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2023 Year in Review: Reconnection, Renaissance, and still Really Queer

The year started off in a grand and glorious way, getting a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal from our once and hopefully future premier Rachel Notley. There have certainly been awards and recognitions in the past that I’ve received and appreciated, even as they might make me feel old or trigger imposter syndrome. This was no exception. The other recipients in that room have improved and enriched so many people’s lives; it isn’t always easy to believe that I should be counted among them.

And certainly this year came with many lessons that for every person I’ve helped, there’s been someone I’ve hurt, but this one night, I let myself just believe in myself and be happy.

This year has been… weird. At times, it has moved so very slow; at others, it was lurching forward at breakneck speeds. Looking back, things that happened at the beginning of the year feel like there’s no way they could have been in 2023, they feel so long ago. Welcome to old age, I guess. But, as 2023 reminded me so very many times, old age is a luxury not everyone gets to enjoy.

The body count of 2023 was high. My Opa passed. We lost Deb. We lost Alberta’s first Drag Superstar, Tiara Manila. We back-to-back lost two monarchs with the ISCWR, Emperor 14 Rob and Empress 27 Endora, as well as Brenda Buffet. Gentle giant James Jarvis passed. And just recently I learned Justin died from fucking fentanyl, which means another star needs to be added to my Too Many Too Soon tat. Those of you who know me know how every new death walks me down the memory lane of all those who I’ve lost before, so indeed, 2023 was a year spent on memory lane.

Memory lane wasn’t always sad though. It was a year of random reconnection. From the sudden reappearance of Ross (and the accompanying memory lane about Boots and Jim), to high school reconnects like Jacqui and Katrina, to even further back reconnects like a visit with my kindergarten teacher, it was a year of looking back, in many ways. Those of you who know me know that every year is looking back though; that sensation of “life flashing before your eyes” when you die is one I won’t recognize when it happens – my life is always flashing.

Memory lane is always part of my career path of course. Work with Edmonton Queer History Project and Rainbow Story Hub continued in 2023, with projects and events always there to unearth forgotten memories. Highlights included the summer series of walking tours, the Times.10 photo archive processing with the City of Edmonton Archive, and the digitization project that will help future historians and storytellers have easy access to our collective queer history. We even had a queer history display this year at K-Days.

Buddys to Buddys walking tour with Dan

For the second year in a row, I worked with Explore Edmonton on K-Days, Edmonton’s summer fair and exhibition. It was an opportunity to queer up the midway, as 2022’s programming expanded so exponentially. There were ten days of queer entertainment, featuring so much local talent, both drag and live. What will 2024 bring to the midway? Time will tell.

I was also able to help queer up some of Edmonton’s other festivals. I worked with Winterruption for the second year in a row. We brought drag for the first time ever to Taste of Edmonton, thanks to James Jarvis (RIP). And we just dragged up Fort Edmonton Park with the successful three-night run of SlayBells. 2023 featured the Summer of Pride, but truly, its pride-all-year in Edmonton.

Pride Brunch at the Rec Room
Family Photo at Aiden’s grad dinner

The festivals weren’t my only opportunity to enjoy some great entertainment though. Right after K-Days was Freewill Shakespeare Festival, and there were lots of other shows too, here and in NYC – Anastasia, Pretty Woman, Aladdin, 12th Night, Romeo + Juliet, Music of the Night, Ain’t Too Proud, Importance of Being Earnest, Little Shop of Horrors, Hooves Belonged to the Deer, Hadestown, Lion King, Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, and & Juliet. There’s an alternative timeline in which I’m an actor, as opposed to just being dramatic.

Of course, my main career path remains Evolution, but I think that’s going to get it’s own post. But in keeping with the personal memory lane of this post, that’s something that’s always part of EVO, and never more so than in the last few months, where people who have moved, or just moved on, re-surfaced. It’s always wonderful to see people I haven’t seen in a long time. The water under the bridges is deep, but beautiful.

For a second year in a row, I didn’t write one word on any new book. After two coming out during the pandemic, I’m just … word-less. There’s been too much survival mode and not enough creative-mode, and I’m hoping 2024 sees that shift.

Travel-wise, 2023 was the year of Italy. What a transformative experience that was. Rome. Venice. Florence. Milan. And then of course stopping in Paris on the way home just because. Michaelangelo’s David was so powerful; gay gaze indeed, I suppose. And Venice was pure magic. Add on a quick tail-end of Toronto Pride (aka trip to Steamworks) and a quick in and out of NYC, where “& Juliet” blew me away. Even though my 2024 travel calendar is currently empty, I anticipate that changing soon. After all, life is very short.

David’s bicep vein

I crushed, and was crushed. I soared high, and crashed down. I moved. I appreciated. I grew. I was blind-sided more than once, but I always made my way back out. The navigation is the whole point I guess. Get lost, sure, but learn something as you find your way. And if that’s the point, 2023 was, all in all, a good year.

My people

Rob Browatzke

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