forces of encounter.”  These forces are constantly modulating, rhythmic waves of sensation, immanence and encounter that position a body’s (human or other) belonging or non-belonging to the world (Gregg 1-3). In her essay After Affect, Anna Gibbs explains mimesis as corporeally based forms of imitation that occur either voluntarily or involuntarily and generate a tendency to “converge emotionally” (Gregg, 186). Affect contagion is at the core of mimesis, which like affect, does not belong to the subject or object but rather as a force that connects and propels them (Gregg, 194). The waves of feeling at Pride demonstrate how affect is contagious through mimesis. Smiles, hugs, laughter, and cheers resonate through the massive crowds as the parade experience affects the participants with feelings of joy, purpose, belonging, and hope happiness. The shared understanding of this queer public space is the incredibly valuable potential of the Pride affect.

 

Bob Christie is a Vancouver based filmmaker, activist and media theorist researching, and advocating for LGBT* social justice worldwide. His 2009 feature documentary Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride has screened in more than fifty festivals at festivals around the world, winning several best documentary awards.

 

Works Cited

Gregg, Melissa; Gregory J. Seigworth eds. The Affect Theory Reader. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

 

Brian Massumi. Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011.

Pride House Vancouver Revisited

 

We are very excited to be having another screening of Beyond Gay in Vancouver, commemorating its premiere here at Pride House during the 2010 Winter Olympics. This screening is taking place during the 2014 Winter Olympics on February 22nd at 9 PM and it is being hosted by Reel Causes and our friends at the SFU Woodwards Cultural Unit. In addition to Beyond Gay, at 7 PM there will also be a screening of Born This Way, a fascinating look at the lives of LGBT people living in Cameroon Africa, co-presented by the Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival and Reel Causes. Both screenings are free and will be held at the GoldCorp Centre for the Arts at SFU Woodwards, 149 West Hastings.

February 22nd is the last weekend of the games in Russia and we sincerely hope that the Olympics in Scohi are free of violence, and that our event will be an important moment to reflect upon the issues of LGBT rights worldwide that were successfully highlighted as a result of the games.  Wishing safe travels to the LGBT delegations from the City of Vancouver and elsewhere that are working to rid the games of LGBT discrimination and establish a Pride House at all future Olympic games.

 

Rings and Rainbow image courtesy of Christopher Stribley.

 

Reel Causes is a Vancouver based non-profit society of socially conscious cinema lovers that hosts monthly film screenings. Members use their passion for film to support community organizations that affect positive change both locally and globally.