Jennifer Breakspear of Qmunity introduces PRIDE House Vancouver
PRIDE House Vancouver is the first out venue at an Olympics which welcomes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered people. Their stated purpose is to be a welcome oasis for LBGT visitors to Vancouver. "PRIDE House will have on hand friendly ambassadors who know about all that is fabulously queer in Vancouver. PRIDE House will also have on hand immigration and refugee experts with a wealth of knowledge and resources for visitors." I can vouch for the welcoming experience, as coordinator Jennifer Breakspear is one of the nicest people I've met on my visits to 2010's free venues.
I sat down with Jennifer at PRIDE House to find out a bit about how it got started, and what she thinks it means for Vancouver to be the first Olympic city with an LBGT venue. "Basically we took the lead of our friends in Whistler, who annually host a PRIDE house during Gay Ski Week," says Jennifer. "They were opening PRIDE House Whistler, and we agreed that it would be a great idea to have a similar space in Vancouver. So we're using Qmunity's offices here on Bute for it."
People have come to expect a lot of the venues, and judging by our comments, many feel disappointed if there aren't lots of free goodies and techno-bling. You practically need a bouncy castle on site to keep the kids happy. Not so with PRIDE House. This is a very small space, with a few offices and a room with a TV playing Olympic coverage all day. You can purchase a PRIDE House 2010 t-shirt, and get a cup of free coffee. They ran out of PRIDE House pins a few days ago.
I asked Jennifer why Vancouver was the first city to have a venue like PRIDE House. "I think it's a reflection of our city and Canada. We had two powerful symbols of queer culture at the opening ceremony in kd lang and Ashley MacIsaac. You can be gay or lesbian and be relatively safe in our country. Which is not to say that incidents still don't occur. We still have gay-bashings on Davie Street, and life is still very hard for our transgendered brothers and sisters. But overall, life is easier here."
Jennifer says that it's been fun having a venue that is a part of Vancouver's Games. "People come here, holding a print-out of CityCaucus.com's 2010 free venues. You can see them check off PRIDE House, saying, okay now I've been here. That's it. They just come in, have a look and keep going."
When I visited Qmunity on Sunday a group were sitting having an exchange with artist Jeff Sheng, whose photography show titled "Fearless: 2003-2010" is on display at PRIDE House. Apparently the producers of the Colbert Report had also seen CityCaucus.com's Free Venues list, as Stephen Colbert brought his TV crew to PRIDE House last Thursday evening. Expect them to show up during this week's shows, airing nightly on the Comedy Network at 11:30pm.