Sher Vancouver

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Sher Vancouver
FoundedApril 6, 2008; 12 years ago (2008-04-06) in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.
FounderAlex Sangha
HeadquartersSurrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Area served
Metro Vancouver, British Columbia
Websiteshervancouver.com

Sher Vancouver is a non-profit society in British Columbia for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer South Asians and their friends.[1][2] The full name of the organization is the Sher Vancouver LGBTQ Friends Society.[3][4] The society was originally founded as an online Yahoo group for LGBTQ Sikhs in April 2008 by social worker Alex Sangha of Delta, B.C.[5]

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Sher means “lion” in Persian and many South Asian languages.[6][7] Sher was chosen as the name because it symbolizes courage, pride, bravery, and strength.[8] In addition, the Sikh name “Singh” for males also means lion and the Sikh name “Kaur” for females means lioness or princess.[9]

The original Sher Vancouver logo which was in use from 2008 to 2018 consisted of a pink circular Lionhead on a white background, and Sher was in bold pink letters and Vancouver in grey. It was created by local Vancouver graphic designer and illustrator, Jag Nagra.[10][11] In April 2018, as Sher Vancouver celebrated its 10th anniversary, Jag Nagra did a full re-brand of Sher Vancouver’s visual identity using a vibrant 2-colour logo paired with an updated icon.[12][13]

Activities[edit]

Sher Vancouver launched the Dosti project which means friendship in many South Asian languages.[14] The project was an anti-bullying, racism, homophobia, transphobia and coming out workshop that went into high schools.[15][16][17] The project was launched around a time when there was increased anxiety and racial tension in Vancouver regarding gay bashings by South Asians in the city.[18][19]

Sher Vancouver also provides free crisis counselling[20] and offers peer support groups.[21] In April 2018, Sher Vancouver marked its 10th anniversary by hosting the Desi-Q Cultural Celebration in Surrey, B.C.[22][23] In April 2020, Sher Vancouver launched a comprehensive legal resource, prepared by Pro Bono Students Canada - UBC Chapter, that provided information on LGBTQ+ friendly lawyer referrals, human rights and discrimination, and safe countries for LGBTQ+ travellers[24]

Vancouver Pride Parade[edit]

In 2016, Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha became the first Sikh to become the Grand Marshal of the Vancouver Pride Parade.[25][26][27] In 2017, the Canadian federal defence minister Harjit Sajjan, who himself is a Sikh and wears a turban, danced on the Sher float in the Vancouver Pride Parade.[28][29][30] This sent a message to the Sikh community that LGBTQ people need to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality.[31]

Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade[edit]

In 2017, Sher Vancouver became the first LGBTQ South Asian organization to participate in the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade.[32][33] Sher Vancouver has since participated in the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade multiple times.[34][35][36]

Out and Proud Project[edit]

In 2013, Sher Vancouver launched the Out and Proud Project which profiled LGBTQ South Asians from around the world.[37][38]

January Marie Lapuz[edit]

January Marie Lapuz (born John Carlo Embo Lapuz;[39][40] April 9, 1986[41][42][43] – September 30, 2012[44]) was the social coordinator of Sher Vancouver and was the first transgender person to become an Executive member of the organization.[45][46][47]

She died of multiple stab wounds in New Westminster, BC due to an altercation with a client over the price of a sexual encounter.[48][49] Sher Vancouver wrote to the City of New Westminster advocating for a memorial for January Marie Lapuz.[50][51]

Youth Leadership Award[edit]

In 2015, Sher Vancouver launched the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award to recognize youth who are 16 to 30 who demonstrate involvement, commitment, and leadership in the LGBTQ community.[52][53][54] Social activist Jaspreet Chahal of Surrey, BC was the inaugural winner in 2015[55] and South Asian LGBTQ magazine Founder Sukhdeep Singh of India was the winner in 2016.[56] Social activists Prachi Khanna was the winner in 2017,[57] and Shilpa Narayan in 2018, both of Surrey, BC.[58] Transgender Lebanese journalist and activist Norma Lize of Vancouver was the winner in 2019.[59]

Documentaries[edit]

In 2018, Sher Vancouver released a short documentary film, My Name Was January, which was a tribute and eulogy for January and provided a platform for other trans women of colour to express their issues, challenges, and strengths.[60][61][62][63] The film was an official selection at the National Screen Institute Online Short Film Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba[64] and the San Francisco Bay Area Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival.[65] The documentary has won 13 international awards, and garnered 56 official selections at film festivals around the world.[66] The film was produced by Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha and Sher Vancouver President Ash Brar and directed by former Kwantlen Polytechnic University Journalism students Elina Gress and Lenee Son.[67][68][69][70] My Name Was January stars January’s mother Betty Lapuz, and her friends Ash Brar, Alex Sangha, Josh Soronow, Pam Hayer and Velvet Steele,[71] as well as social activists Kelendria Nation and Natasha Adsit.[72] There is rare footage of January Marie Lapuz herself.[73]

In 2019, Sher Vancouver announced it is working on a second documentary entitled “Emergence – Out of the Shadows” about the strengths and struggles of gay and lesbian South Asian people and the reactions of their parents. The film is produced by Alex Sangha and directed by Vinay Giridhar, and stars Alex Sangha, Jaspal Kaur Sangha, Kayden Bhangu, Jag Nagra, Avtar Singh Nagra, and Rajwant Kaur Nagra.[74][75]

Awards[edit]

Sher Vancouver received an award from New West Pride for being “Organization of the Year” for establishing the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award.[76] Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha also received the Meritorious Service Medal from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Governor General of Canada Julie Payette for founding Sher Vancouver.[77][78][79][80]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]