Embracing Diversity: because There's No Room For Labels
The boardroom. That revered space where decisions are made, partnerships struck, leaders toasted and profit margins raised. Only a select few are deemed worthy to gather around those tables of all different shapes and sizes with their smart boards, gourmet coffee and pricy water. But something else can happen in such a revered space; something usually reserved for playgrounds of old.
“I was being bullied in the boardroom … because I was aboriginal, because I was openly gay.”
That’s the confession from Massey Whiteknife, the brainchild behind the fifth annual Anti-Bullying Drag Show to be held June 27 at Club NV.
“I was doing drag shows in Edmonton and I thought what better way is there for me to really knock the boots off this town and say, ‘This is something that’s happening. Bullying is happening everywhere.’”
“At the time, there were a lot of things coming out about bullying and I thought this is too much. We have to show awareness somehow.”
As he kept publicly talking about his past - abuse, bullying and other harmful behaviours he overcame - Whiteknife found others who had similar experiences coming to him for advice on overcoming such troubling events.
“I had to get up one day and just start fighting back; by educating myself, being aware and move on, and be strong.
“Iceis helped me do that,” he admits, referring to Iceis Rain, his second spirit, and first drag queen in Fort McMurray.
During his realization of the need to create awareness, he nurtured the idea of producing an anti-bullying drag show. Doing it in such a manner, Whiteknife acknowledges it allows him to confront all the bullying head-on.
With additional drag queens from across the country bolstering the talented offerings in the show, he also began looking for sponsors who it turns out, quickly came on board.
To Whiteknife, it was a testament these businesses supported his efforts to bring awareness to bullying and their own recognition it does happen in boardrooms.
Iceis Rain will headline the show, also performing tunes from her album, a compilation of original music being submitted for the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. If her submission makes the finalist cut, audience members at the anti-bullying show will be encouraged to go online and cast a vote for her album, The Queen, being released April 30. It will be available on iTunes.
Miss Universe Canada contestant Talvir Sander of Fort McMurray is slated to co-host the show with Iceis Rain.
The evening will also include a showcase of local talent, door prizes, a 50/50 draw, local performers as well as the drag show plus male and female hot abs contests.
In the hours before the curtain goes up, Lorne Cardinal of Corner Gas fame is to host an anti-bullying seminar 5 to 8 p.m. at The Stonebridge.
Whether it’s Whiteknife or Iceis Rain on stage, Whiteknife says they can reach far more people as two than as one, opening people’s minds though not all people are ready to open their minds.
“We’re not going to force anybody, but we’re not going to hide either.”
But the winds of change are in the air as he points to the growth from the first show to now.
“For us to go from having it in a smaller location for the first year to having it at the largest nightclub in Fort McMurray says a lot about how far we’ve come in five years.”
While the first show didn’t sell out, the next year did, and so did every other year since.
A non-profit that has an anti-bullying component has traditionally been the recipient of funds raised at the shows. The first year it was Girls’ Inc. Last year, $8,000 was raised for the Justin Slade Youth Foundation and SCARS.
This year, it’s Project Paycheque, a program offered by The First Nations Wellness/Addictions Counsellor Certification Board. Focusing on continued healing, employment and creating healthy kids, it consists of: The Get Ready Program, a six-day employment readiness program; Eclipse, a renewal program which helps adults deal with addiction, trauma, learn life and parenting skills, anger management; and Kids First, a family group therapy recovery program.
“Not only is this program going to help people get employment and keep employment, it’s also going to help them deal with the fundamentals of why did you pick up the bottle? Why did you neglect your family? Why do you get angry? And teach parenting as well and basically break the cycle.”
And that ties in with why Whiteknife has chosen to give back to the community after launching his business, Iceis Safety, five years ago.
“I like to give back. I like to bring awareness out there. I try to inspire others that through all obstacles that you go through that we can move forward but not forget our past.”
Shedding the past and atypical expectations are also behind the show.
Whiteknife says people who attend will see it’s not all about homosexuality and a party, to get loaded and drunk.
“They will take away that this is actually a really cool show and that these people put on an amazing performance and they brought awareness that we are all everyday people.”
If history is any indicator, he points out show-goers will discover the majority of the audience is heterosexual.
At last year’s show, he estimates that of the 350 people, some 80 per cent were straight.
The major sponsor, Inline Surveys, immediately jumped on board, saying it was a great cause to bring awareness to the fact bullying is happening and it’s not just people calling others names, that it’s in this community.
Lorne Cardinal can also bring awareness that bullying even happens within the film industry, adds Whiteknife. A lot of aboriginals don’t get a lot of the work because Latinos are hired instead.
“In Fort McMurray, you find that people aren’t getting work because of their ethnicity. There are assumptions that people are looked after by their brothers – ‘We’re from the same town so you get to keep the job and let’s lay off Larry.’
“These are all types of bullying. There’s too much segregation. I want to have everyone come together for one night and just take off the masks, take off the boundaries, and come in and accept everyone for who they are.”
Table and major sponsorships remain for this year’s event. To become a sponsor or for more information call Whiteknife, 780-370-1772. Tickets are $20 and will be available at the door. For advance tickets, call Whiteknife. Doors open at 9 p.m. for the 10 p.m. show.
He predicts an unforgettable evening for those attending.
“It’s not just a drag show for the gay community. It’s not about me being able to dress up in a dress to go there and show my legs off.
“It’s a show about anti-bullying. It’s a show to highlight there is so much diversity in this world that we don’t need to be labelled something just because of what we wear and that if you actually take a step back and get to know somebody, you’ll find out that they’re actually really cool.”