Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A pair of Winnipeggers have taken it upon themselves to celebrate the city's LGBTTQ+ community virtually during Pride Month.
Friends Juan Mohadeb and Darcy Gosek are the creators of Queer Folks of Winnipeg, an Instagram page dedicated to sharing daily photos and stories of those in the local queer community through the month of June.
Inspiration for the project stemmed from the postponement of this year's Pride Winnipeg Festival, which was set to take place May 24 to 31, owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The festival and parade were originally rescheduled for the fall, but Pride Winnipeg organizers have since announced the weeklong event will be held online from Sept. 4 to 13.
"I was thinking about Pride and how bummed I was that we wouldn’t have a big celebration this year," Mohadeb said. "It’s something that I really look forward to; it’s nice to see Winnipeg be turned into this very colourful city and people are encouraged to come out and celebrate their authentic selves."
Both men are gay and met each other through events and mutual friends in the LGBTTQ+ community. For Gosek, the annual festival is a chance to connect with people who run in different circles than his own.
"I think, in general, within this hugely diverse community... we still kind of move in our own circles," Gosek said. "Pride is such a great opportunity to see so many different versions of expression and the way people connect with their identities day-to-day.
"Without Pride providing that space to do that, I think that’s a huge loss for a lot of people."
Disappointment eventually gave way to opportunity when the friends realized they needed little more than an Instagram handle to create their own grassroots Pride celebration — free from the interests of corporate sponsorship.
“Our aim for this project was to bring it back to the people and why we’re proud.” – Juan Mohadeb
"We really saw this as an opportunity to shift Pride away from what we felt was, in certain aspects, becoming really commercialized," Mohadeb said. "Our aim for this project was to bring it back to the people and why we’re proud."
They launched Queer Folks of Winnipeg in May, two short weeks after coming up with the idea, and have gained hundreds of followers in less than a month.
The creators have been busy doing physically distant interviews and photoshoots with participants between shifts at their day jobs in health care — Mohadeb is a medical student and Gosek is a nurse at the women's hospital at the Health Sciences Centre.
The project's first post went live Monday and features Winnipeg photographer Ally Gonzalo and his work to reclaim the word "bakla," a Tagalog term used in the Filipino community to describe individuals born male who identify as gay, trans, non-binary or bisexual.
View this post on Instagram
Bakla is a Tagalog word that predates the word gay in our history. The closest parallel I could draw to it is being Two-Spirit in Indigenous cultures of North America. They were spiritual leaders, shamanistic leaders, who led their society through those avenues. This went around until the 1500s when the Spanish came. They basically labeled these Bakla as pagans who worship gods who are not Jesus Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit. They killed them and created a power vacuum that was essentially used as an opportunity by the Spaniards to install Catholicism. So as a photographer, because that's the best way I can express myself, I decided to reclaim that word. That used to be a word that was used against us aggressively. Now I'm deciding no, Bakla prior to colonization was a beautiful word. They were leaders of their societies. What's to be ashamed of? So I decided to take on this project and photograph people to showcase that Bakla are as diverse as they come. Winnipeg is around 800,000 people, approximately, and let's say 10% of those are Filipinos. If one out of 10 people is queer, that’s a lot of Bakla. #queerfolksofwinnipeg ��: @peterharder_
Gosek is drawing on his experience working as a summer programmer with the Rainbow Resource Centre to ensure the project is conducted in an accessible and safe manner, and that it amplifies diverse voices.
"We recognize that the two of us have a lot of privilege being cisgendered, white, gay men. Within this community, that comes with a certain level of privilege that others don’t have," he says. "We’re typically heard more often than others."
The organizers are accepting nominations for people to profile through mesages on Instagram or at email@example.com.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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