CBC Ottawa presents Proud to Shine in partnership with Capital Pride
Meet inspiring 2SLGBTQ+ people who shine in their communities
This month, Capital Pride is going virtual.
With a series of free online events, the Virtual Capital Pride Festival will celebrate, advocate, educate and connect people, respecting the full diversity of the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Ottawa. The festival takes place from August 23-30, 2020.
CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with Capital Pride to produce Proud to Shine, a digital series highlighting 2SLGBTQ+ folks who are making a difference in our city. You can also find their stories on the CBC Ottawa Community Instagram account.
Even though most in-person events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as these inspiring advocates will tell you, pride is so much more than a parade.
Do you know someone in Ottawa's 2SLGBTQ+ community that deserves the spotlight? Send an email with their story to email@example.com with the subject line "Proud to Shine."
Osmel B. Guerra Maynes
Osmel B. Guerra Maynes is a proud Afro-Latino cisgender queer man who has called Canada home for more than 10 years. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Antigua and Barbuda, Osmel immigrated to Canada as an international student in 2003 to pursue a political science degree at Carleton University.
Pride to me means living your truth, being authentic and ensuring that no one ever makes you feel ashamed of who you are or what you stand for. It means community.- Osmel B. Guerra Maynes
Osmel is a social justice activist with a focus on enhancing the inclusion of marginalized voices. This year, he became the first-ever Executive Director of Capital Pride. Of course, when he took the job he had no idea the first festival under his leadership would be entirely online.
He says the journey has been a roller coaster.
"It's been challenging but rewarding ensuring that we provide our community with the programming they need," he said in an email interview. "[We are] letting folks know that pride is not cancelled and can never be cancelled!"
With the festival looking so different during a pandemic, we asked Osmel what pride means to him.
"Pride to me means living your truth, being authentic and ensuring that no one ever makes you feel ashamed of who you are or what you stand for. It means community," he said.
As for next year, Osmel hopes the festival will be in person so we can all "dance like nobody's watching."
Fae Johnstone is an organizer, educator and writer who has advocated for trans and 2SLGBTQ+ rights locally and nationally. For the past two years, Fae has helped organize the Odawa Two-Spirit, Trans and Gender Diverse March, bringing together trans folks and allies to create community and advocate for change in Ottawa. Although the pandemic meant no march this year, Fae has been working on something new.
"One of my biggest accomplishments right now, which fills me with hope and pride, is our upcoming Trans-Fest 2020," Fae said in an email interview.
The mini-festival takes place from August 21-28 and will include workshops, panels, virtual social gatherings and more.
"Connecting to community right now couldn't be more important — and that's what we're hoping to make happen with Trans-Fest 2020," she said.
For Fae, pride is both a celebration as well as a reminder of the work still ahead.
"It is an opportunity to come together and highlight the progress we've made, to share our love for ourselves and for 2SLGBTQ+ people in our communities and around the world, and to reflect on the lives lost to get us here, on the roots of our movement and of pride, which was about addressing police brutality and systemic homophobia, transphobia and other forms of oppression," she said.
"Pride is a source of strength for me, a source of hope. Pride reminds me that we cannot get stuck celebrating our successes while our communities are still struggling to survive under systemic oppression."
Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah is a passionate Black feminist, anti-racist and social justice advocate. Debbie recently made a pivot in her career, moving on from international development into national 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy as the newly appointed Executive Director for the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD).
Pride means liberation and resistance. It means disrupting the status quo in just existing and taking up space. Pride is Black. It is feminist and it is radical. Pride is everything!- Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah
"It has been exciting, to say the least. Especially since this move happened in the middle of a pandemic! Leading a national organization from the comfort of my home wasn't what I thought I would be doing at the beginning of 2020, but I wouldn't change a thing," she said in an email interview.
Taking on this new role is just one of Debbie's recent accomplishments. She has an MA in International Affairs and received an award in 2017 for her work in feminist and youth leadership in Ottawa. But the first-generation Ghanaian-Canadian said her stand-out achievement is making her parents proud.
"I have carved a space for me to be the best person I can be for myself, and by extension, for them," she said. "Although we don't agree on everything, they've watched their opinionated, tomboyish, only daughter grow to be an independent and fierce woman. I make them proud and that fills me with the utmost joy."
When we asked what pride means to her, Debbie said it's about "liberation and resistance. It means disrupting the status quo in just existing and taking up space. Pride is Black. It is feminist and it is radical. Pride is everything!"
When he's not working as a federal public servant, Davy Sabourin is a Francophone 2SLGBTQ+ advocate with a passion for volunteering and community building.
Originally from Montreal, Davy has lived in the National Capital Region for more than 10 years and has played an active role in both summer and winter pride festivals in the capital. This is his second year as Chairperson for Capital Pride.
The pandemic has been challenging for this extroverted advocate.
"I've always adopted the 'open door' approach, where I invite everyone to reach out if they want to chat and/or share their concerns. I've also always preferred meeting in person, for that human connection that can only be felt as such," he said in an email interview.
But technology has helped him stay connected when in-person meetups haven't been possible.
"Social media was already key to 2SLGBTQ+ activists and advocates such as me, and that was definitely reinforced in light of COVID," he said.
For Davy, a big part of pride is remembering its history.
"It is because of the activists that came before us, that we can enjoy the present moment. Pride started as a political movement, continues to be a political movement, and shall always be a political movement," he said.
"For me, pride is a celebration, but also a protest – where it all began."
Davy also said pride gave him hope when he was growing up. His advice to 2SLBGTQ+ youth is to never lose hope.
"Channel that hope into energy to keep pushing to affect change for the betterment of society."
Jade Byard Peek
Jade Byard Peek is an artist, educator, organizer and current Director of Advocacy and Community Care at Kind Space, an 2SLGBTQ+ community organization in Ottawa.
"It's been refreshing to see a community, staff and leadership that is so supportive of everyone and leads with care and love, something I never thought I would experience in the workplace, let alone in a community," said Jade, a Black Scotian (African Nova Scotian), Mi'kmaq queer trans woman. Jade moved to Ottawa from Halifax in 2018.
In addition to her work with Kind Space, she has also been working with Capital Pride during the pandemic as a co-organizer of Trans-Fest 2020.
"It's exciting to see local 2SLGBTQ+ organizations support and embrace the trans members of the community," she said.
For Jade, pride means the ability to be her authentic and true self.
"Pride is about being unapologetic about who you are, who you love, and collectively being able to counter hate and brutality, especially [against] the trans and QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community."
Jade is also the co-founder of the Black Lit Project and has a few recommended reads to pick up during Pride:
Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard
Until We Are Free by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware
Queer Returns by Rinaldo Walcott
Click here for the Virtual Capital Pride Festival's event schedule.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.