Westender: Best of the City 2016

By Robert Mangelsdorf, Managing Editor, Westender • Published Feb. 14, 2016

It’s no secret that Vancouver is best place to live in the world. Heck, we know it, that’s why we live here! Vancouver has a lot going for it: there’s the majestic mountains, the ocean, the beaches, the parks, and the untamed wilderness at our doorstep.

But what makes Vancouver a truly great city is more than good looks and fortuitous geography. It’s the people who make this multicultural metropolis what it is today. It’s our friends, our families, our neighbours that make Vancouver the best place on Earth.

So for the 19th year in a row, Westender has asked you, the people of Vancouver, our readers, to tell us what makes this city so special. This year a record number of people took part in the online poll, proving once again that Vancouverites love their city, and they’re not afraid to say so.

Congrats to all of our winners, and thanks to everyone who participated in our online poll!

Robert Mangelsdorf, Managing Editor

Vancity Buzz Summer Festival Guide

Published in Vancity Buzz

Ultimate guide to 74 Metro Vancouver Summer Festivals

This summer in Metro Vancouver, music festivals, night markets and more are the perfect way to let loose in the heat. Here is a collective list of all the events happening over the summer months to inspire you to step out of the house and celebrate the beautiful Vancouver summer ahead. VIEW ARTICLE HERE.

Georgia Straight Summer Festival Guide

Lower Mainland summer arts festivals have it made in the shade

Beat the heat at the city’s growing roster of art walks, theatre series, danceshowcases, exhibitions, and concerts.

Art walks, Shakespearean plays, early-music concerts, and outdoor dance: all are vying to pry you away from your barbecue this summer. The roster of arts festivals continues to grow at a pace akin to craft breweries, and you’ll want to catch some of them. Hit the barbie and brewskis afterward. VIEW ARTICLE HERE

Emily Carr University | Shaira (SD) Holman, 2014 ywca women of distinction award winner

Shaira (SD) Holman, 2014 YWCA Women of Distinction Award Winner

BY ECUAD, Published Wed, June 4, 2014 1:00 pm EDTORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.ecuad.ca/about/news/313320

Shaira (SD) Holman (’92) is the recipient of a 2014 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for her work as Co-founder/Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival.

The festival, now one of the fastest growing cultural festivals in Canada, was started by Holman seven years ago. She initally started Pride in Art (the name of the initial exhibition) because she felt there was nowhere else at the time for her to pursue art on identity.

The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honours individuals and organizations whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of our community.

Holman plans to take a sabbatical year to focus on other projects.

We congratulate her on this wonderful achievement!

Vancity Buzz Recognizes Shaira Holman

Published in Vancity Buzz, March 06, 2015
By Jill Slattery

For International Women’s Day, we thought we’d celebrate some local women doing great things in Vancouver and around the world. They are either owning their industry, volunteering their time for amazing causes or lending their talents to support other women in the community.

To view full article, click here

Vancity Buzz Recognizes Shaira Holman

Published in Vancity Buzz, March 06, 2015
By Jill Slattery

For International Women’s Day, we thought we’d celebrate some local women doing great things in Vancouver and around the world. They are either owning their industry, volunteering their time for amazing causes or lending their talents to support other women in the community.

To view full article, click here

Best of the City 2015 Results: Westender

Published in Westender, February 26, 2015

Queer Arts Festival makes the list for Best of the City in the visual arts category.

It’s no secret that Vancouver is best place to live in the world. Heck, we know it, that’s why we live here! Vancouver has a lot going for it: there’s the majestic mountains, the ocean, the beaches, the parks, and the untamed wilderness at our doorstep.

But what makes Vancouver a truly great city is more than good looks and fortuitous geography. It’s the people who make this multicultural metropolis what it is today. It’s our friends, our families, our neighbours that make Vancouver the best place on Earth.

So for the 18th year in a row, Westender has asked you, the people of Vancouver, our readers, to tell us what makes this city so special. This year a record number of people took part in the online poll, proving once again that Vancouverites love their city, and they’re not afraid to say so.

Robert Mangelsdorf,
Editor, Westender

See more in Westender post.

Shaira and Rachel win OUT TV queers of the year 2014

Posted in OutTV January 2, 2015
By David Jones

There are so many Vancouver queers that inspire me, make me jealous, or simply make me smile.

Be they loving, passionate, tenacious, controversial, creative or political they capture my imagination and touched my heart. It’s an entirely personal and eclectic list and for some sense of symmetry it’s in alphabetical order.

Here they are My Top Ten Queers of The Year Vancouver 2014. View link HERE.

Excerpt from SD Holman and Rachael Iwaasa: These remarkable people have discovered, nurtured and featured artists across a wide range of disciplines at the Queer Arts Festival while being accomplished artists themselves.

WE Vancouver | Three Must-See Queer Arts Fest Events

By Robert Mangelsdorf – Published July 30, 2014

Throughout history, tyrants have banned “degenerate” artists or artworks under the argument that they posed an imminent danger to the social fabric. The theme of Queer Arts Festival is a defiant response to that.

ReGenerations, which opened July 23 and runs until Aug. 9, embraces the premise that art can be dangerous, even revolutionary. In the intimate act of sharing, both artists and audiences find meaning, transformation, and the strength to enact change.

This year’s festival brings together artists from over 20 countries navigating queer identity across the international diaspora, speaks to healing and renewal by addressing topics such as addiction, and provides solidarity for those struggling for queer rights.

The festival’s remaining highlights include:

Alien Sex

Tentacles wrestle the sexual status quo; secret identity exposes itself; and the Empire is challenged by authentic expression in a work that mixes whimsy, savage poetry, heartbreaking vulnerability and B-movie joy.

Get your alien on in this transdisciplinary evening, featuring the work-in-progress presentation of Alien Sex. Come dressed in an outfit original to your planet of origin. Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed queer aliens.

Actor/director and Alien Sex instigator David Bloom brings together an exciting team in a multi-genre, multi-generational feast. The all-star cast features Vancouver genderqueer creators Olivia B (performance poet/tap dancer) and Floyd VB (performance poet/visual artist), propelled by the visceral and immutable life force of taiko drummer Eileen Kage, composer/dancer/video artist Sammy Chien, actor/dancer/visual and performance artist Robert Leveroos, and photo-based artist/actor SD Holman (of BUTCH: Not like the other girls).

Drawing upon energetic interpretations of the transgressive BDSM poet Linda Smukler/Samuel Ace and the divisive heterosexual playwright David Mamet, gay, lesbian, bi, queer, straight, vanilla, kinky and yet-to-be-named perspectives collide in a speculative fiction that explores the beautiful, and sometimes inexplicable territory of human sexuality.

July 31 at 7:30-9:30 pm; $20 (all funds raised go to support the Pride in Art Society); 181 Roundhouse Mews 

I Sing The Body Electric: Walt Whitman and The Beat Generation

Just in time for Pride weekend, Erato Ensemble’s I Sing the Body Electric celebrates the queer spirit of Walt Whitman and the Beat Generation, who dared to express an individual language and lifestyle in the midst of the conservative social mores of their times, changing our culture forever.

Walt Whitman’s poetry is the basis for an emotional love story of two men – from meeting, to falling in love, to separation by war and death. Music by Kurt Weill, Charles Naginski, William George and world premieres by Lloyd Burritt and Ben Schuman. The Beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Diane Di Prima inspire new works by David Del Tredici, David Sisco, Jerome Kitzke, Steven Ebel, Anthony Ocaña, a “Beat Madrigal,” and a world premiere by Catherine Laub.

Aug. 1, 7:30-9:30 pm; $30 General Admission; $15 Youth/Seniors/Underemployed; 181 Roundhouse Mews

Queering the International 

QAF’s signature visual arts exhibition, Queering the International, features a lineup of established and emerging artists from around the globe who are immigrant, indigenous, undocumented, displaced.

Recent homophobic events in Russia, India, Uganda, and elsewhere have made it timely to highlight artists who address queer identity on an international scale, and whose work celebrates the complex human condition. 

Queering the International asks the artists, “What is queer, what is international, what is your diaspora, and what is identity?”

Brought together by the curatorial talents of Zimbabwe-born Laiwan and curatorial assistant Anne Riley, who is of Dene/Cree ancestry, it features artists from a range of nations including Brazil, Canada, the Cree Nation, Guatemala, Guyana, the Haudenosaunee Territories, Hawaii, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Russia, South Africa, Trinidad, the United States, and more, covering a breadth of viewpoints and perspectives from queers near and far.

Until Aug. 9; by donation, gallery hours 10:30am-10pm weekdays; 10:30am-4:30pm weekends; 181 Roundhouse Mews 

Georgia Straight | Queer Arts Festival 2014 provides regeneration for LGBT activism

By Craig Takeuchi – Published on July 25 2014

Original Article: HERE

AT THE OPENING party of the Queer Arts Festival on July 23 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson gave a quick recapitulation of the struggles for LGBT rights and issues that Vancouverites took part in over the past year.

In his speech to attendees, Robertson spoke about how councillor Tim Stevenson advocated for LGBT rights in Sochi and talked about the gains made locally for transgender people.

“We’ve been thrilled to have our park board commissioner Trevor Loke create the first transgender and gender variant working group at the Park Board looking at our community facilities around the city and our parks,” he said to the audience, “and [are] really proud of our city school board, which is led by Patti Bacchus, and [who] have done an enormous amount of work standing up for our kids, queer kids in our schools. It’s been a really tough, tough battle, fighting a lot of hatred and a lot of bullying, and we have persevered and we do have some really strong policies in our schools now to look after our kids going forward.”

He went on to talk about what role the arts play in facing these challenges.

“This is, I think, what really recharges us all. The arts are so crucial to inspire and motivate us, and replenish us, because it’s not easy out there. It’s a tough world at times and we’re just thrilled to be able to have the Roundhouse full of all of this beautiful art, and the activism, the passion, the important rights that we all stand for represented so well here.”

The idea of replenishment synchronized perfectly with the festival theme: ReGenerations.

The festival takes its name from the Nazi term “Degenerate Art”, which posited art by the avant-garde, and Jewish and queer people as threats to society. The festival reclaims the idea that art can be challenging as a way to transform and regenerate society.

This year’s festival highlights cross-generational collaborations between artists from numerous countries, including Australia, Brazil, the Cree Nation, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Trinidad, Zimbabwe, and more.

This year’s visual art exhibit, which ranges from photography and video work to installations and mixed media, emphasizes the global outlook of the festival with its title: Queering the International.

Interdiscplinary artist Laiwan, who curated the exhibit with assistant Anne Riley, told the Georgia Straight that the opening event was her first chance to take in the exhibit as a whole.

“What’s really exciting for me is to now stand back and look at how the works speak to each other because I haven’t had the opportunity to see them together in one space,” she said. “I’m hoping new  conversations come out of this, particularly to enliven Vancouver.”

Laiwan observed that many of the queer artists in the exhibition are expanding their outlook, by addressing subjects such as ecology or indigenous issues, that aren’t often connected to queerness. She noted that intersectionality is a recurring element of many of the art works.

“I think what’s really interesting is to see how different queer artists make all different work and yet they all come from a very similar place of wanting a new consciousness or a new liberation and also to push what we understand as queer.”

Vancity Buzz | QAF 2014 Presents “X”

By Jon Keller – Published July 28 2014

Australian performer Sunny Drake’s one-man show “X” closes out a trio of performances tonight as part of this year’s Queer Arts Festival at the Roundhouse.

In the hour-long spectacle, Drake employs everything from stop-motion animation to puppetry while portraying a conversation between a young girl and her friend. The characters struggle with sexual identity, addictions, their obsession with Kylie Minogue, and their relationship with parents.

Having transitioned from a female to a male, Drake spent 18 months creating “X” as a personal tale of his transsexuality and the methods used to cope. The play is far from a downer though. Drake’s work is honest, but also whimsical and accessible. The subjects tackled are serious ones, but the performer is endearing to watch. With his happy Aussie accent, he pulls off his one-man show with dramatic skill and humour, creating a truly unique hour of LGBT performance art.

An artistic blend of this kind is rare to see, and Vancouver’s burgeoning Queer Arts Festival is the place to see it. The final performance of “X” is tonight.

Queer Arts Festival 2014 Presents “X”

When: Monday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver

Queer Arts Festival 2014: ReGenerations

When: July 23 to August 9, 2014

Xtra! Vancouver | Refugee mural reverberates at Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver

By Natasha Barsotti – Published on July 25, 2014.


After writing his name in capital letters on my cheat sheet of questions, Salvador Ramirez Perez begins to explain why he changed his mind about being an anonymous interviewee, but his emotions temporarily snatch the words from his throat.

“I shouldn’t have no fear,” he eventually — tearfully — blurts out.

“I shouldn’t . . .”

Revealing his name is proof that he is part of the community, he asserts, something he felt he couldn’t fully be as a gay man in his native Mexico, where he was physically attacked several times, or later in the United States, where he made an unsuccessful bid to start a new life.

“Mexico is supposed to be okay, but it is not really okay,” says Ramirez Perez, who left his country in 1989. “There’s still a lot of people in the closet; their lives are not safe. Socially, there is a lot of pressure and a lot of stress.”

Now a member of Rainbow Refugee, Ramirez Perez, who has been in Canada for just over three years, was one of 10 participants who got together weekly in April and May to unpack their stories as queer refugees and commit them to canvas.

Now hanging in the main hall of the Roundhouse Community Centre as part of the annual Queer Arts Festival,Seeking Protection Is Not a Crime reverberates with bold colour that, upon further exploration, reveals a weaving, robust tree, scattered messages of hope and relief, memories of discrimination, maple leaves — and a riot of butterflies.

“We represented with the tree our roots and where we came from and then all the struggles we’ve been through,” says Mira Ghattas, one of the project’s four facilitators. “We represented us opening up and sharing stories and being ourselves with these butterflies.”

For Ghattas, the butterflies symbolize the participants’ geographical and emotional transformation. “These butterflies are like opening up to the new destination where we are also struggling to settle down, but at least here we are working to be who we are, to create a sense of belonging with each other.”

High-profile Montenegrin activist Zdravko Cimbaljevic also helped facilitate the project. He says monarch butterflies, which cover thousands of miles when they migrate, were the guiding motif.

“We all come from different countries and different cultures, and we all travel so long, so the butterflies were our inspiration,” he explains.

Ghattas, who left Jordan for Canada two years ago, describes the experience of “leaving everything you know” to start a new life as akin to a disaster. “When you have all these emotions, and you live more than half of your life in silence, and you can’t speak out and you can’t be yourself and live the way you want, it makes you numb,” she explains.

Ghattas says she and local artist Melanie Schambach came up with the idea for the project as a way of encouraging participants to feel comfortable in their own skin and to accommodate adversity in their lives.

“It was emotional going back over again what happened to me, not only listening to others about what they had to say about their own journeys,” recalls Cimbaljevic, who was granted asylum in Canada in November. Finding a way to express that in art is difficult — “harder than words,” he says. “How can you tell a terrible story that happened to you so others watching and observing can understand?”

When he began contemplating what he would paint on his butterfly, he says, the dominant images reflected past trauma.

“There was a bunch of people throwing rocks, lots of stones flying towards my butterfly, blood all over. That was my experience, and I needed to share it in that way. My butterfly was not that colourful; it was more dark and unaccepted.”

Cimbaljevic says the mural is a distinctive piece because it represents greater inclusion of refugees in art and in social development, where he feels they generally lack prominence. The project contributes to refugees’ social acceptance, he adds, expressing the hope that more LGBT refugees and migrants will be able to participate in the future.

Ghattas echoes Cimbaljevic’s hope. She says the mural’s presence at the festival is “huge.”

“When you go really, really close to it, you can see true colours — of rejection, true colours of acceptance, sad, happy,” Cimbaljevic says. “It’s not only art; it’s actually how that person feels doing it.”© Copyright (c) Xtra! Vancouver

La Source forum de la diversité | « Queer Arts Festival » : Une célébration engagée!

Noëlie Vannier // CultureFestivals // Volume 15, Édition 2 – 8 juillet au 26 août 2014

Quoi de plus banal que de voir un couple homosexuel se tenir par la main à Vancouver. Sans stigmatisation, une multitude de façons de vivre sa sexualité existe bel et bien dans cette ville. A partir du 23 juillet et pour trois semaines, le festival Queer Arts Festival s’offre le droit de montrer et de célébrer les arts et les cultures queers, entre héritage et regards tournés vers demain !

Pour cette 5e édition, le Queer Arts Festival honore des artistes, confirmés ou débutants, âgés de 18 à 80 ans, venant de 27 pays (Australie, Russie, Iran, Canada, États-Unis…) et rassemblés sous le thème des « RéGénérations », ou comment se réinventer tout en transmettant son héritage. Pour Rachel Iwaasa, directrice artistique de la section théâtre, cet événement est l’occasion « de montrer la diversité des communautés queer et de sensibiliser sur leur apport dans la culture grand public. La culture est un moyen efficace de sortir de la marginalisation. » Le programme pertinent du festival vient questionner les limites de la société à travers des performances scéniques (danse, théâtre, chant, littérature), des expositions, des films ou encore des ateliers.

Définir la communauté queer est pour ainsi dire impossible tant elle se révèle diverse : bisexuels, homosexuels, transsexuels, intersexuels, troisième genre, groupes en-dehors des normes sexuelles. Si tous s’identifient sous l’appellation queer, il n’en demeure pas moins qu’ils n’ont pas les mêmes combats. L’importance d’être reconnu comme artiste queer leur permet de défendre un patrimoine. Pour 2014, l’intergénérationnel fait émerger de nouvelles perspectives, notamment artistiques.

L’héritage de la culture queer

Cette année les différentes générations sont mises à contribution. Objectif : travailler ensemble pour générer et régénérer le courant artistique queer, mais pas seulement, car derrière l’art se trouve l’engagement ! Des ponts ouvrant à la discussion. D’après Rachel,
« ce ne sont pas les plus âgés qui enseignent aux plus jeunes, tous apportent quelque chose. L’héritage est immense, 80% de la culture provient de la culture queer : Shakespeare, de Vinci ! C’est une contribution à ne pas négliger dans la culture grand public d’aujourd’hui ! »

Sur place, on retrouvera Olivia B, une jeune artiste vancouvéroise de 21 ans qui mélange le chant, la danse et le théâtre. Elle se dit « inspirée » par le contact avec des artistes issus du monde entier, de divers milieux et de diverses générations. Sa seconde participation lui donne ainsi l’occasion de soutenir un festival jeune tout en développant son art : « J’espère que je participe à l’ouverture d’esprit des gens, je fais de mon mieux pour faire progresser les choses. »

Une vision de l’international

Un des temps fort de cette édition sera l’exposition visuelle Queering the International, portée par l’artiste interdisciplinaire de renom Laiwan, qui a su regrouper des artistes de 21 pays pour sensibiliser et alerter sur la condition queer dans le monde. Aborder l’identité queer d’un point de vue international procure une autre dimension au festival. Plus que les communautés queers, ce sont des questionnements d’humanité qui se posent.

Les travaux proposés sont différents du fait qu’ils répondent à des problématiques différentes, ce qui multiplie les visions. Ainsi, l’artiste indien Tejal Shah travaille sur les stéréotypes, ou encore l’artiste sud-africaine Zanele Muholi qui explore la condition lesbienne et les violences subies. A travers ces collaborations, ce sont des plateformes artistiques qui naissent. Comme le souligne Laiwan : « Il s’agit de savoir comment construire le futur en s’appuyant sur le passé. Le passé est une base de travail pour comprendre quelles peuvent être les possibilités de demain. »

La dimension politique peut faire émerger de nouveaux artistes par nécessité de défendre des causes. Laiwan pense que pour Vancouver, « le temps est venu d’ouvrir les yeux : regarder la condition queer ici et voir ce qui ce passe à l’étranger, les gens sont prêts pour le changement ! ». Et quoi de mieux que l’art justement pour éduquer ? « C’est un moyen plus gai et accessible à tous qui suscite la curiosité, et donc attire les regards. C’est un beau moyen de le faire, avec empathie et poésie ! »

Queer Arts Festival :
ReGenerations. Dare to be challenged. Risk being changed.
Du 23 juillet au 9 août
The Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre

Vancouver Sun | The Sunny side of queer: Theatre artist brings crowd-pleasing one-man show to Queer Arts Festival with a list of five events to watch at this year’s event

BY YVONNE ZACHARIAS Published Fri, Jul 18, 2014

Australian-born theatre artist Sunny Drake isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects on stage but there is nothing preachy or didactic about the way he delivers them.

First, there is the story of his own transitioning — from being born a girl to becoming a boy.

Then there is his struggle with alcoholism.

This is hardly the stuff of laughter. Yet he makes people laugh.

The dynamic new-age thespian had sold-out shows in San Francisco, received rave reviews in his native country and has received awards and accolades for his one-man, 63-minute show called X that he is bringing to the 2014 Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver.

“It is really important for me to make work that is stunning and beautiful and magical and entertaining,” said the 37-year-old performer in an interview from Toronto, which he now calls home.

“I like people to leave my shows with an array of questions, an open-ended experience rather than sort of having been told well you should think in this way.”

Drake has taken the classic tip “write what you know” and spruced it up with puppets, stop-motion animation and humorous monologues to tell the story of a girl and her best friend struggling with addiction and their sexual identity.

It took about six months of solid work over a period of a year and a half to create this piece with his signature blend of art forms.

“This one was one hundred per cent the hardest show I’ve ever made because I felt such shame around it.”

Like so many other queer and trans people, Drake used alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with the difficult search for his sexual identity.

In the midst of the interview, he throws out a startling statistic. “Queer and trans folk have nearly double the rates of substance and alcohol use as their non-queer, non-trans counterparts.”

Far be it from him to tell them to stop drinking. “I’m not this sober person who thinks everyone else should be sober. I completely respect people’s autonomy in deciding for themselves is this a good coping strategy at the time?”

For him, it probably was at one point. But it crept up on him. “The effects of alcohol in my life started outweighing the benefits of the coping factor.”

At first, he decided there was no way he could write a play about this problem. “We have such strong judgments of people who struggle with alcohol or drugs. I felt a big sense of failure. I felt a big sense of shame and I hid my drinking problem really really well for a lot of years.”

But he reasoned that if he was suffering in this way, there must be many others out there in the same boat. It was then that he decided he had to put his own story on the line.

He was still drinking when he started working on the show but he has been sober now for two years. While grateful for this, he still misses alcohol sometimes.

He knew if he delivered a tale of woe, no one would come. People want to be entertained. They want to laugh and cry. So he set out to find “a nuanced and beautiful and compelling way to explore important stories.”

“I take difficult topics and I make a magical and moving and entertaining and funny and ridiculous show out of them.”

Stitching together a monologue with puppetry and stop-motion animation requires precision. For example, at one point, one of the two puppets opens a manhole and climbs down. At that point, the puppet becomes an animated character.

Drake credits an amazing creative team of 10 people for helping him pull the show together.

His show is one of the highlights to the Queer Arts Festival that is fast becoming a staple on Vancouver’s cultural landscape. It is billed as one of Canada’s fastest growing arts festivals.

Running from July 23 to Aug. 9, it offers a breathtaking breadth of talent, combining musical, dance and theatrical performances with visual art exhibitions and workshops, both local and from 27 countries around the world, under one roof at the Roundhouse Community Centre. Here you will find everything from slam poetry by Floyd VB and Olivia B to a performance by 80-year-old venerable harpsichordist Colin Tilney.

Underlying it all is an exploration of the perplexing terrain of human sexuality in all its variations. Our understanding of it seems to be getting ever more complex, moving well beyond the black-and-white world of straights and gays.

The festival, according to its own literature, is a haven for “bisexuals, gay men, intersex, lesbians, transsexuals, third gender, transgender, two-spirit, queer and questioning individuals.”

In other words, just about anyone who is at odds with straight culture.

Here again, Drake seems to fit right in. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia, he had this pervasive sense of something not being quite right. He was a girl on the outside but felt like a boy on the inside. But because there were no stories, no possibilities, no examples of what he was feeling around him, he couldn’t define it. He felt isolated.

Then in his late 20s, he spent two years in San Francisco where he was surrounded by a strong community of “trans” people who helped him define and validate what he was feeling inside.

At age 30, he came out as a trans person and took hormones to transition from being female to male.

While back in Australia, he fell in love with a Canadian woman who has become his partner. “I have a really wonderful relationship. I’m very very lucky for that. That’s why I moved to Canada.”

But here, too, the story gets more complicated. Far from eschewing all things feminine when he transitioned into a boy, Drake says, “I’m actually an effeminate man so I love pink. I love frilly things. Sometimes I wear makeup.”

He said people look at him and assume he is a gay man, “such a flamer” who can’t possibly have a female partner. Trying to explain himself is like a whole second coming out.

Which just goes to show “there’s so many different ways to be a man and there’s so many different ways to be a woman.”

Far from lamenting this strange state of affairs, the Queer Arts Festival embraces and showcases it, making people who have hovered on the fringes of the mainstream straight world or dived straight off of it feel right at home.

Rachel Iwaasa, the festival’s artistic director, is a case in point. A classical concert pianist and a “queer person” who says she is attracted to all genders, she wound up going to the queer arts festival in San Francisco, a month-long extravaganza that takes over the entire city with several dozen venues and every kind of art.

“It was the first pride that I’d been to where I felt I really belonged.”

Pride parades aren’t exactly her cup of tea. “I have huge value and respect for what the Pride Society does but I am not a big outdoors person. Parades have never been my thing and I am not a big bars and parties person.”

She found the San Francisco event was just the ticket, combining both the artistic and the queer sides of her identity.

Artists whose works are displayed at the Vancouver festival, which is now in its sixth year as the Queer Arts Festival although it was launched as Pride in Art in 1998, “often will say this is the first time they have been able to do a show where they could be wholly themselves,” Iwaasa said.

She pointed out that historically, the arts have been a safe place for queers who often found refuge in high schools in drama class or in school bands.

“As a community, we count among our artists Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde and arguably Shakespeare,” said Iwaasa, pointing out that many had to live closeted lives in terms of their sexuality.

“When you read a list of LGBT figures throughout history, of illustrious achievers, 80 to 90 per cent of them are artists,” she pointed out. And “if you go through a list of artists throughout history, a disproportionate number seem to be queer.”

The arts and the queer community seem to go together like honey and bees.


Here are five events not to be missed at the Queer Arts Festival from July 23 to Aug. 9 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Davie at Pacific:

• Master harpsichordist Colin Tilney celebrates turning 80 this year with a solo recital. In his concerts, the world-renowned musician tries to use historical instruments or modern replicas in an attempt to match the music with the sounds the composers heard as they wrote.

His program will include Bach’s sixth English Suite, a prelude and dances by Louis Couperin, five sonatas by Scarlatti and Quinque by South African lesbian composer Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986). July 25, 7:30 p.m. Regular admission, $30; $15 for youth, seniors and the underemployed.

• The debut of Canada’s first professional queer classical choir Cor Flammae. Co-founders Missy Clarkson, Madeline Hannan-Leith and Amelia Pitt-Brooke have brought together a large group of queer choral talent including Peggy Hua and Hussein Janmohamed. Their talents have been involved in a wide range of choral acts, including the UBC women’s choir. July 24, 7:30 p.m. Regular admission, $30; $15 for youth, seniors and the underemployed.

• Queering the International features artists from a wide range of nations including Brazil, Canada, the Cree Nation, Guatemala, Guyana, Hawaii, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Mexico and others. The exhibition is curated by Zimbabwe-born Laiwan and curatorial assistant Anne Riley. July 23 to Aug. 9. Gallery hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays; 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends. By donation.

• In a fast-paced, one-man show called X, Australian-born theatre artist Sunny Drake offers a magical, humorous and honest look at addiction grounded in queer and trans experiences. Drake combines multiple art forms in his performance, including stop motion animations and puppets. July 26, 7:30 p.m.; July 27, 3 p.m.; July 28, 7:30 p.m.

Regular admission, $30; $15 for youth, seniors and the underemployed.

• Initiated by the filmmaker Rodrigue Jean, Epopee is a collection of short films made in collaboration with male drug addicts and sex trade workers in Montreal.

Post-show talkback with filmmaker Rodrigue Jean and Serge-Olivier Rondeau, a member of the Epopee collective.

Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m. General admission $10; $8 for youth, seniors and the underemployed.

The event is co-presented by the grunt gallery.© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Georgia Straight | SD Holman’s BUTCH: Not like the other girls challenges traditional gender roles

BY MICHELLE DA SILVA Published Fri, Jul 17, 2014

THERE’S NO ARGUING that the range of images of women depicted in mainstream media is limited—not only in terms of race, class, and body size, but gender expression as well. The term “butch” is often used to describe the performance of female masculinity in LGBT communities. These are women who don’t necessarily fit into traditional gender roles and resist limited definitions of what a woman is.

BUTCH: Not like the other girls is a new photographic art exhibit by Vancouver-based artist SD Holman. Starting in March, the collection ran as a public art exhibit displayed in 20 bus shelters across Vancouver. From April 9 to 25, BUTCH: Not like the other girls will open as a gallery exhibit featuring 20 more photographs at the Cultch (1895 Venables Street).

“I’m really interested in the liminal space, the spaces in between that don’t occupy the binary of gender,” Holman, who is also artistic director for Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival, told the Georgia Straight in a recent phone interview. “I want to document our community for us because I don’t think there’s enough images that we can relate to.”

Holman, who was born in California and received a degree in photography from Emily Carr University of Art and Design started the BUTCH photography project nearly five years ago.

“I went to Portland and Seattle, and…a conference so there were people from other places. I shot people from England, and somebody from New York—all over the States,” she recalled, noting that the majority of her subjects are Canadian. “People came out and really wanted to do it.”

However, when Holman’s wife—Vancouver social worker Catherine White Holman—died in a float plane accident in 2009, the artist put her photography project on hiatus.

“I’ve taken it back up for her because she was the one who pushed me to do it,” Holman said. “Catherine was the biggest fan of butches I ever met.”

Holman has now taken photographs of nearly 100 models and hopes to turn BUTCH: Not like the other girls into a book. She is also working towards a Master of photography degree from Savannah College of Art and Design.

“We have so many images that we’re bombarded with about the way we’re supposed to look and the way we’re supposed to be in the world,” she said. “It’s dangerous for people like me and people that I photograph to be in the world, so I think the more images we have out there can help people on both sides.”

Holman hopes that the BUTCH exhibit extends far beyond LGBT communities and that her photographs—whether displayed in transit shelters or art galleries—challenge audiences to re-examine definitions of gender, sexuality, and what it means to be a woman.

“I hope it is meaningful and transformative and people will recognize themselves in it,” she said. “I hope they think that they are beautiful, and people can be outside of our normal ideas of what it means to be female or male.”You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter attwitter.com/michdas.