Paige Frewer behind Vancouver’s celebrated Man Up Productions hopes to inspire a continued shift towards increased representation for people of colour in queer communities. “We strive to have equal or majority representation by artists of colour in our shows, and prioritize the booking of artists from other/specific marginalized communities, such as Black and Indigenous folks, people with different abilities, women/femmes, and gender non-conforming people,” they explain. “We listen to community feedback, and try to make ourselves as accessible and available for feedback as possible. We have folks on our organizer team representing different communities, so if certain guests don't feel comfortable giving feedback to a main organizer, the message can still be received and addressed. When problems or conflicts arise at our events or in our communities, for which an accountability process or resolution might require some monetary investment, we draw upon an ongoing ‘solidarity fund’ to pay for eg. consultation or dialogue processes, to help reduce the burden of emotional labour that marginalized folks involved might otherwise be expected to do.”
Frewer notes that there are significant problems still prevalent in our queer communities, among them being anti-blackness, anti-Indigeneity, and ableism. “No events that we know of have a policy against culturally appropriative hairstyles, despite this being one of the main ways that anti-Blackness can show up in our spaces. We're working on implementing one now in collaboration with queer Black folks in our communities,” they go on. “Indigenous folks continue to experience profiling and exclusion in queer spaces, and we have much work to do on understanding how decolonization practices can be integrated in our context as a queer party. Folks with disabilities sometimes struggle with the physical accessibility of our spaces, which we try to address by providing accessible portable washrooms, site maps upon request, and minimal use of flashing lights for those with light sensitivities. We staff sober ‘buddies’ at all our events who are trained in harm reduction and anti-oppression, to help intervene, listen to, and gather information about issues that arise, so we can try to keep understanding how to support vulnerable members of our communities.”
Still, Man Up Productions has seen both resignation and indignation from certain communities. “Most recently we've been hearing from Indigenous and differently-abled folks -- around supporting improvements and accountability,” they say. “Many folks are of course exhausted from living within our colonial, white-supremacist, ableist society. In the case of Indigenous folks, I believe that one root issue for this frustration with us and with other queer events, is a lack of representation of Indigenous artists in our organization.” Frewer is hoping to change this. “We are attempting to address this by fostering some new relationships with Indigenous folks in our community, and creating opportunities for them to be involved as performers and organizers. In the case of folks with different abilities, the main challenge we've come up against in improving physical accessibility is a lack of funding to make structural changes, which we're attempting to deal with by applying for grants.”
As for how organizations can join Man Up and become more involved? “Connect with and hire GNC folks and QTBIPOC folks; adopt anti-oppression practices into your organization; educate your members on queer literacy.”
The Clubhouse, a venue Man Up Productions co-operates, hosts a Black-produced queer dance party called Level Up every month, and will also be hosting an Indigenous produced queer dance party in late September/early October.