Author Archives: calgarygayhistory

Queer History Pause

The Calgary Gay History Project is taking a well-deserved break. We will be back in late June to celebrate international Pride Month and take stock of a decade’s work on local queer history.

In the meantime, you can check out some amazing queer history—just north of us—with the launch of the Edmonton Queer History Project this week. The project has links to self-directed walking tours, essays, podcasts and more. There are many historic connections between Calgary and Edmonton’s LGBTQ2 communities. The launch of the Edmonton Queer History Project is a development to celebrate; congratulations to all involved.

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In Hot Water: Gay Politics

{Congrats to Sheldon Cannon on this engaging series. Sheldon is presently interviewing other Calgarians connected to the Goliath’s Raid and we look forward to future posts! – Kevin}

Terry Haldane, Stephen Lock & the 2002 Goliath’s Bathhouse Raid

At around 2:30 PM on a Thursday, Calgary Police Service officers invaded one of our community’s safe havens, Goliath’s Bathhouse. This surprise raid occurred on December 12, 2002. In this series of blog posts, we will delve into the history of the Goliath’s raid. Along the way, we will explore injustice, changing queer culture and the politics of the gay and LGBTQ2+ communities, past and present.

Read Part 1: The Raid: here.

Read Part 2: The Court Battle: here.

Read Part 3: Our Relationship with the Police: here.

On the whole, the composition of the LGBTQ2+ community is defined by exclusion: composed of anyone who doesn’t fall into the dominant cisgender heterosexual framework. The beauty of this is that it has created a network of diverse people, all of whom have the experience of being marginalized in one way or another and who generally share a common goal of free sexual and gender expression. The flipside to this is that it seals disparate groups of people under a common title, which can muddle each group’s sense of identity. For the most part, a lesbian’s life does not look the same as a gay man’s life, which does not look the same as an intersex person’s life, which does not look the same as a nonbinary person’s life. So, it’s not helpful to pretend we all live a homogenous experience.

Under the LGBTQ2+ banner, it is still useful and natural for each group to have their own tribe with similar sexual and gender identities as themselves. Terry and Stephen found that in the past, at clubs, gay men and lesbians generally each did their own thing on a night out, needing time with their own people before all coming together for brunch the next day. They see Goliath’s as one such place where gay men can be around other gay men in a gay, masculine, sexual, and social environment. Being around others like oneself can strengthen one’s sense of identity and provide an outlet to be at ease. But, of course, there is a delicate balance between community building because of affinity versus being exclusionary. It is helpful to be under our larger LGBTQ2+ alliance in pushing for recognition of rights and especially fighting for our most vulnerable subgroups.

Physical Spaces and Sexuality

The Goliath’s raid story allows us to reflect on how our community and sexual connections have evolved over time. Currently, the gay sexual experience often centres on messaging and meeting from dating or hookup apps with little interaction beyond that or perhaps meeting somewhere like a gay club.

In the past, to meet other gay people, one needed to meet them first in real life, either at a bar, bathhouse, community organization, or some other physical space. As a result, these spaces often served multiple needs, facilitating both sexual and social connections. Terry and Stephen talked about how one would often go to the baths thinking they’d have this crazy sexual experience. Instead, they’d end up talking with someone and learning about each other’s lives: an unexpected and genuine human connection. Terry told a story about his friend Paul who would invite people he knew to Goliath’s every few months, rent the biggest room and bring a white tablecloth, champagne bottle, ice bucket, and candelabra, and throw a party with about 30 men. Terry describes it as one of the happiest, fun times in his life.

Further back to the AIDS crisis, the gay community was devastated from the virus’s effects but socially was at its strongest. Terry and Stephen say that at the time, there were about 60 LGBTQ2+ organizations in the city then. They remembered Gaylines (support/counselling phone line), a gay fathers group, gay and lesbian youth group, AIDS Calgary (now HIV Community Link), Apollo Friends in Sport (still active), the gay rodeo, CLUB Calgary (cowboy leather uniform buddies), OffCentre, two gay choirs, Camp 181 monthly dances, and more. The frequent funerals were another social bonding aspect of gay life at the time. Back then, connection via physical meeting was a necessity because of the lack of the Internet and a need to support one another through traumatic times. This led to a strong sense of belonging and cultural identity.

Now, with HIV posing less of a threat, relatively easy access to sexual partners via apps, and greater acceptance into general society, being gay is easier than ever. However, the necessity for physical meeting spaces has declined and with it the sense of connection to the local gay community. Goliath’s is still active, and cruising still exists, but they hold a less prominent position in gay sexuality now than before, with our sexual lives moving more to the private domain than the communal. Nevertheless, these spaces still hold an essential role, especially for men seeking an anonymous hookup or those who enjoy the semi-public or communal aspect of the bathhouse.

Another likely reason that the role of the bathhouse has declined is that gay men are increasingly more assimilated into mainstream society rather than being a distinct subculture. For many, being into other men is just their sexual orientation, and their lives are otherwise indistinguishable from their straight counterparts. The tension between assimilationist and liberationist schools of thought in gay politics is longstanding. Assimilationists aim to have gay people accepted into mainstream life, and liberationists reject conforming to traditional lifestyles, aiming to create an alternative lifestyle accepted as equal.

There are benefits to today’s level of assimilation: gay people can get married should they wish, we face less discrimination at work, and it’s getting easier to be accepted by family and friends. The downside to assimilation is that conformity can be stifling, the spirit of liberation gets lost, and our community loses its uniqueness and edge. Places like Goliath’s are a reminder of how our community adapted to meet our needs on the fringes of society, and I argue they are some of the last bastions of true disinhibition. The concept of a dedicated place for men to have gay sex with each other simply because they want to is such a radically liberated idea that it’s at odds with almost everything in traditional society, which is exactly why it is important.

During COVID, where we are all physically separated more than ever, I think we can all appreciate the importance of in-person human connection, be it social or sexual. The bathhouse still fills an important niche in our community. It is a symbol of our struggle for sexual liberation and an institution for us to be proud of; we should defend our ability to use it. Bathhouses are a connection to our community’s past and a unique aspect of gay life, having a place to be around others like us and indulge in the human experience.

Advertisement in February 2003 issue of Outlooks Magazine

Conclusion

When I asked Terry and Stephen their vision for the gay community, they said they don’t want an unhealthy divisive community, but a return to where gay men have a sense of identity “as to who we are, what we’re about, who we love, what we contribute to society, and still have room to include other people and their causes. So we need to say, hey, let us do this to help you, but not become so entrenched in a conglomerate of all these groups of people and organizations so much so that we lose ourselves.”

We should remember the people who experienced violations of their liberties by state officials and those who fought back against the raid despite the tremendous personal cost. We cannot become complacent with the liberties we enjoy because, back in 2002, people thought bathhouse raids were a thing of the past.

We still have a long way to go in advocating for our minority communities with the police, but it’s worthwhile to defend our sexual liberties and gay institutions. Hopefully, as in-person interactions resume post-COVID, our community will be able to reconnect. Perhaps we will have a renewed appreciation for our physical meeting places and how they enhance our community.

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In Hot Water: Our Relationship with the Police

Terry Haldane, Stephen Lock & the 2002 Goliath’s Bathhouse Raid

At around 2:30 PM on a Thursday, Calgary Police Service officers invaded one of our community’s safe havens, Goliath’s Bathhouse. This surprise raid occurred on December 12, 2002. In this series of blog posts, we will delve into the history of the Goliath’s raid. Along the way, we will explore injustice, changing queer culture and our complicated relationship with the police, past and present.

Read Part 1: The Raid: here.

Read Part 2: The Court Battle: here.

The relationship between police and various minority communities is a contentious and current issue: the Goliath’s Raid is an interesting case study.

Reflecting on the conduct of state agents, it appears both police officers and the case’s Crown prosecutor behaved professionally and compassionately. During the raid, one married man was so upset about the implications for his marriage, family, and religious community that he felt like throwing up. However, an officer came and reassured him that it was not like a murder or robbery charge, describing it as quite a minor thing. The Crown prosecutor generally avoided airing dirty laundry in the trial, and tried to get a publication ban on the names. According to Terry, he told Terry’s lawyer at tennis that a case like this is the last thing he’d want to be assigned because it made no sense. Even as far back as the 80s, Terry had positive, supportive experiences with police, especially when he experienced a brutal gay-bashing and multiple officers visited him, with one even giving Terry soup his wife had made.

Regarding the organization as a whole, Terry and Stephen still think the Calgary Police Service has yet to take full responsibility. Stephen brought up at a liaison meeting that then-police chief Jack Beaton should apologize. They privately learned later that Jack Beaton felt a tension between maintaining a healthy relationship with the community and his duty to investigate crime, and he did apparently ask the police commission if an apology could be issued, but was denied as they thought it would be seen as admitting fault. Calgary Police Service chief Roger Chaffin did apologize in July 2018 for “not fully considering the impacts of a 2002 Goliath’s bathhouse raid and the impacts that would have on the community […] we are sorry for the role we played in this part of your painful past.” Despite this, Terry and Stephen feel the apology wasn’t full-throated enough in explicitly taking responsibility.

Calgary Police Chief’s formal apology to the LGBTQ2+ community on July 27, 2018.

As mentioned earlier, prior to 2002, the relationship between police and gays was improving and actively being bettered. Though the raid felt like a backstabbing, Terry and Stephen also felt that within about five years, the relationship had mostly re-healed. They now see that relationship being threatened again by current discourse and political movements. Regarding the movement to exclude police from Pride, they have the sentiment of “how dare you” after their work on building that relationship. They respect Calgary Pride’s right to run their organization as they see fit and to be inclusive, but they don’t see this as a productive path forward. In response to the call to defund the police, Terry actually banded together with an officer’s mother and Brett Wilson (formerly of Dragon’s Den) to mobilize against this movement.

It is worth pointing out that Terry and Stephen’s story is primarily a reflection of white cisgender gay men’s interaction with police. People from different racial, economic, and gender backgrounds have experienced interactions with police that vary: with some people having no interactions or positive interactions, and others experiencing real discrimination and abuse from police. Nevertheless, it is still useful to look at this event as an example of how the police’s relationship with minority groups can be damaged and repaired depending on both party’s actions and attitudes.

In this case, the police put in the initiative to work with the gay community in the 1990s, betrayed that trust in 2002, and then spent the subsequent years rebuilding and finally apologizing—all of which required buy-in, hard work, forgiveness, and self-advocacy from members of the community. Both groups stand to benefit from one another: the police gain cooperation and insight from a community that may be harder to engage, and the gay community gains better protection and a reduced experience of discrimination from police. It is astonishing that people who faced direct discrimination from police encroachment on their sexuality are able to hold a pro-police position and then afterward work to help them connect with the community. It is a testament to the power of forgiveness.

As it stands, it seems at least some of the white gay male community has re-established a relatively functional relationship with the police. The case is not so with all members of the LGBTQ2+ community, each racial and gender community potentially facing injustice with varying degrees of severity. It is up to each community to determine if and how their relationship with the police can be mended. It is up to the police to put in the effort to adapt and build a cooperative relationship with them. CPS says that they are committed to serving our minority communities. Can we hold them to that and work with them to let them know what we need?

Next week: Part 4.

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