Remember That Sometimes Pride Brings Out More Than Just A Parade

This week in Vancouver, we are more than lucky to live in a country where we can celebrate our pride and diversity with the 40th Annual Pride Celebration. This year, things were done a little differently, with the opening pride event happening outside the Vancouver Art Gallery with a party supporting businesses and local talent. We see the photos, the smiles, the costumes, and we see people gathering together to celebrate. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is an amazing week to gather and celebrate. However, over the last decade we have seen more and more drug use particularly during this time, and for some pride is not about celebration. Pride for some can be a nightmare.

My first Vancouver Pride was 20 years ago in 1998. I had a few major life changes. I was no longer a competitive figure skater. I had also dropped out of the University of British Columbia, and I was at huge odds with my family. I thought the odds with my family were because I had come as gay the year prior. What I did not realize was this was because of the choices I was making for my life. With no education, and no job experience, I went from one dead end job to the next. As my bad luck was progressing, I had no idea that the drugs that I was using probably had something to do with my regular job loss, and my chronic housing issues. By the spring of 2001, I was living in an SRO (Single-Room Occupancy) on the DTES (Downtown Eastside) on Pender Street. But on May 4th, 2001, I woke up and realized that I was going to die, or worse be stuck in the cycle of no money, no food, and worst of all no love. More importantly, I had never felt so alone.

Pride used to be a challenge for myself and so many other men who identify as gay and sober (clean). 17 years ago, treatment and other social activities were hard for those who identified as gay/bisexual/trans. Statistics have shown us that stigma has been one of the biggest reasons why people from the LGBTQ+ community chose to not seek out or accept help. Fear of judgement. Fear of self. Fear of hate and violence. I will admit that while I have not had a lot of resistance while in treatment or venturing in the rooms, I will say I have been put in uncomfortable situations, and that was simply due to a lack of knowing on both parties’ ends.

I am one of the oldest openly gay alumni of Together We Can. Although I did not stay clean after seeking their help in 2000, I am still alumni. The reason I have stayed actively engaged with TWC since returning to the Lower Mainland in 2014 is because of the doors they have opened, particularly under the direction of Executive Director Stacy Wilson. When the late Donny Presland created a program called “Alliance” that focuses on the needs that we in the LGBTQ+ community face while accessing addiction treatment.

The Alliance house is a residential treatment program situated in Vancouver that has created LGBTQ+ specific support groups that focus on addiction issues we face in our community. Currently in our community, we face one of the most serious Crystal Meth epidemics that has only gotten worse since the drug first found its way into our community back in the mid-1990s. Meth and sex (particularly unprotected sex) go hand and in hand. This has created a cycle of addiction and HIV infections, even with the onset of “Prep”.

Today I am writing this to the person(s) in our community that are afraid to ask for help. I have been and will continue to be a voice in my community for those that suffer with addictions, and I am extending my hand to you over this pride weekend. Addiction does not just happen to a select group of people. Addiction does not discriminate. It does not care if you mix lattes at Starbucks, or are appointed to the bench in our Federal Court Systems. Once the disease of addiction walks into your life, it will not leave until it has taken everything, including your life. Please do not choose to not ask for help because you are worried you will look weak or crazy.

Together We Can offers a multitude of programs that address a number of needs that are client centered. Over the last three years, TWC has accepted more trans clients that are fully engaged in transition than any other lower mainland treatment centre.

Remember this pride, you can find TWC with their float in the parade and education table at the Sunset Beach Festival. Also, do not hesitate to check out the “Untoxicated” event at Davie and Bute. If you happen to see me out and about in our awesome community, please do not hesitate to talk to me about the services TWC offers. If you need a bed, I can and will make that happen. Please know that you are loved, and that Pride need not be the nightmare that you fear. Pride is/was created for the sake of change. Be the change that you want to be today!

Join Together We Can in celebrating Pride at their Pride Parade Jungle Paradise, their first Recovery Lounge at Sunset Beach! More information here.