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      PRIDE 2016: Vancouver and BC
      Celebrate LGBTQ2+ Rights!
      Thousands March in the Streets!

      By Alison Bodine

      Every summer streets in cities across British Columbia, Canada become a whole lot brighter with rainbow flags flying high in recognition of LGBTQ2+ Pride celebrations. As part of a global movement, Pride in Vancouver and BC is both a celebration of the rights that the LGBTQ2+ community have won, as well as a declaration that the fight for basic human rights for all LGBTQ2+ people is not over. With the participation of thousands of people, it is also a significant opportunity for social justice fighters to join in the celebrations and invite of LGBTQ2+ people and their allies to get involved in pushing the struggle for LGBTQ2+ rights forward. Pride events are an important opportunity to distribute revolutionary literature, to open a dialog on all working class causes and poor and oppressed peoples struggles because the LGBTQ2+ community is a natural ally of the working class towards liberation.

      The largest Pride celebration in BC is held in Vancouver. This year, on Sunday, July 31 hundreds of thousands of people, watched as over 100 parade entries including activists, unions, businesses, NGO and community groups marched by. Among the rainbows, sparkles and bubbles, there were also proudly waving Cuban flags, picket signs and banners including one dedicated to Wiki-leaks Whistle-blower and soldier of humanity Chelsea Manning.

      For the 10th consecutive year, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) joined the Vancouver Pride parade to declare Viva Cuba! Viva Pride! The lively VCSC contingent also carried with them colourful banners displaying the slogans of Cuba’s LGBTQ+ rights movement “Cuba Says: Sexual Diversity is not dangerous! Homophobia and Transphobia are!” and “Cuba Says: LGBTQ+ Rights are Human Rights!”

      Once again this year, the Free Chelsea Manning Campaign – Vancouver also joined in the Pride parade in order to bring the campaign for Chelsea’s freedom to the queer community and their allies through a bright banner, signs and petitioning. The banner celebrates Chelsea’s struggle as a political prisoner, whistle-blower on U.S. war crimes and a trans woman with the demands: “Free Chelsea Manning LGBTQ+ Hero! Soldier of Humanity! Wiki-Leaks Whistle-Blower!”

      Although the Vancouver Pride Parade is the largest of the events, it is but one of many important celebrations of LGBTQ+ rights that took place in BC this year. Both Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and the Free Chelsea Manning Campaign – Vancouver participated in a diversity of events in the Lower Mainland. The first of these events was the East Side Pride, held on June 25, in East Vancouver. This was followed by Surrey Pride, which held it’s very first Pride festival the next day on June 26.

      The days leading up to the Vancouver Pride Parade are also an important time for the Trans and Dyke community and their allies. On Friday, July 29 a Trans March on Commercial Drive was organized as both a protest against Transphobia and discrimination and a celebration of gender diversity. The Free Chelsea Manning Campaign – Vancouver received a great response to their signs and petition demanding clemency for Chelsea Manning.

      Following the Trans March there was also the 13th annual Dyke March, which held a strong march on Commercial Drive followed by a cultural festival. Here, the table for Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba was non-stop busy with people curious about the gains that have been made by the LGBTQ+ movement in Cuba and how people in Canada can learn from their organizing.

      The first Pride parade was held in Los Angeles in 1970. It was organized in order to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, a series of protests by the gay community in New York City that ignited the queer rights movement. Now, they are held in hundreds of cities and countries around the world. In Vancouver and BC, Pride events are organized from the central downtown core of Vancouver, to Surrey and Abbottsford, and from cities on Vancouver Island such as Nanaimo and Victoria all the way to Kelowna in the interior of BC.

      With each event, new communities of LGBTQ2+ people and their allies come out to celebrate rights that have been won through struggle, mobilization and action. As people engaged in the struggle for LGBTQ2+ rights and for all poor, working and oppressed people, we must take this opportunity to once again bring the struggle to the streets, to reach-out to the LGBTQ2+ community and their allies to get involved and show our pride in the LGBTQ2+ fighters and organizers that have come before us!

      Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter:@Alisoncolette

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