Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous office in Whitehorse on Feb. 12. The lone man running in the 2020 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Quest for the Crown competition has dropped out after facing bullying and harassment while trying to sell raffle tickets. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Quest for the Crown candidate drops out after bullying, harassment

Cameron Penner was the only man running in this year’s competition

The lone man running in the 2020 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Quest for the Crown competition has dropped out after facing bullying and harassment while trying to sell raffle tickets.

Cameron Penner, who was “Mr. Bra Boutique” and using his platform to support the Karen J. Wiederkehr Memorial Fund as well as raise awareness of men’s breast cancer, withdrew from the competition early last week.

The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society (YSRS) revealed the withdrawal in a written statement on Feb. 7.

The statement, which did not name Penner, said the candidate “did not make this decision lightly but came to this conclusion after no longer feeling welcome or happy participating in the events due to a few members of our community.”

“These individuals have bullied and harassed our candidates because they hold the belief that men should not be running in the Quest for the Crown contest,” the statement said.

Chantal Dowden, the owner of the Bra Boutique and Penner’s mother, told the News on Feb. 11 that Penner didn’t want to comment. However, she said she was sad about how the situation turned out and hadn’t expected the backlash.

“In this town? No, not at all,” Dowden said, adding that she thought Rendezvous was a “great” festival and hoped to sponsor another candidate in the future.

YSRS executive director Saskrita Shrestha said in an interview that while the society had received “some feedback” after announcing that the Quest for the Crown would be open to all genders, “we didn’t really think it would amount to this.”

Penner was not the first man to run in the Quest For the Crown; Shrestha said men ran in 1994 and 1995, with one of them crowned Mr. Congeniality.

The YSRS’s statement condemned the “bigotry and bullying undoing the hard work of countless individual … to create not only a successful Rendezvous, but a welcoming and happy one too.”

“If it is your belief that someone should not be able to participate in one of our programs due to race, gender, height, sexual preference or any other arbitrary factor, then we would like to respectfully inform you that we are not the festival for you,” it said.

“…To those individuals who feel that they no longer wish to be a part of the festival because of our core values, we wish you well, but please be aware we will not be pandering to your efforts to thwart our efforts in promoting inclusivity.”

Queer Yukon issued a statement in support of the YSRS’s commitment to inclusion on Feb. 10, describing the situation “an unfortunate reminder of the stigma and discrimination that those who transgress traditional gender roles continue to face.”

Chris Lovatt, a Queer Yukon director, told the News the organization put out its own message because “all of our members know what it’s like to … have extremely negative experiences as a result of things that we do that other people think that we shouldn’t.”

“I think this is an incident that really illustrates the fact that people really do perceive the Quest for the Crown as something that women do and only women do, and I know that’s something that the Rendezvous Society is trying to break down,” Lovatt said. “… Everyone exists in society and everyone should be able to raise money for charity and causes of their preference.”

The situation has also drawn the ire of 2017 Rendezvous Queen Telek Rogan, who said in an interview that she remains “very, very passionate” about the festival.

Rogan said that while there are critics wherever there are changes to Rendezvous (“I mean, people are still complaining about it not being on Main Street anymore”), she found it unacceptable that people were personally attacking Penner instead of criticizing the organization.

“I don’t like bullies,” she said.

Rogan has made an open offer to accompany future candidates who might feel uncomfortable selling raffle tickets because Rendezvous “is about community and about us all coming together.”

“I am so happy there are avenues for people to enjoy the Rendezvous events and participate in them in a way that suits them,” she said. “I know plenty of women who have no interest in running for the Crown, but they would love to be a Sourdough Samantha, and likewise, I know several men who wouldn’t want to go and do the things the Sams are doing but they would love to be a part of the Quest for the Crown.”

Josie’s Old Crow Adventures, which offers a free trip to the Quest for the Crown winner every year, has also stepped up. In a Facebook post Feb. 9, it said it was “so sad to hear that a candidate dropped out of the competition because they were a victim of discrimination” and that it would be offering a trip to them, too.

“Old Crow will welcome you with open arms,” the post said.

Contact Jackie Hong at

jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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