Queer people in Kelowna are standing up to harmful rhetoric and demonstrating resiliency after experiencing a series of recent hate crimes and abuse.
Jovian, a Drag King performer and non-binary youth in Kelowna has been subject to both physical and online forms of anti-queer hate and abuse.
Recently, they were the target of hate speech after writing a supportive message on Instagram influencer Dylan Mulvaney’s post.
Jovian was attacked in a series of hateful replies which included threatening language like, “I’m coming for you… You people need to be locked away and we needa (sic) throw away the key.”
“If this was an isolated incident, I could ignore it, but it’s not,” said Jovian.
During Jovian’s first six months as a drag performer, they had eggs thrown at them from a vehicle, while leaving the venue.
“I do sometimes wish to hide to avoid hatred towards queer people and drag performers.”
They explained that harmful behaviour like this is happening everywhere, all the time and it is nearly impossible to escape.
“We are exposed to negativity and hurtful comments each time we are online.”
Jovian is asking queer and transgender allies and supporters of the art of drag to stand up against the recent surge in hate both locally and around the world.
Jovian said that they simply want to live a life that is authentic to the way that they feel and what they believe.
“If I don’t fight for our rights, then my community and I will never truly get to be ourselves. That future is simply not an option for me.”
Jovian is not alone in this fight. They are preceded by advocates who continue to work hard to ensure visibility and safety for the queer community is protected.
Their drag mother Freida Whales, an activist and drag performer, who has been the subject of harassment over the past year, said that she feels like an Orca who teaching her babies to flip over yachts, but in this case, her drag children are flipping the narrative and standing up to hate.
Advocates in Kelowna say that they are stronger together, and are calling out hate in all forms.
Last week, on the night of Friday, July 7, Coleman Patterson’s property was vandalized when a rainbow-coloured Canadian flag was stolen from his property and his flag pole was bent. Patterson’s back fence is visible from Springfield Road and always proudly features a Pride flag. The decorations and flag on his fence are changed with each holiday, and most recently, a maple leaf pride flag flying, in honour of Canada Day.
Patterson said that the culprit climbed up an embankment and had to wrestle their way through thorns and a juniper bush to reach the Pride flag, before ripping it off the pole.
“It was very intentional.”
Immediately, Patterson and his husband raised a different Pride flag, this time, at the front of the house which is monitored by security cameras. He also filed a police report.
This act of vandalism came the day after Kelowna RCMP stated they were looking for a man who ripped down the trans flag at the Kelowna Art Gallery, stating it was believed the act was motivated by hate. The man has since been spoken to by police.
Patterson has since purchased multiple new Pride flags and plans to mount a new flag pole on his roof so that rainbows will once again be visible to those driving down Springfield.
“It’s not stopping us,” said Patterson.
As one of the original and founding members of the Okanagan Pride Society, Patterson explained that while this kind of hateful behaviour does not phase him anymore, he understands that standing up to hate and being resilient is not always easy.
Patterson said that it is important to show that these acts of anti-queer behaviour are still happening while at the same time setting an example for youth, by letting them know that advocates are standing with them.
“There is more visibility now because people aren’t hiding,” said Patterson. Folks are stronger together and Patterson wants to remind allies to stand up to hate, to support their queer neighbours and “if you see something, say something.”
He urges all people to find a loving and supportive community, like the Okanagan Pride Society.
“I worry about the younger kids who do not have support systems to help them… We need every member of the community to call out hate when they see it if they are in a place that is safe to do so,” said Freida Whales.
They said that if anyone needs a safe space, “the pod is always open.”