Rainbows abound at Bute and Davie

E_p10_streetThis is the beautiful Pride sign, in rainbow colours at Bute & Davie in Vancouver’s West End. It stood in the new Jim Deva Plaza during Pride weekend. The sign was an initiative of Young Ideas, which works out of Gordon Neighbourhood House. Young Ideas proposes to connect young people who live in the West End with activities to help them gain a sense of community and health without great expense. As the 2016 Pride theme states: Better Together!

The rainbow colours in the sign had their origin in the rainbow-coloured Pride flag first created in San Francisco by gay rights activist and artist, Gilbert Baker. He created it as a symbol of pride for the gay community and it first appeared in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in June of 1978. Since that time it has become an international symbol of pride in the diversity of the LGBTQ community. Each of the six colours has a specific meaning: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity, purple for spirit. The original flag had two more colours: pink for sex and turquoise for magic. However, manufacturing difficulties with these colours forced them to be dropped.

Waving the rainbow flag has become a political act of empowerment for the LGBTQ community and can be a provocative act in the 73+ countries where sexual acts by members of the LGBTQ community are deemed criminal. In ten of these countries, the death penalty can be imposed. We have seen the effects of discrimination with the deaths of club goers in Orlando, and random acts of violence against the LGBTQ community in the Vancouver area still persist.

However, progress has been phenomenal and gay marriage has now become legal nationwide in roughly 23 countries, including Canada and the US. Recently, a bill promoted by BC MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert to include transgender people in the human rights code was passed in the BC Provincial Legislature. The BC Liberals refused to support the bill in four previous attempts to pass it. To celebrate this and other hard won freedoms of the LGBTQ community, the Jim Deva Plaza was officially opened on July 28, 2016. Jim Deva was one of the founders of Little Sisters Bookstore currently located on Davie between Bute and Jervis. It served as a haven for the LGBTQ community in Vancouver to meet, read and shop without prejudice. Some of its materials were deemed obscene by Canada customs and Jim and his associates fought a court battle over censorship that lasted over 20 years. During that time, the original bookstore on Thurlow St. had been bombed three times, fortunately without injury to anyone. Although the Supreme Court ruled in Little Sister’s favour, Canada Customs continues to discriminate and it has become financially impossible to do more. Jim also fought for safety in parks and public spaces to combat anti-gay violence and worked closely with City Hall to achieve this. Sadly, Jim Deva died from an accident in 2014.

The creation of the plaza is an homage to Jim Deva’s work and as it states inside the huge megaphone installation there: A safe space, inspired by Jim Deva’s lifelong passion for freedom of sexuality, gender diversity, and the fight against censorship, where LGBTQ people and allies can meet, share ideas freely, dare to dream, and love unapologetically. The megaphone is also a metaphor for the difference one individual can make speaking out. But the Jim Deva Plaza as a whole is a place that symbolizes how many people can share their differences since we are all ”better together.” This message is permanently emphasized by the square’s rainbow coloured patches on its surface and the rainbow crosswalks at the intersections of Bute & Davie.