(Bella Sie will be a panelist at Grassroots: An expo for the cannabis curious on September 15 and 16. Get your tickets now!)
Bella Sie has come out of the closet to her family twice: the first was to embrace her LGBT identity, and the second was to explain her cannabis use. Both, she says, were “exceptionally uncomfortable” conversations. Both were equally shrouded in stigma and misinformation.
Sie—Vancouver manager of events and partnerships at Aurora Cannabis Inc., a federally licensed cannabis producer—says that coming out, in both aspects, has empowered her to create positive spaces for others struggling with intersectional identities.
Set to turn 30 on August 5, the same day as Vancouver’s 40th Pride Parade, she sits on the rooftop patio of her Seymour Street office and recalls opening up to her mother about being in love with a woman.
“I didn’t really come out intentionally. I kind of fell out,” she says, laughing. “My mom caught me getting a little too emotional [over a woman] one day. She just straight-up asked me: ‘What’s going on here?’ ”
Sie, who was the first of her Indonesian family to be born in Canada, says the question “made time stand still”. She says that after a long pause, she responded: “Mom, what do you think?”
Sie and her mother didn’t speak for a long time afterward.
In 2012, Sie would discover another layer of her advocacy after being struck by a car while cycling.
“My doctor wanted to hook me up with a bunch of painkillers, which really didn’t jive with me,” she says. A proponent of plant medicines, she turned to cannabis for pain management.
“I’ve had to mask my consumption from my folks, a lot,” she says. “Their views on cannabis aren’t very accepting. They’re definitely very caught up in that hazy stigma that I try to work really hard against.”
Sie avoided the conversation for years, but when in 2017 she landed her first position with Aurora, a company that loudly voices support for LGBT communities, she decided to approach coming out of the “cannabis closet” differently. She framed the new gig to her parents as a pharmaceuticals company.
Coupling a background in grassroots marketing with events experience gained from years of DJing Vancouver’s nightlife scene, Sie quickly moved her way up the ladder from client-care specialist to event-marketing coordinator. Empowered by her success, she then felt more comfortable explaining her cannabis ties to her family.
“I think that softening the blow and letting them first know I was working towards a stable future, I was moving up in the company, then revealing what it was all about, was much easier for them to digest,” she says.
Sie notes that she has learned from these conversations and is in the midst of starting an organization-wide LGBT club to promote inclusivity across the corporate weed space on the eve of legalization.
“The reason I think both of those things have gotten better with my folks, in both of those regards, is because after I did fall out of the closet, I refused to ever go back in. I am unashamed of who I am with my medical prescription for cannabis and who I am as a queer person of colour,” she says.
“I have amounted myself into what I would like to say is a shining beacon of all of those things coexisting harmoniously.…I want to take the lead on helping shape the cannabis industry into something reflective of that.”More