By: Yasmin Vejs Simsek, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: The acronym LGBTQ will be used, as is used by the interviewee. This is not meant to diminish or neglect those identifying with IA2S+.
Dr. Jen Marchbank is a professor and graduate chair in the department of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies (GSWS), but her commitments don’t stop there. As a deeply engaged activist for the LGBTQ community, she inspires people to create the change they want to see through innovative teaching practices. On May 26, she received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development. The award ceremony recognized 75 remarkable women in 14 different categories. The Peak spoke to Marchbank to find out more about her accomplishments and the upcoming Surrey Pride Festival she’s putting a lot of effort into planning.
Marchbank credited her award to her work with NEVR, the Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships. Marchbank attended the awards ceremony with her wife, Sylvie Traphan, and was thrilled to hear an anonymous donor matched the fundraising. “They had a target of raising $125,000 in that night [ . . . ] and then an anonymous donor matched it, so they got a quarter of a million for purpose-built housing for women and their children in Burnaby.”
Speaking about the award, Marchbank said, “One of the things I was recognised for was my innovative teaching practice and using things like podcasts, intergenerational oral history, and my research in LGBTQ and trans youth and elder abuse.” Marchbank received the award not just for her work at SFU but also the work she does outside of it. She explained that includes the advocacy she does with Youth For a Change, a Surrey-based organization she founded with Traphan in 2012 to educate and support queer youth, “training them to become social justice advocates themselves.”
Of all the projects Marchbank has done, one of her favourites came through SFU. “I really liked the elder abuse project that I did with Dr. Gloria Gutman from gerontology, Claire Robson from GSWS, and our artistic director at that time, then PhD candidate Kelsey Blair.
“What I liked so much about the LGBTQ elder one was the intergenerational aspect of it, the community level aspect,” Marchbank said. The project was created with both Youth For a Change and Quirk-e, a queer collective for elders. When they began this project, they didn’t realize that no Canadian material existed on the topic. In the end they created Canada’s first educational materials on elder abuse in the LGBTQ community through the creation of five posters in different languages with different cultures represented and three videos. They also toured with members of the collectives to every health authority in BC.
“And it’s still going! Claire, Gloria, and I are still working as a team and the project’s been morphed into the Indigo Project,” said Marchbank.
This month however, Marchbank is busy with Surrey Pride. As secretary of the Surrey Pride Society, she is deeply involved in the festivities being held at and around SFU’s Surrey campus. She previously served as president and, under her leadership, they changed the name from Out in Surrey Rainbow Cultural Society to Surrey Pride Society. “I used to say after that, my favorite title is past president. I really like being a past president of Surrey Pride,” she joked.
Marchbank’s journey with Surrey Pride started when she went to their AGM in 2011. Looking around the room, she realised that she and her wife were the only lesbians present. “So, I made a comment: ‘where are all the lesbians?’ Which got me noticed and elected,” she said. After a short hiatus, she is now back on the Board to help Surrey Pride get back on its feet after COVID-19 restrictions. Marchbank’s daughter, Jasmine Brodoer, and Traphan are also on the Board, and it’s jokingly referred to as “the family business.”
There are many things to look forward to in Surrey that celebrate LGBTQ history and that Marchbank was heavily involved with. A three month long LGBTQ history exhibit, curated by Marchbank, just opened in the first week of June in the Museum of Surrey. Marchbank’s personal archive is now available through her donation to the Surrey Archives.
On June 23, SFU GSWS and Surrey Pride will host the Canadian premiere screening of Nelly Queen: the Life and Times of Jose Sarria, a documentary telling the story of the world’s first openly gay man to run for public office in 1961 San Francisco. The event will take place at SFU Surrey and registration is required.
Surrey Pride Festival is happening on June 25 at Central City Mall Plaza in Surrey from 4:00–9:00 p.m. This year it’s being held both virtually and in-person with welcome in different languages to recognise Surrey’s diversity. In-person, there will be mobility accessible stages, ASL sign interpreters, and porta potties.
A full list of all the events at Surrey Pride 2022 and information on how to get tickets can be found here: https://www.surreypride.ca/pride-2022.