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Month: May 2023

My Forty-Sixth Year

It began and ended like it always does, with my May Long Weekend Drag Show for Mental Health. 2023 was a much smaller scale in some ways than 2022’s massive fundraiser marathon show, but both shows were the opportunity to celebrate with friends while raising money for great causes.

Pride Month 2022 was different than anything we had done before. The collaborations we were able to develop with the Pride on 104 Event, and the return of PrideFest to Churchill Square set the business up for success, and of course Glow with Pride 2022 blessed me with the shirtless forever-man-crush, so that was a win! And then I caught the tail end of Toronto Pride, which was an experience like no other!

July was a Shawn Mendes concert that took me from fan to super fan to crazy deranged stalker fan, and then the month ended with Pride Day at Kdays. Joining the Kdays team last year was a huge professional and personal boost for me, and I remain proud of what we accomplished last July. I’m excited to be doing that again for this coming summer and look forward to seeing the fair get even queerer.

I caught the tail end of Vancouver Pride, with its sober lounge and its Wreck Beach. #Manflesh.

August was primarily centered around Coronation and completing the year as Emperor 46 of the ISCWR. It held up a mirror to both mistakes and successes, but, even though its not always about the money, setting a new financial record for the organization is definitely memorable. But what was truly memorable, and what truly matters, was reigning with one of my best friends.

And then came Europe – what would be the first of two trips to Europe in the year, anyway. It was a whirlwind week through London and Paris. I knew I’d love London; I didn’t guess I would fall so in love with Paris. It was eye opening and life changing, and I got back from France in time to celebrate my Opa’s birthday, starting off five months of more regular family dinners that brought me such joy.

The fall of 2022 was a bad time professionally. A business slump led to a personal slump, and then it was just a downward spiral of slump that couldn’t be halted by either the occasional amazing party or a Day of the Dead trip to PV. It wasn’t until a Christmas trip to Hawaii that I managed to kick off the personal slump – and just like that, it seemed things shifted everywhere. 2023 started off with a bang, and has kept banging ever since.

One of the greatest honors of my 46th year came from receiving the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal from Rachel Notley. I could live to be 100 and I’d never be able to give back to the community what it has given me, but the medal was a recognition from people I respect that they at least see my attempts at leaving our community, our city, our world a little better than I found it.

And then it was back to Europe, for a truly inspiring trip to Italy and Paris. Six weeks later, and I am still awestruck by David. The gay gaze is real. And I got back from France in time to visit my Opa just hours before he passed.

And the last thing I did in my forty-sixth year was vote for Rachel Notley’s NDP. The rise in far-right anti-queerness is going to be a defining feature of the years to come, and getting the wackadoodle fascists out of power here in Florida North is the first step in braking that hate coaster. I will fight it how I have always fought it – by never backing down and by continuing to bring as much queer joy to as many people as possible.

A Long Day’s Journey into Gay Nightlife

“How did you get involved in gay nightlife?” It’s come up so many times in the last month, and again just now, so I thought I’d explore the question deeper here.

This wasn’t the plan, not that I’m sure I had one, but I didn’t sit around in high school or uni thinking about my future career in bars. No, back in high school, the plan was teacher, I guess. It was what I was usually told I should be, and I liked school so I could see it. But then coming out derailed my uni studies. I didn’t want to teach. I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead, but I knew it wasn’t education. I started taking courses because they interested me, rather than with an aim in mind, and more often than not, I queered them up whenever I could.

At the same time, I started volunteering with Lethbridge’s Gay and Lesbian Peer Support Line, and its parent organization, GALA/LA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Lethbridge and Area), as well as writing for the monthly newsletter, The Gala Occasion. Those were the only gay orgs in Lethbridge in the mid90s, responsible for weekly coffee nights and monthly dances aka homo-hops. It wasn’t long before I was the Chairperson for GALA, and it was there I guess that my future purpose began to solidify. I liked the connection to community it gave me, prestige, popularity, power, whatever it was, I liked it.

When I finished my BA though, I had to make a choice. At that point, I’d be chairing GALA for a few years. It wasn’t a career path though. I had a $40,000 piece of paper hanging on my wall and no career goal – and I was in Lethbridge… and I didn’t want to be there anymore. No, the road led home, and the career plan could wait until I got there.

Moving back from Lethbridge to Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton took away those years of connection though. Sure, I knew local gays, but not well. Greyhounding into town for a party weekend with internet friends was one thing, but translating those friendships into deeper connection was something else. I needed a job and I needed friends, and when I saw a copy of the Pride Pages, a local guide put out by the Edmonton Rainbow Business Association, I thought that could be the answer to both questions. I’d get a gay job, somewhere, anywhere. The career could still wait. First, I had to fulfill the immediate needs of income and socializing.

That job was Down Under Men’s Bathhouse (after a hot minute at the Georgia Baths, a not-so-hot minute really). Down Under was owned by three people with deep connections in Edmonton’s gay nightlife, and through them, my world expanded fast. I joined Edmonton’s Impersonation Revue of the Village People, which gave me connections to Roost staff. I started working at Boots, then the Roost. I started writing for Times.10, a print magazine for Edmonton’s gay community. I started a new magazine, Fresh, and that gave me connections to Buddys, and then I was managing Buddys. Buddys led to a drug problem, which eventually took me back to Boots, which became Junction, where I got sober. And then the Junction closed.

And suddenly I realized I was in my mid-30s, and I’d never gotten around to answering the question about the career path I wanted. My resume read like a what’s what and who’s who of Gay Edmonton, but there was no plan. I hadn’t set out to consciously choose gay nightlife, but I’d stumbled across it and stayed, and my life was pretty good. The community I’d so longed to connect with? I’d found it, and more.

I didn’t know what I’d do when Junction closed, but my newfound sobriety had given me the one thing I’d never had: a savings account. I could get by on that until the universe told me where to go next. After all, the universe had done a pretty good job so far. I’d learned and grown, and yes, stumbled and fallen – but always got back up.

Which was the time that Evolution began to become to a thing. My uncles were moving back to Canada and looking for their next plan, and if that wasn’t serendipitous, I don’t know what is. I hadn’t chosen gay nightlife before, but now, with a decade and more under my now sober belt, I could choose it in a way that mattered. We chose it together.

In a way, it’s like all those other jobs were ingredients in a recipe, and Evolution is the final product. But that’s also not quite right. It makes Evolution the end, when in every way that matters, it was only the beginning. Even now, almost a decade into it, it’s only the beginning. Every day, I choose the nightlife, because it gave me everything I wanted: purpose, community, connection, and the power to add queer magic to people’s lives on a weekly basis.