#YYCGayHistory @CalgaryPride 2019

Calgary Pride launches tomorrow, and the Calgary Gay History Project has a full slate of activities during the next ten days. Here are the offerings:

Friday, August 23rd: The Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary e-book release!

Sunday, August 25th: as part of Memorial Park Pride

1:30-2:30 PM – Calgary Gay History Lecture at the Memorial Park Library

3:00 PM – Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Outliers Screening

5:00-6:30 PM – Beltline Gay History Walk

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Beltline Gay History Walk during Pride 2017. Gary Evans, photo.

Monday, August 26th: Bill C-150, the bill “decriminalizing” homosexuality came into force on this day, 50 years ago. Keep your eyes peeled for a particular essay to commemorate this important date.

Wednesday, August 28th:

7:00-10:00 PM RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement: Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, Kevin Allen, MC.

Saturday, August 31st:

12:00-4:00 PM  – Join author Kevin Allen for a book signing of Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary at Chapters-Indigo Dalhousie or just stop by to say, “hi.”

Sunday, September 1st:

11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Pride in the Park. After the parade, stop by the Calgary Gay History Project’s History Booth. Share your own stories and learn more about Calgary’s LGBTQ2 Past.

Phew. It’s going to be a busy Pride!

On a final and sadder note, the Calgary Gay History Project would like to acknowledge the sudden and unexpected passing of Lisa Fahey last month. The 47-year old Calgarian was an indefatigable ally to our community and a driving force behind the Pride Employee Network for Imperial. She was a massive fan of the Calgary Gay History Project: one of our biggest cheerleaders in fact. Lisa regularly marched in the Calgary Pride Parade with her rainbow-festooned wiener dog, Pebbles – who proved to be a media darling, year after year. Lisa’s big heart, enthusiasm, and deep regard for social justice will be sorely missed.

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Greg Cashin and Lisa Fahey of Imperial’s Pride Employee Network with Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen (centre) in November 2016.

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RISE: An Evening of AIDS History in YYC

Two legendary figures associated with AIDS History, Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, are speaking in Calgary during Calgary Pride; we are agog!

Join us on Wednesday, August 28th, from 7-10 PM at the Plaza Theatre for an evening of social commentary and essential history.

Ruth Coker Burks is perhaps better known as the Cemetery Angel. Ruth, a former caregiver of AIDS crisis victims, is an AIDS awareness advocate based in Arkansas. During the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, she used her salary as a real estate agent to care for AIDS patients whose families and communities had forsaken them. Due to prejudice, fear, and stigma surrounding the disease, she was often the patients’ only caregiver until their passing. She is also recognized for burying abandoned bodies in her own family cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.


Cleve Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which grew into one of the largest and most influential People with AIDS advocacy organizations in the United States.

In 1985, Jones then started The Names Project, which resulted in tens of thousands of people making quilt panels to commemorate those they had lost to the disease. Also known as the AIDS Memorial Quilt, thousands of panels at a time toured North America. The Canadian National Tour of the quilt stopped in Calgary in July 1989. The 1000 visiting panels were hung in layered sections in the Calgary municipal building atrium. Fourteen panels created in Calgary were added to the Quilt during its pause in the city.

When We Rise

Jones will be available for a book signing at Pages on Kensington after the event.

There will be a free after-party for everyone who wants to carry on the conversation over beverages immediately afterward at Twisted Element.

RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement is presented by Twisted Element and HIV Community Link. Tickets are available: here.

Names Project

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest piece of community folk art in the world.

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The Western Alienation Merit Badge

Every summer, I take it upon myself to read some gay history fiction while enjoying seasonal downtime. Last summer it was The Well of Loneliness; this summer, to my delight, it is a Calgary story. The Western Alienation Merit Badge is the first novel from author Nancy Jo Cullen, a former Calgarian, and recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. It has been gathering plaudits and praise.

Western Alienation Merit Badge

Our Summer Read for 2019

The book chronicles the staggering trials of the Murray family during the 1982 oil recession in Calgary. A death in the family, unplanned pregnancy and a coming-out story test family bonds against a backdrop of economic precariousness – a lot of drama, which Cullen deftly weaves with a poetic touch. My favourite aspect of the book is its use of non-linear time. The plot ricochets through the decades and only slowly reveals the larger tapestry of the Murray family’s sadness and regrets.

The Western Alienation Merit Badge has some eerie resonances to the Calgary of today. An economic slump mixed with anti-Trudeau rhetoric and general Calgarian embitterment makes one think distressingly about the cyclical nature of our city. After all, was it not that legendary 1980s recession that brought us the bumper sticker: “Please God, let there be another oil boom. We promise not to piss it away this time.”

The book also takes us to a period where gay identity was generally disparaged. In the early 80s, coming out was fraught with rejection, and new support groups like the Lesbian Infomation Line were saving lives.

It is fun to read a smart book where Calgary is given a starring role. The locations, the atmosphere, and the dialogue are all achingly familiar. Plus there is a queer protagonist at the heart of it – fans of Calgary gay history could not ask for anything more!

Tangentially, “Oh The Fun We Had” is the theme of this year’s Historic Calgary Week, which starts today. History buffs have a bursting smorgasbord of programming to feast on.

The Calgary Gay History Project will be part of Historic Calgary week again in 2019. In collaboration with the Calgary Public Library, we are hosting a lecture titled: Among friends: the history of LGBTQ2+ recreation and sport in Calgary. Join us on Saturday, August 3rd from 1:00 – 2:00 PM at the Memorial Park Library. There is a post-lecture screening at 2:30 PM of Outliers: Calgary’s Queer History (the Directors Cut) in partnership with the Calgary Queer Arts Society.

We hope to see you out and happy summer reading!

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