October 17, 2018
Interview: Brandon Yan
We caught up with Brandon Yan, Out in Schools champion and candidate for Vancouver City Council, to chat about how to stay golden when wholeheartedly focused on helping others. As it turns out, the campaign trail is not actually a trail (though we brought our oxen anyway).
Harc: Holy toledo– thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us. Are you the busiest Brandon in town right now?
Brandon Yan: Long story short, yes– I’m running for Vancouver City Council with OneCity, a newish progressive political party here in Vancouver.
Harc: I imagine your answer to this changes every day, but what motivated you to run?
BY: We have a wide-open election for the first time in a generation (I think?) and I thought it was time for something a little different in city council. As a young renter and a queer person of colour with a bunch of experience interacting with senior government to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.
Harc: Yeah, that’s quite a skill-set. How’d you get to be so eligible?
BY: My mother raised me right!
Harc: Eligible for public service, we mean.
BY: Oh! I’m currently the Education Director at Out On Screen. That’s a fancy way of saying that I run the Out In schools program, which travels to schools throughout BC to screen short LGBTQ+ films and talk about sexuality and gender. I’m on hiatus while I run for council right now, but my role there has taught me a lot about working with governmental higher-ups to affect real positive change.
Harc: That’s a wildly huge role. When do you remember first realizing that you wanted to make an impact through your work?
BY: I blame Star Trek for my desire to see a better future.
Harc: Tell us more, tell us more.
BY: As a closeted queer mixed-race kid growing up in a predominantly Christian and white suburban community, Star Trek offered me an escape into a world that had solved homelessness, hunger, racism, poverty, and disease. Not to mention the skin-tight uniformed pals gallivanting across the universe. After years and years of watching these episodes every week, I was like, “What if I actually helped create this kind of society?”
Harc: Yeah, we’re buying what you’re selling. Do you feel like you’re helping create that vision now?
BY: Despite volunteering around town for many years, it wasn’t until I started working for the Vancouver Foundation in 2013 that I felt like I had found my place that I was making an impact. While there, I worked on the Youth Vital Signs public engagement project which strengthened the engagement of young people with their schools, neighbourhoods, and cities in a project that spanned the Lower Mainland region.
Harc: That’s so rad. As a person working hard to create space and visibility for others, how do you maintain space for yourself in your day-to-day life? Do you just take the longest showers?
Harc: Can we quote you on that?
BY: Yes, but there’s more to my answer. I actually consider myself an extroverted introvert, so getting time to myself is necessary. I try to leave work at work and I also tend to spend a lot of time with my dogs and my lovely boyfriend at home. I do always feel like I should be out with friends more (MILLENNIAL FOMO HMU!)
In the summers, I play with the Out For Kicks LGBT2Q+ soccer league which is a regularly scheduled thing that gets me out of the house that isn’t work. But now that’s it’s winter(ish), I like to chill and watch terrible disaster movies like San Andreas or Deep Impact– turn the brain right off!
Harc: Totally hear you there. Does it work? Can you really take off your campaign hat when you get home?
BY: Yes and no– I’m running for reasons really close to my heart, so it’s a matter of finding balance. In the end, I’m doing all of this to try to make our city a more just and kind place that works for everyone, not just a few. So it doesn’t really feel like work, you know?
Harc: Yeah, we know.
Brandon Yan is an optimistic and driven non-profit director at Out in Schools and community advocate for sustainability, affordability, education, and human rights. He’s running for Vancouver City Council: to learn more about his platform, check out Brandon Yan for City Council. And don’t forget to vote!