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Defining Difference

Celebration ‘90’s mandate was to build public support for the LGBTQ2S+ community through visibility yet to remain a non-political body. At times, however, decisions made under this mandate were seen as having negative repercussions for the community.

An example was the decision to eliminate the phrase “Gay Games” from transit shelter ads. The ad company offered a 75% price reduction if this was done. The board’s rationale for agreeing to it was that the ads were not affordable without the discount and that the ads’ mainstream public visibility would be a landmark for the gay community. There was also concern about vandalism by both parties. Critics of the decision felt the trade-off closeted the community. Others, like Jim Deva (co-owner Little Sister’s Bookstore) expressed support for the board’s decision, and others, indifference. [1] Photographer Daniel Collins explained how “Gay Games” did make an appearance in the final image.                        

View this video with a transcript: “Daniel Collins: The Poster Controversy”

Issues of gender and language featured in a debate around the naming of the Celebration ’90’s Artisan Market. Its all-women committee chose “Queers in Art”, a cheeky take on a kitchen appliance brand.  Approval was originally granted only to be rescinded later. Some board members found the name personally and ethically offensive. The board also faced pressure from volunteers and international athletes and organizations. They threatened to resign their positions, withdraw financial support, or not attend the Games if the word queer” remained. [2] The board’s objection prevailed.

Committee co-chair, Donimo, talked with FFP about the support the committee received from other members of the community and argued for reclaiming the word.

View this video with a transcript: Donimo: Queers In Art

Donimo later raised the issue at a Words Without Borders panel on censorship. Writer Dionne Brand, relating her experience as a black woman critiquing issues of race within the LGBTQ2S+ movement, offered support, urging Donimo to know –

“that you, in your quest for your voice, do not mean the movement harm. The movement will not suffer because you speak to the inequities within it. It will grow…” [3]

The Gay Games also supported gender parity for athletes and for its organization. It was not always achieved. Board member Coreen Douglas talked about how gender imbalance contributes to power disparities that impact decision making.

View this video with a transcript: “Coreen Douglas: Lesbian Visibility”

Most board members acknowledged that working closely with their sisters or brothers for the first time had been a learning experience. Betty Baxter spoke about the politics of gender and about decision-making from her perspective as a board member. 

View this video with a transcript: “Betty Baxter: Board Relationships”

[1] “Talking Gay Without Saying A Word”, The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, Canada), Stan Persky, June 2, 1990. Page 52.
[2] Board Minutes, June 20, 1990. Metropolitan Vancouver Athletic and Arts Association fonds. City of Vancouver Archives.
[3] MAM-GG-034. Mary Anne McEwen fonds. Crista Dahl Media Library and Archive, VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouver, Canada.