10 Moments in 10 Years @YYCgayhistory

We’ve returned from a three-month hiatus to celebrate both pride month and ten years since the Calgary Gay History Project was founded. We began as a tiny project for Calgary 2012 and have been growing ever since due to an active and engaged community.

Book Launch in November 2018
One of Kevin Allen’s first public history presentations in 2013

In gratitude, Kevin has reflected on a number of special moments from the decade’s deep dive into local queer history.

  1. The blog: www.calgarygayhistory.ca was the information clearing house that started everything. One post that blew up was: Our History with the Police, written during the 2017 debate around police participation in Calgary Pride. The most read blog post continues to be Gay men are smarter than straight men – so says history, written in 2013. It seems every day someone in the world googles “are gay men smart?”
  2. Gay History Walks. Ever since 2013, situating queer history in the Calgary landscape on a warm summer night with enthusiastic walkers is a slice of heaven (although we had a snow squall once that added a decidedly different frisson).
  3. Everett Klippert. His life story has been a focus of the Calgary Gay History Project since its inception. However, everything deepened when his family got involved with the Project in 2015. Together we excavated Everett’s very profound role in changing Canadian history in 1969. His story continues to have posthumous impact, most recently with the expungement of his criminal record in 2020.
  4. Club Carousel. Calgary’s original gay bar founded in 1970 was arguably the most formative queer space the city has ever seen. Our first commemorative Club Carousel Cabaret was held in 2014 at the High Performance Rodeo thanks to Third Street Theatre and our impresario Michael Green (RIP). Our second Cabaret was held in 2015 thanks to One Voice Chorus—sold out each time!
  5. Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story (2018). Saying “yes” to filmmaker Laura O’Grady was one of the best decisions we ever made. Not only did this short film garner festival laurels, but through the process Laura became a good friend. We made another great film in 2021, called Undetectable. Laura has our highest esteem.
  6. Our Past Matters. The book had a difficult birth. It took four years to write—not one year, as planned. However, it was embraced in pre-production by a successful Kickstarter campaign and since has gone on to be a local best-seller as well as on the curriculum for some University of Calgary undergraduate classes. We are ever so grateful both for insightful readers as well as independent bookstores.
  7. Legislating Love. Natalie Meisner’s play about the life of Everett Klippert was history turned into sublime art (I wept). Sage Theatre mounted the world premiere in 2018, and the play continues to gather praise, most recently winning an “Oscar” at this year’s Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival.
  8. HiR. Kevin was honoured to be the inaugural Historian in Residence when the New Central Library opened in 2018. It was a high water mark for the Calgary Gay History Project and a terrific experience. The Library graciously hosted the book launch of Our Past Matters—an incredibly special memory now.
  9. A Queer Map: The Calgary Atlas Project (2019). Kevin collaborated with artist Mark Clintberg on the first published map of the Calgary Atlas Project: an art project by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities at the University of Calgary. It’s beautiful.
  10. Lois Szabo Commons. Last summer the City of Calgary unveiled a new park dedicated to Lois Szabo, the only living founder of Club Carousel. The park is a public and permanent commemoration of queer history in our city. We were honoured to participate in the nomination process and count Lois as one of the dearest people we know.
Lois Szabo Commons Opens July 21, 2021

No historian is an island. So many people have contributed to the success of the Calgary Gay History Project. In closing, we would like to give a shout out to project volunteers past and present: Nevena, Del, Rosman, Matt, Ayanna, Sheldon, Laura, Jonathan, Nolan, and Tereasa!

{KA}

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