A public campaign has been launched in Vancouver to address the invisibility of LGBT people in ethnic minorities.
The project, Our City of Colours, was started by student Darren Ho. It follows a backlash against the Burnaby School District in Vancouver’s gay-friendly policy. The policy, which is intended to combat discrimination against LGBT students, was criticized by the parents for insufficient consultation and lack of transparency.
“We started our project before the Burnaby School Board policy thing came out, and once it came out, it really hit home about why we had to do this,” 22-year-old Ho told The Straight.
“Because I felt like watching the news about the people who were against the gay-friendly policy, I realized a lot of people who were against it were only against it because they didn’t know enough about it. Or they didn’t know enough about same-sex relationships, about gay bullying, about gay issues, about how being gay would affect a young student…because in their culture, they just don’t get a lot of information about it.”
The first poster was designed to reach the Chinese Canadian community. It featured two men holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other. It was accompanied by a list of their interests, such as yoga and watching hockey, and statements that they loved each other at the bottom.
The second poster is designed to address the Persian Canadian community.
In it, 24-year-old Farhad poses on stairs, while details about him, such as being an engineering student and a soccer player, are written in both English and Farsi.
Mo Kazerooni of Our of City of Colours told The Straight that they had difficulty finding a second model.
“I know lots of people who support it and I know of lots of them who would get involved,” he explained, “but it’s hard for them to come in front of the camera.”
The poster says that Farhad loves his boyfriend. And he also loves Googoosh, one of the most iconic female pop stars and actors from Iran. Shared love of the star is a way of connecting with the target audience, says Kazerooni.
Although Vancouver and the rest of Canada has accepted many LGBT Iranian refugees, says Kazerooni, the community is not accepting:
“I can see it’s changing but it’s still quite—I don’t want to say homophobic, but it’s not talked about as much as it should. In Iran, homosexuality is [subject to]…capital punishment. And that’s why there are queer refugees coming to Canada, because of their sexual orientation. And lots of them can’t be out in their respective communities. And it leads to other problems, like finding jobs or they want to belong to the Iranian community but they struggle with that.”
Future plans are for posters for the South Asian (Punjabi) and Korean Canadian communities and later the Filipino and Japanese Canadian communities.
Watch Googoosh peform in Vancouver:
Poster image Our City of Colours
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