(Photo: OLIVIA SULLIVAN, Sound Publishing)

(Photo: OLIVIA SULLIVAN, Sound Publishing)

Surrey taphouse hosts Pride event Saturday

Meantime, LGBTQ+ community grapples with effects of a year of pandemic restrictions

Central City Taphouse & Kitchen is hosting a Pride event today (June 26).

From noon to 6 p.m., Central City Taphouse & Kitchen will be celebrating Pride with drag performances at 3 and 4:30 p.m. due to the heat warning. People are asked to make reservations by either calling 604-545-1400 or visiting centralcitytaphouse.ca.

Martin Rooney, former president of the Surrey Pride Society, said the taphouse reached out to him in the hopes of getting input from him on hosting a Pride celebration. He said he was “quite taken aback by that.”

But it “certainly leads to a significant partnership” for 2022, Rooney said, where Surrey Pride events have previously been held.

READ ALSO: Surrey proclaims June to be Pride Month in the city, June 5, 2021

Meantime, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has proclaimed June to be Pride Month in Surrey.

He did so at the Monday, May 31st council meeting.

June is considered Pride Month in a number of countries, commemorating the Stonewall riots in New York City in June of 1969.

“The riots were a tipping point in LGBTQ2IA+ history and are credited for giving birth to the modern LGBTQ2IA+ rights movement,” reads a post on the City of Surrey’s website.

While there won’t be an in-person Pride event in the city once again due to COVID-19, the city will be lighting Civic Plaza from June 21 to 29 to display the colours of the Pride flag; sharing the release of a film titled “Emergence: Out of the Shadows” by Alex Sangha, which features Surrey residents; and highlight stories and collections on its social media channels in celebration of Canadian National Pride Day on Monday, June 28.

Celebrating Pride Month during a pandemic twice now has been a challenge, said Rooney, as it’s “always been a community that meets in person and discusses in person and socializes in person because of the need to be around others of like mind in lots of cases, specifically the transgender community and the youth community.”

He said much of the LGBTQ+ community is still dealing with the effects of COVID-19 restrictions.

“The vulnerable parts are one of most hit – still are – with COVID restrictions and many people either don’t like or don’t have access to or prefer not to do virtual meetings for multiple reasons.”

For Alex Sangha, the founder of Sher Vancouver, he said the pandemic has presented both good and bad changes for the non-profit society for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their friends, allies, and families.

Sher Vancouver, he said, offers crisis counselling and peer support groups, among other initiatives and programs.

Sangha said the crisis counselling program had to turn to phone and video counselling “because a lot of counsellors did not feel comfortable with in-person counseling.”

“It’s a different experience to do telephone counselling than to do in-person counselling.”

He said it forced the society to provide services in different ways, which “for some people it’s good.”

But when it came to the society’s peer support groups, which they have for men, women, trans and non-binary people, the women’s group grew “like crazy” during the pandemic.

“What does peer support mean? Peer support means developing friendships, meeting new people, getting support from a lot of people who have gone through similar life situations as you in what has historically been an in-person model,” he explained. “The women’s group is taking off, so there’s evidence that it’s working.”

The Sher Felines group, Sangha said, draws in anywhere from 60 to 80 people across North America for the Zoom meetings. But he said the men’s group is “just getting off the ground.”

“We only started doing zoom meetings during the pandemic. Before they were meeting in person and stuff, so that’s another way of providing. In a way it’s good because we reach more people across North America.

“It’s forced us to provide services in different ways. For some people it’s good.”

But as the world starts to open up again, Sangha said Sher Vancouver plans to “gradually and slowly” move into a hybrid model of online and in-person services.

“I don’t think we’re going to give up our online activities because I think a lot of them have been quite successful.”