By Abra Brynne, Executive Director
I came out as queer in 1993. It had been a long journey, recovering from a childhood marked by sexualized violence that kept me from any notion of sexual choice. When I had finally healed enough to understand who I truly was, it felt amazing. But it was also scary.
Given the size of the queer community in the Kootenays in the early 1990’s it felt like I had chosen the safest time and place to come out. Nevertheless, it still felt unsafe to kiss my new girlfriend in public or to walk down the street holding hands. When we moved together to a small village I worried that the word would spread that we were a couple. Happily, we were never subjected to violence, but I grew accustomed to the loneliness of never being able to joyfully express my love in public in any way. I also vividly remember how excited I was when I found the first lists of queer people in history and discovered my first queer business directory.
Like many households in the 1960’s and 70’s, my Dad’s views dominated. I distinctly recall him reacting to a newspaper article he was reading, exclaiming that “all the homosexuals should be taken out and shot”. Small wonder I did not come out until I was in my 30’s.
My Dad also determined my childhood culinary experiences. Our diet was dominated by meat and potatoes. No fresh garlic, ever. No peppers, no rice, rarely even pasta. As each of his offspring left home we dove headlong into food adventures. I shall never forget my wonder at the explosion of flavours that hit my mouth the first time I tried hummus. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
So why is being queer and my food history relevant? There are too many tragic stories of childhood victims becoming abusers themselves. I was lucky enough to have a disciplined but loving household to grow up in and ready access to nature to heal my soul. The violence I experienced as a child was a group event. Watching others also being abused instilled in me a passion for justice that has continued throughout my life. As the founder of this Council, I incorporated justice into its DNA – our mission is to build a just, sustainable and prosperous food system. I believe there can be no justice if we do not address systemic racism.
I would love to see the Council’s annual Farm & Food Directory be a place where we could identify and celebrate diversity — in culture, in food, in place. It would be easy, in both the print and online version, to provide ways for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour who farm or own a food business to make that known in their listing.
This would make it easier to seek out and to support BIPOC-owned businesses, as one small but meaningful way to counter systemic racism. There are multiple reports over many years that document the extra barriers that BIPOC entrepreneurs face. To provide a means to connect new customers to their businesses seems like the least the Council could do. Nevertheless, as a queer person with personal experience of violence, the last thing I want to do is to expose anyone to an increased risk of violence.
Will the benefits outweigh the risks to BIPOC entrepreneurs should they choose to self identify in our Directory? That is a question only they can answer for themselves.
The Council wants to offer that choice to BIPOC food entrepreneurs. As a result, in our fourth annual Directory and onwards, in support and celebration of diversity, we are offering the ability for any farmer or food processor who is listed in the Directory to self identify as BIPOC, queer, or youth (<30years old) entrepreneurs, if they so choose.
Our Directory is a free marketing tool for any independent farmer or food processor who resides in or sells products in the Central Kootenay. If you fit the bill and don’t already have a listing, head over to centralkootenayfood.ca and create an account. And if you already have a listing, please review and update it as necessary before April 15th in order to be included in our fourth annual Directory.