Top 10 stories of 2016: A better understanding of gender issues in the valley

It's clear to us that sexual identity was one of the Top 10 stories of the year, both locally and beyond. We ranked it No. 9.

  • Dec. 23, 2016 8:00 a.m.

Mayor Sugarplum made headlines across Canada

From Mayor Colin Basran dressing as Mayor Sugarplum and making headlines across Canada to the Central Okanagan school district creating a gender-neutral bathroom for kids, it’s clear to us that sexual identity was one of the Top 10 stories of the year, both locally and beyond. We ranked it No. 9.

Conversations about embracing non conforming individuals within Kelowna didn’t start this year, but Mayor Colin Basran has done a great deal to both amplify and normalize the discussion.

Since he was first elected he’s been a champion of LBGQT issues, and in turn been the focal point of some pointed comments. Basran was, for example, dubbed Mayor Sugarplum during 2015’s Rainbow Crosswalk debate.

“They were thinking they were insulting me, but I actually found it kind of funny,” Basran said, in a previous interview.

As 2016 got underway, he embraced the title and  reached out to Okanagan Pride Society and Okanagan Young Professionals, and together, they created a drag event called the Sugarplum Ball.

One of the draws of the event was Basran dressing up in drag. It made headlines across Canada and all 400 tickets to the event sold, with proceeds going to the Okanagan Pride Society. After all the fuss died down, Basran said he’d keep doing the event until it stopped being worthy of national news.

In federal politics transgender rights were being dealt with.

The House of Commons voted by a margin of 248 to 40 in October to pass the legislation, known as Bill C-16, at second reading. The legislation would make it illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act to deny someone a job – or otherwise discriminate against them in the workplace – on the basis of the gender they identify with or outwardly express.

The Criminal Code will also be amended so that gender identity and expression would be included in hate speech laws. Both MPs are in favour of the changes.

Back home again around a month later,  the Central Okanagan Board of Education made the decision to provide individual-use, gender neutral washrooms in school.

All these efforts went a long way in making Kelowna a more accepting community, for residents who are non conforming.  As one of our profiles on the topic,

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