Category Archives: Gay history

October is Queer History Month

October is LGBT History Month in North America. Founded in 1994, by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson, the event was intended to highlight the lack of queer issues in the education curriculum.

October was chosen by Wilson because National Coming Out Day had already been established (October 11th), and October commemorated the first march on Washington by gay activists in 1979. LGBT History Month is intended to encourage honesty and openness about being queer.

Since 2006, Philidalphia-based Equality Forum has been curating lists of LGBT icons, adding 31 every year to match the number of days in October. In 2022, they are up to 496 people! Although very American in its programming, notable Canadians who have been declared icons include: k.d. lang, Irshad Manji, Elliot Page and Rufus Wainwright.

For educators, there are free downloadable images and bios of every inductee, as well as other resources to teach about queer lives and queer history.

In 2022, one of our favourite authors, Radclyffe Hall, was inducted—something we’re happy to celebrate. Our Past Matters.

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Protecting Queer History Places

The National Trust for Canada is holding its annual conference in Toronto. It starts today, and its title is: The Heritage Reset: Making Critical Choices.

The conference is asking this question: “as the urgency increases to advance decolonization and anti-racism, take bold climate action, and redress economic and social inequity, are heritage principles and heritage places in step, or stuck in the past?” 

Specifically relevant to queer history, they are exploring the idea of a social-cultural reset. How can the heritage community embrace a fuller story and confront exclusion?

It’s a good question. Locally, has Calgary’s heritage community done enough to protect queer historic places and spaces in the city? The answer of course, from our perspective, is “no.”

To be fair, the City of Calgary created Lois Szabo Commons last year, and the Lougheed House did queer history programming in 2019. But where are our protected buildings, heritage plaques and interpretations of queer history sites? How do we make our relatively invisible queer history visible?

Earlier this year, the National Trust hosted a webinar on this very subject with Andrew Dolkart from the inspiring NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. We encourage you to watch it.

In the next year, this will be a thrust of the Calgary Gay History Project. To date, we have been active in building the Calgary queer landscape through mapping projects and walking tours. It is time to agitate for queer inclusion in Calgary’s built heritage inventory.

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What Narcissus Saw in Whistler

Calgary Gay History Project volunteer, Gordon Sombrowski, heads to Whistler, British Columbia today. His book of short stories, What Narcissus Saw, is a finalist at the Whistler Independent Book Awards. Selected from hundreds of submissions, he said he was excited to make the short-list—now it is down to the final three books.

What Narcissus Saw is competing against Churchill at Munich by Michael Carin of Quebec and Rez Dog Blues and the Haiku: A Savage Life in Bits and Pieces by William George Lindsay of BC. The award winner will be announced at a Friday night event during the Whistler Writers Festival.

Sombrowski said it was a great honour to have been selected as a finalist.

“Like every writer who seeks to publish I set out to write stories that I hope readers will want to read. Having a jury of accomplished writing peers select my work helps me to feel like I have done that,” he explained.

Tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed for Gordon! 🤞😘✨

What Narcissus Saw event last month at Shelf Life Books, photo by Noel Bégin.

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