Canada may have an international reputation as being a gay-friendly country, but at least one member of the local community feels that we could be doing more to help other nations become as accepting as our home and native land.
Dean Nelson organizes Whistler’s WinterPRIDE event each winter, and he recently bought out his partners to become CEO of Gay Whistler, bringing in a new partner, Ken Coolen, the parade director of VancouverPRIDE, to help out.
Now, Nelson has taken on a new task — coordinating the first annual Mr. Gay Canada competition, which takes place in Whistler Sept. 18-21.
The concept certainly isn’t new; the International Mr. Gay competition has been around for about five years. But this is actually the first year Canada has held a national qualifying competition to appoint a representative for our country.
“Last year, we actually appointed a delegate for Canada to go through the competition and just see how it was from a delegate’s point of view,” Nelson explained, “so that when we’re creating our own full-fledged competition, which is happening this year, we’ll be better ready to really groom that delegate so they can compete effectively on a world stage.”
So far, the response both locally and further abroad to the Canadian competition has been very positive.
Nine delegates from across the country, including Ontario, Saskatchewan and B.C., are participating. There were a few registered delegates from the Yukon Territories, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, but they had to withdraw from the competition for various reasons.
Next year, organizers are hoping they see more applicants from across the country.
“I think some of the guys were just a little bit intimidated as to what the expectations were, so they’re just going to be… sitting back a little bit, watching to see how the first year competition plays out and what it really means,” Nelson explained. “…We have some amazing delegates that will be competing, so we’re really happy with the talent.”
And why hold the fledgling national event here in Whistler?
“Whistler really celebrates being you, and being you can be a 50-year-old ski bum to a high powered executive from New York, to being gay, to being straight, it doesn’t matter,” Nelson said. “Whistler is a community that really celebrates the environment of being yourself.”
Living in this town for almost 15 years, Nelson has witnessed the laidback local gay community evolve and change quite a bit over that period of time.
“The Whistler gay community, over the last couple years, is becoming a little bit more strong. It seems like in years passed, gays and lesbians who have come up to the resort just got burnt out of the city and so they’re not really into creating an open community, so to speak. They’ve been there, done that, so they’re in a partnered relationship or they’re just focusing on career and they’re just getting away from the crazy community.”