1992 was a tumultuous time for the LGBTQ2 community. AIDS deaths in Calgary were exponentially rising. Its response, Queer Nation (We’re here, we’re Queer, get used to it!) was also in the ascendent. Opinion polls stated clearly that the majority of Canadians did not support our rights.
If you were an out, undergraduate student at the University of Calgary, you were quickly conscripted into a culture war—I remember a lot of shouting on campus and gay bashing in the Beltline.
Our club at the University was called GLASS, which stood for the Gay and Lesbian Academics Students and Staff Society. GLASS was supposed to be a social organization but its very existence then was political. GLASS members—virtually all students and no staff—were foot soldiers in our human rights struggle.
On June 17, 1992, a poster was found tacked to the GLASS office door. It was an invitation scrawled in black sharpie: “FAG & LESBIAN BASHING. JUNE 30, 8 AM UNTIL MIDNIGHT. PLEASE COME, NEED VICTIMS.” The date and address listed were for Calgary’s 1992 Pride Parade & Festival at Tomkins Park.
In a press release the next day, Greg Lane, Co-chair for GLASS wrote: “Lesbians, gays and bisexuals live in a continual climate of potential violence. I am deeply concerned about these tools of oppression.” He noted that it was not the first time that GLASS had been targeted on campus.
In a move of solidarity, student politicians from the Students’ Unions of U of C, SAIT and Mount Royal College, all swiftly and publicly condemned the action of the unknown poster author, who was never caught, despite police involvement.
That October, GLASS held its second Blue Jeans Day, a borrowed gay liberation intervention from the 70s. It was rediscovered by many campuses in the 90s to coincide with National Coming Out Day. The idea was to wear denim if you supported gay rights. Blue Jeans Day became an explosive event in 1992 that was vociferously debated both in campus media and at many social gatherings on campus.
Despite the vocal opposition, on October 9, 1992, Blue Jeans Days proceeded. Many varsity queers and their allies were cloaked head to toe in denim: our pride armour. Many others were pissed off and denim-less. It was an angry moment.
FFWD to 2022. Calgary Pride is back in person after the pandemic and will likely top 100,000 participants again. A decisive majority of Canadians support our rights. So much has changed, yet here we are in another angry moment in history, like the irate Valbella email sent to Canmore Pride.
Is this a call to arms? How did we get through this last time? Where can future pacific days be found? These are my questions—without answers yet—30 years after 1992.