COLUMN: All the glory of the rainbow

When I came to work last year and saw the rainbow crosswalk outside the library I felt elated, delighted and proud.

When I came to work last year and saw the rainbow crosswalk outside the library I felt elated, delighted and proud.

When I discovered that the crosswalk had been painted by a group of young people, I was even more proud. For all of our societal warts our intolerances, mistrust, and our sometimes-inability to embrace diversity these young millennials got it.

“Nelson rainbow crosswalk organizers Sadie and Hopi Glockner and Rose Shine, along with their volunteer painting crew Kyra and Julia Burkart and Petra Hartley made history Sunday morning as they added permanent colour to the previously white crosswalk spanning Stanley St. at Victoria,” reporter Bill Metcalfe wrote in the Star.

History, because it was the first crosswalk in Nelson to celebrate and honour the LGBTQ community. Timely, because it appeared just before the Gay Pride festival and parade last September. Unfortunate only in that the non-road-appropriate paint quickly faded, but as I write this I am told that efforts are being made to source the kind of paint that’ll stick—along with those wonderfully inclusive sentiments—in time for Pride 2016.

The Nelson Library celebrates Pride with our own rainbow-flag-waving, most often in the form of book displays that showcase our collection of LGBTQ fiction and nonfiction.

This year, we’re thrilled to offer a pre-Pride event: author Liz Millward presents her book Making a Scene: Lesbian Community in Canada 1964 1984 (published last fall by UBC Press), on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Library.

Most millennials, like our lovely crosswalk-painters, are aware of the discrimination and even violence faced by members of the LGBTQ community. But many of us today don’t fully fathom how completely closed the closet door was relatively recently in North America.

The author looks at the airing-out of that closet, beginning during the heady years of social change in the 1960s and moving into the building of a community. Millward is an associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Manitoba; the presentation promises to be fascinating.

Elise Chenier, SFU professor and director of the Archive of Lesbian Oral Testimony (which is the sponsor of Millward’s book presentation), will also launch the Nelson portion of a study entitled Bridging the Gap: Connecting Community and University in Online Digital Archives Research Project Description on the same evening. The study will ask participants to film their stories using supplied camcorders. Local filmmaker Amy Bohigian is assisting Chenier with this aspect of the study, taking place in October and May. Chenier can be reached at echenier@sfu.ca.

At the Nelson Library we try to keep our collection relevant. A fiction-lover personally, a list of my favourite Canadian LGBTQ authors must certainly include Ann-Marie Macdonald (Fall on Your Knees), Timothy Findley (The Wars), Tomson Highway (Kiss of the Fur Queen), and Zoe Whittall (her new, ravingly reviewed novel is called The Best Kind of People). That’s barely a scratch; there are so many.

Some of our more recent acquisitions include Persistence: all ways butch and femme, edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman; The essential guide to gay & lesbian weddings by Tess Ayers and Paul Brown; Queers were here: heroes & icons of queer Canada, edited by Robin Ganev and R.J. Gilmour, and It’s not over: getting beyond tolerance, defeating homophobia, and winning true equality by Michelangelo Signorile.

Winning true equality, as referenced in that last title, won’t happen by the next Gay Pride weekend, or the one after that. But small steps can, cumulatively, make a difference.

Like painting a sidewalk. Like taking a stand. Like loving your neighbour.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Her column runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

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