Celebrate B.C.'s LGBTQ shining stars with CBC British Columbia
Highlighting British Columbians who make a positive impact in the LGBTQ community
Welcome to Proud to Shine – a celebration of British Columbians who are making a difference in the LGBTQ community.
We asked you to tell us about an LGBTQ person in B.C. who is doing big things in their community, and, wow, there are some real change-makers in this province.
CBC's Proud to Shine committee selected five British Columbians who create positive change in the LGBTQ community by:
- Going above and beyond the call of duty
- Demonstrating resilience, strength and commitment
- Making meaningful and valued contributions
Check out our amazing nominees below!
Bryan Bone aka Miss Gina Tonic | Vancouver, B.C.
Nominated by: anonymous
Why Bryan deserves the spotlight:
Bryan Bone, a dedicated Richmond high school art teacher and celebrated Drag Queen, is leading the way towards a more inclusive school district and society at large.
Motivated by personal experiences with bullying and homophobia, Bryan vowed to be the positive queer role model he never had in high school. To follow through on his goal, he "volunteers tirelessly" with the school district to support safe and inclusive opportunities for "Richmond's LGBTQ youth and allies," says his nominator.
One of Bryan's greatest achievements is convincing the Richmond School Board to join the Vancouver Pride Parade. And it was no easy feat.
For nearly two decades, Bryan has been finding a way for Richmond students to participate in the Vancouver Pride Parade by joining the Vancouver School Board's entry. This changed when, thanks to Bryan's dedicated efforts, the Richmond School Board was rewarded its own entry into the Parade in 2017.
Bryan not only supports students, but also his peers. As the volunteer sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) teacher at his school, Bryan mentors his colleagues, supporting their professional and personal development.
When he's not in teacher mode, Bryan can be found celebrating gender and sexual diversity as drag performer Miss Gina Tonic: a positive fixture in Vancouver's nightlife scene and at libraries where she presents 'Drag Queen Story Time" for children of all ages.
No matter where Bryan aka Miss Gina Tonic goes, the spirit of inclusion and a celebration of diversity follows.
Thank you for being an inspiration and guidepost to so many!
Avery Shannon | Vancouver, B.C.
Nominated by: Gavin Somers
Why Avery deserves the spotlight:
Avery Shannon, a non-binary, queer and neurodivergent activist, is a true pioneer for justice in their community and beyond.
As a dedicated facilitator for organizations that protect citizens and the planet, Avery helps people come together to discuss important issues. A "role model to so many," says nominator Gavin Somers, Avery devotes themselves to several social causes and intersectional groups, the most recent being "COVID-19 Coming Together Vancouver": an organization created to connect the community through shared resources and support in light of the challenges that COVID brings.
Avery also lends their talent for guiding meaningful conversation to "Out In Schools": a program that brings films into classrooms to inspire youth to step into the challenges and triumphs of LGBTQ communities. They have also facilitated with "Our Time", "Science World" and "Protect the Inlet" – just to name a few!
Avery's commitment to alleviating discrimination and promoting social justice, and at such a young age, makes them a true inspiration.
"The LGBTQ community is lucky to have Avery," says Somers. We couldn't agree more.
Thank you Avery, for leading the charge towards a better society!
Kelsey Borgfjord | Williams Lake, B.C.
Nominated by: Anne Beaudry
Why Kelsey deserves the spotlight:
Kelsey Borgfjord, director at large for Williams Lake Pride Society and counsellor at Women's Contact Society, is a pillar in the Williams Lake LGBTQ community.
As the go-to person for all things LGBTQ at Women's Contact Society, a non-profit organization that provides support and services to women and girls in the Williams Lake region, Kelsey says that creating "a safe space for all people who identify as (or with) women" is key to fostering an inclusive environment in her counselling work.
Her dedication to supporting community members doesn't stop there. As a volunteer at the Williams Lake Pride Society, Kelsey helps provide a safe and positive social space for members of the LGBTQ community throughout the Cariboo region. Whether it's coordinating Pride activities, counseling LGBTQ youth or doing graphic design work, Kelsey "works hard as a volunteer in our local Pride group," says nominator Anne Beaudry.
In addition to being a trusted community resource about gender and sexuality, Kelsey has developed a gaming group for women, volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club, organizes other community activities and "so much more," says Beaudry. This is all part of her desire to "make our town a little bit brighter."
And it seems to be working.
As Kelsey walks through her city, she says it "warms her heart" to see people's support of the LGBTQ community via rainbows and flags.
Thank you for shining your bright light and supporting your community, Kelsey!
Tyson Cook aka Freida Whales | Kelowna, B.C.
Nominated by: D.J Clarke, April Balducci and Jillian Karpick
Why Freida Whales deserves the spotlight:
Tyson Cook, an Education Assistant with the Kelowna school district and a locally loved Drag Queen, who goes by the name Freida Whales, makes waves in Kelowna's LGBTQ community and beyond.
Freida Whales, as nominee Jillian Karpick puts it, has "been creating a tsunami of Pride positivity." As an example, Freida turned a negative into a positive when they launched "Drag Queen Story Time" at the Kelowna Library, which was met with significant backlash at first from some community members and library executives. Freida pushed on, and now the program is celebrated as a regular occurrence in the Community Readers Program. In addition to that, Freida Whales regularly hosts wine tours, emcees events and live shows, and is a leader in Kelowna's LGBTQ community.
Even COVID-19 couldn't stop Freida from keeping the community connected. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Freida has "been working non-stop to create content to help keep community spirits up," says Karpick.
It's for these reasons that many Kelowna residents, including nominee D.J. Clarke, are "proud to be a member of their pod!"
And we can't forget their work with youth. As an Education Assistant, Tyson "goes above and beyond for their students and for our city," and "helps children develop empathy, learn about gender diversity and difference and tap into their own creativity," says nominator April Balducci.
Thank you Tyson Cook aka Freida Whales for all you do for your community!
Alex Sangha | Delta, B.C.
Nominated by: Josh Soronow
Why Alex deserves the spotlight:
Alex Sangha is the Founder and a current Board Member of the non-profit, Sher Vancouver. Since its inception in 2008, Sher Vancouver has provided counselling, information, referrals, peer support, volunteer opportunities and shared outreach presentations to combat bullying, racism and other forms of discrimination to LGBTQ South Asians and their friends, families and allies.
It hasn't been the easiest path for Alex to build his impactful legacy. Alex lives with a mental illness, but characterizes himself as a "creative humanitarian." This reframing allows Alex to thrive as a gay member of the South Asian, Punjabi Sikh community. In the words of nominator Josh Soronow, "Alex has overcome a lot of social adversity but he continues to put one foot in front of the other and move forward with his life."
Alex dedicates every day to making a difference for people in his "fight for the rights of other vulnerable and marginalized peoples and selflessly helps those who need support and assistance." Alex's contributions leave him with the reputation of being "a bright shining light for a segment of the population that really is not heard that much or does not have a voice in our world."
Thank you for all the work you do, Alex!
The Proud to Shine selection committee is comprised of CBC employees who are members of the outCBC and VOIX LGBTQ+ CBC Employee Resource Group. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led and organizationally-supported groups that are drawn together by shared values and identities. They can include but are not limited to, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status.