February Deadlines

It has been a bit quiet lately in the research offices of the Calgary Gay History Project. However, there is a lot of queer history cooking on the backburner. Stay tuned for some intriguing developments in the next few weeks.

We would like to alert you to some deadlines coming up.

Heritage Calgary and the Calgary Public Library are seeking a new Historian in Residence. Kevin was honoured to be the inaugural H.i.R. in 2018, where he launched Our Past Matters. The profile of the residency helped make the book a best-seller. It was a great experience—if you have a yen for local history, you should consider applying by February 8th.

The Government of Canada is developing its very first LGBTQ2 Action Plan and is seeking community input. What is your lived experience? What do you think we need as a community? Take their online survey: here. Responses are due by the end of February. {We said the country needs more queer history!}

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Shop local for queer history

I have lived in the Beltline for most of my adult life, which has also been central to Calgary’s queer community for more than 50 years. Additionally, most historians I know are voracious readers. Consequently, it is no surprise that my favourite Beltline store is Shelf Life Books.

Author Kevin Allen at Shelf Life Books, source: Calgary Metro

Shelf Life has an interesting queer history itself as the site of the former Parkside Continental gay bar. There is an excellent mural on the backside of the store by Kyle Simmers, that subtly evokes this history with the inclusion of the bar’s now iconic logo.

The book store has been the largest seller of my book, Our Past Matters, and has hosted yycgayhistory special events for which I am very grateful. They also stock the books of queer friends and colleagues. Pick up any book by Suzette Mayr, Vivek Shraya, or Rae Spoon and you won’t be disappointed. Sharanpal Ruprai, whom I adore as a person, writes books of poetry that sing, charm, and sizzle. They also carry more comprehensive Canadian queer history readers such as the Valerie Korinek’s Prairie Fairies and The ArQuives‘ recently published OutNorth.

In fact, all independent book stores in Calgary need our custom. Furthermore think hyperlocal—support Calgary authors by buying their books. If you need inspiration, there is no greater source than Shaun Hunter’s Calgary Reading Lists. She virtually single-handedly has created a canon of local literature, as well as a useful reader in Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers.

I am wishing all Calgarians a safe, happy, and restful holiday season. Take care of yourselves and each other—find joy in unexpected places. — Kevin

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CURED @ CUFF.Docs

Today the 8th Annual CUFF.Docs Documentary Film Festival opens and runs until December 1st. As per new pandemic restrictions the festival has moved completely online. If you like documentaries, this festival always delivers. Now they have a must-see film for queer history fans.

CURED takes viewers inside the campaign that led to a pivotal moment in the struggle for LGBTQ equality: the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Combining eyewitness testimony with newly unearthed archival footage, the film reveals how a small group of impassioned activists achieved this unexpected victory.

“Suspenseful and furnishing a slam-dunk case about the landmark importance of this event, Cured is probably the best LGBTQ documentary of the year.” – Bay Area Reporter

Interestingly, there is a Calgary connection to this historical event. Rick Sullivan, a University of Calgary grad student and gay activist of the early 70s attempted a similar intervention. He met with local delegates to the American Psychological Association’s AGM to bring forward a motion to strike homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM. The U of C delegates going to the convention declined to bring his motion forward. He says: “I remember being very stung by this at a personal as well as a political level.”

U of C Student and Calgary Gay Liberation Front co-founder Rick Sullivan in 1974

Brennan Tilley, CUFF’s lead film programmer says: “a common theme across many selections in CUFF.Docs this year is how stories are told and by whom. We have several films that feature subjects that define their own narrative. The inclusion of homosexuality in the DSM is an oft mentioned piece of history. What is rarely covered is how it came to be removed. The ultimate decision came four years after the Stonewall uprising. There is a stark contrast in the methods of these two events but they are closely tied stepping stones in the progress of LGBTQ rights. It is important to highlight how a landmark decision was reached through meetings, academic research, symposia, reviews, deliberations, and a vote. It also is much more entertaining than one might expect from a documentary about a scientific body altering a manual.”

An image from CURED: activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and Dr. Anonymous

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