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Pride Stories

In honour of Pride month this year, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre team did a Q&A with two women who shared their experiences on what Pride means to them. We are proud to share their unique stories as members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and as Indigenous women who work and live in the Downtown Eastside.

Marge’s Pride Story

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Marge. I am a proud warrior Heiltsuk nation woman from Bella Bella. I came to Vancouver when I was 19 years old and bumped into the biggest party of my life with the gay and lesbian scene Downtown. We were a big gang of street workers on Davie Street. The Downtown Eastside is now my home. Every now and then I visit my family in Bella Bella. I get to smell the ocean air; I see the eagles in the sky, get on the boat and go fishing. 

Q: How do you identify, could you explain what it means to you?

Being true to my identity has meant the world to me. It helped my girlfriend and I work on ourselves for the past few years and we have since been sober. We are going to do a wedding ceremony some time soon. Letting people know who I am has helped me get comfortable with who I am. The key thing to my existence is to be happy.

Q: How did you arrive at your identity? Can you tell us a little about your journey?

I was initially with boys and was also a working girl for 22 years. Over time I came to be identified as a multiple personality disorder person. I was out outed out of my home town, Bella Bella. They would not be near me, I lost my friends who were a big circle of girlfriends. Everyone turned their back on me. My family suggested for me to leave Bella Bella, to go on “holiday”. I thought they were maybe ashamed of me. I took it hard. I worked in a cannery, gathered a couple of cheques and left. I came to Vancouver and started a new life. My identity wasn’t in play because I was into addiction. When I stopped being a working girl I came to really identify as a lesbian.

Q: How does your culture and identity relate?

I take both of them very seriously. I have regalia that I am able to put on at certain times, for certain events and I learned my culture through my aunties, sisters and the community. This includes my community down here. Ways of conducting ceremonies, various protocols and burning food for loved ones. I also got some of the teachings from observing my granny from a young age. All these teaching and everything about my culture strengthen my identity and have allowed me to embrace my roots and who I am as an individual.

Q: What are some of the challenges or struggles you face?

I am now a pretty happy person. I do not stand for violence and choose to walk away from it. I am grateful for my father’s support and how understanding he was when I told him I was leaving Bella Bella. Having a loving and supportive circle has helped  me along the way.

Q: What are some of the joys?

Being  true to myself, my family, friends and community. And them supporting my partner and I.

 

Jennifer’s Pride Story

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jennifer, mother of two grown adults, and a proud grandmother of four grandchildren.  I was born and raised in Bella Bella, (Heiltsuk Nation} and married my boys’ father. He passed in 1993, and this is when I decided I needed to further my education so I could provide for my children who were at the time on 5 and 7 years of age. I decided that I wanted to be a helper of some kind because there was very limited resources in Bella Bella.  I met the requirements to enter a two year program at Native Education Center, Family & Community Counselling, which I successfully completed and have been a frontline worker since , mostly in the Downtown Eastsde.

Q: How do you identify, could you explain what it means to you?

I identify as a lesbian, I am attracted to women. I knew this from a  very young age. However in my community this was not acceptable behavior, so I did like most – got married had children. Yes, I was happy and content with my life at the time, but then my husband passed away. I was only 31 years old and this is when I made the decision to be who I have always wanted to be, no more hiding in the closest. I came out, my family thought it odd that at my age I was a lesbian, they kept saying it was a “phase” and I will “grow out of it”.

Q: How did you arrive at your identity? Can you tell us a little about your journey?

I was always attracted to my female friends, secret crushes. I am a very shy person so it wasn’t easy. Especially because my family thought I would grow out of it. I never felt comfortable around my family with my partners. My father was the most understanding and accepting, he said “as long as I am happy”. I couldn’t even get the words out but he knew what I was trying to say.

Q: How does your culture and identity relate?

Indigenous people have always had “two spirted persons” in their families, they were held in high esteem. They were in touch with both the feminine and masculine sides. The most high ranking chief had one as a wife, and it wasn’t until the bible was brought into Indigenous lives that it was thought of as a bad thing to be a two spirited or lesbian. Now my community is more accepting, with its first PRIDE parade this year.

Q: What are some of the challenges or struggles you face?

Challenges that we faced at the time was the look of “disgust” from people we didn’t even know, or being told we were going to “go to hell” because of our choices.

Q: What are some of the joys?

Finally, being able to be who I wanted to be, not what family and community expect of you.

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