We Are Proud: Gary Lising
November 15, 2016

Gary Lising               

Pinoy and Proud                                  

When Gary Lising was named Mr. Gay Surrey of 2015, only three years after moving to the city in 2012, he couldn’t have been prouder. It was a joyful moment of celebration crowning many years of advocating for the LGBTQ population, specifically among his Filipino community.

Gary is a founding member and co-chair of Pinoy Pride Vancouver, a social support group started in 2011 for Filipinos who are LGBTQ.  It is, in fact, the first Filipino-Canadian gay and lesbian group in B.C.

Gary helped form the group to support understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people in a community known for its traditional family values and strong Catholic foundation. Over its five-year history, the group has become a safe place and advocate for gay Filipinos, whether first-generation Canadians or immigrants, who have faced cultural backlash because of their sexual orientation.   

Born in the Philippines, Gary was only four years old when his own family came to Canada. “When they knew I had some gay, feminine attributes when I was growing up here in Canada, they really went after that, correcting those behaviours,” Gary says about some of his relatives back home.                                                        

Despite the stigma, a Gary came out as gay in his 20s, and quickly began advocating for others, including on the radio as a host with Vancouver Co-op Radio, in addition to launching Pinoy Pride Vancouver.

“We do have many supporters in the Filipino community, whom we treasure,” says Gary, who lives with his loving partner and their Shia Tzu poodle, Guccii, in a condo in Whalley. “We promote acceptance and inclusiveness, and the support we receive shows that our community is ready to recognize and embrace diversity.”

Gary’s experience in LGBTQ social activism has not only been a profound personal journey, but it has given him inspiration to effect change in other ways as well. A retail manager for 20 years, 40-something Gary recently returned to college to launch a new career focused on community building.

“I have decided to pursue further education toward addressing ‘impoverishment,’ which I define as a lack of emotional, physical, mental, social and including spiritual human basic needs,” says Gary, who completed a basic counselling skills course at Vancouver Community College, and is now a full-time community service worker student at Discover Community College in Surrey.

It’s not clichéd to say that Gary wants to make his community a better place. “After living in Canada for the last 42 years, I have seen this country grow and change,” he says. “I have seen people from diverse backgrounds like myself spearhead change and address social challenges. Immigrants will continuously help grow this country.”

And Gary, a 2014 Vancouver Pride Society Legacy Award nominee, can definitely count himself among that group of diverse community builders.