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Kate Reid

When Kate Reid shouts “all aboard,” she’s not kidding. Opening with the blast of a train whistle and an infectious hootenanny vibe, Reid’s fourth album, and her first for families, children and youth, carries her passion for inclusivity coast-to-coast on an express route to generation next. Queer Across Canada’s collection of groundbreaking tracks traverse a wide landscape of family scenarios as it sensitively addresses (with rootsy rock’n’roll verve) such contemporary realities as surrogate moms, donor dads, same-sex parents, out-of-the-closet fathers, blended families and queer-curious siblings.

Known for her folk-roots and country stylings, the singer and her hard-strummed acoustic guitar also venture into ska, rock, jazz on Queer Across Canada, and even a taste of hip-hop with thanks to a guest turn from Vancouver beat poet, C.R. Avery. Backed by a choir of young voices and an ace band, Reid delivers one lively storytelling narrative after the next right through a celebratory finale of Sister Sledge’s disco-era anthem, “We Are Family.” Her mission: to serve up fun, tuneful, unfailingly positive affirmations that will help create a “new normal” for children in trailblazing LGBTQ families. In the process, she hopes to dispel the confusion, misunderstanding and pain these youngsters can experience as a result of peer and societal pressure and bullying.

Queer Across Canada’s genesis dates back to a series of conversations during the weekend of Reid’s appearance at the 2009 Vancouver Folk Music Festival (which also birthed her live favorite “My Baby’s In the Beer Tent Again”), including discussions with her partner's children about the challenges they have faced in school because some of their classmates can't comprehend how someone can have two moms. “Everything I was hearing and feeling told me that it was time to write an album for children and youth who are growing up in LGBTQ households,” she recalls.

In gathering ideas and themes, Reid interviewed dozens of friends and fans, including preschoolers, teens, Gen X-ers and baby boomers. She also interviewed her partner, Maike Engelbrecht and Maike’s two children, Ben and Jessica (two of the album’s featured singers). “This album touches on so many issues faced by young people with queer parents: bullying, gender identity, stereotypes and negative beliefs included,” says Reid. Her lyrics also document the loving realities of life in queer families and celebrate the differences, challenges and joys of coming out.

While Queer Across Canada is intended for kids and their parents, a number of tracks will also find their way into Reid’s adult repertoire. “Talking to You” is a rousing spoken-word piece addressed to every member of the Queer Nation. “Altona, Manitoba” chronicles a January 2012 incident in a town west of Winnipeg where a group of parents protested postcards posted by two teachers which declared their classrooms as safe havens for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students. The title track, meanwhile, is sure to generate cheers as it name checks every province and territory in the land along with no less than 67 cities, towns and dots on the map – Pink Bottom, Bare Butt Bay, Eyebrow, Elbow, Cape Onion, Milk River and Cereal included.

Reid refined her whipsmart songwriting and warm, wise-cracking stage persona while recording and touring behind three previously released, critically acclaimed independent albums – Comin’ Alive (2006), I’m Just Warming Up (2009) and Doing it for the Chicks (2011) Hundreds of shows and festival dates since 2006 have earned the firebrand singer, songwriter, activist and educator a grassroots fan base drawn from every imaginable shade of the rainbow spectrum – proudly bent, comfortably straight and all flavors in between. Audiences respond with laughs, tears of recognition and lovingly fierce solidarity to a repertoire of originals that range from favorites like “Captain Cupcake and the Cambie Hotel”, “Co-op Girlz” and “Closet Femme” and “The Only Dyke at the Open Mic” to open-hearted, deeply affecting numbers about the often hard road walked by those healing from difficult life experiences and staying true to their unique identities.
Prior to focusing exclusively on music, Reid worked for several years as a public school teacher after obtaining her education degree from the University of British Columbia in 2000 (which complimented an earlier B.A. in Psychology from the University of Guelph not far from where she grew up on a farm outside Ayr, Ontario).

And now, her music has brought her full circle back to youth education on her own terms. Reid has developed teaching materials for the classroom based on Queer Across Canada, and she’s excited about bringing this resource into elementary and secondary schools alike. The Queer Across Canada Musical-Education Kit marries the songs with lessons and activities that encourage acceptance of gender and sexually diverse people, families and communities. She also tours schools, where she facilitates writing workshops and performs concerts for students and staff, discussing issues like diversity, sexual and gender identity, homophobia and heterosexism. Besides giving highschool performances her home province of British Columbia, she has toured for seven weeks throughout Ontario high schools, as part of a Safe Schools initiative. “Her energy and passion created quite a vibe among students and staff lucky enough to see her,” said Elizabeth Alton, Vice Principal of Lindsay Collegiate & Vocational Institute in Lindsay, Ontario. “There were lots of powerful messages, and one that stood out with many of the students was the reminder that people shouldn't be afraid to share their unique spark and be true to themselves.” Liselle Prickett, Vice-Principal of Twin Lakes Secondary School in Barrie was equally enthusiastic, "Kate has a fabulous voice and energizes the room with her positive spirit. She was able to connect with many of our students and have a significant impact on them. Great concert and great feedback from students!" Reid also provides "sensitivity training" teachers on how to better support their LGBTQ students and families by using her songs as starting points for discussion and reflection.

She is currently combining her passions in a Master’s degree she is working towards at the University of British Columbia's Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. “I'm really interested in how songs can be used to educate students so I’m studying the nexus of queer activism, folk music and education.” she says before adding with a laugh: “As a friend of mine puts it, I’m essentially studying myself!”
In addition to balancing her research at UBC, and playing festival, club and school dates in the coming months, Reid is also the subject of a full-length feature documentary currently being shot by Empty Cup Media’s Carla Sinclair (www.emptycupmedia.ca). This inspirational doc entitled, Heal Myself, is centered around Reid's personal and somewhat dfficult life journey that steered her towards a career in music and the impact her music has had on her audience. It will feature cameos from family, friends, fans, fellow educators and activists, and perhaps, even the legendary Captain Cupcake himself.

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