Tag Archives: Apollo

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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It Was a Place to Meet People Like Me: Sport & YYC LGBTQ+ History

{Free public lecture at the University of Calgary on December 2nd at 7 PM, hosted by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities—see their press release below. – Kevin}

Please join us for a talk by Calgary Institute for the Humanities 2020-21 Resident Fellow William Bridel

“Our history is about the stories, lives, experiences, and thoughts of individuals who built their lives around their newfound and often hard-won identity. We cannot lose that”. Stephen Lock wrote those words in the October 1994 issue of Clue!, one of Calgary’s queer publications at the time. In 2018, LGBTQ+ historian Kevin Allen released Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary, noting that the project was “ultimately about memory, and recording these essential stories of our humanity.” In this talk I follow the lead of Lock and Allen, by using archival and interview materials to explore the place of sport in Calgary’s LGBTQ+ history, from the 1970s through to the early 2000s. From softball to volleyball, running to swimming, Apollo Friends in Sport, and the Gay Games, the retelling of these stories on their own and in conversation with one another, reveal that sport played a necessary but sometimes complicated role in individual empowerment, community-building, and the Pride movement.

Clue! Magazine Cover, August 1994

Dr. William Bridel is Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. He specializes in sociocultural aspects of sport, physical activity, and the body. Current projects include investigations of LGBTQI2S+ inclusion in sport, as well as inclusion and safe sport policy. He is also interested in sport-related pain and injury, with a recent focus on athletes’ experiences of sport-related concussion.

This event will be simultaneously hosted in a live venue (University of Calgary, Taylor Institute Forum) and online on Zoom. All registrants will receive event details one week before the event and may decide to attend in either setting.

In-person attendees are required to follow all UCalgary COVID-19 event requirements: see event for details.

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Were you sporty in the last century?

{This week we are sharing a call for participants in a research project investigating local LGBTQ+ sports history.}

My name is William Bridel and I am an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. I am also a 2020-2021 Calgary Institute for the Humanities Fellow. I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Calgary’s CLUE Magazine and their cover story about the 1994 Gay Games

I am conducting research to explore sport and physical activity in the lives of Calgarians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or another LGBTQ+ identity and who participated in sport or physical activity during the time period of approximately 1960 to the early 2000s. My primary interest is in investigating the role sport and physical activity played in individuals’ lives but also in relation to community-building. My project seeks to build on the amazing work of Kevin Allen and the Calgary Gay History Project as well as research done with a former honours student at the University of Calgary, Connor MacDonald. The University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board has approved this research study (REB20-1526).

A Calgary Softball Team from the 1960’s that was predominantly lesbian

For this study, I am seeking individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and who participated in sport or physical activity in Calgary at some point between the 1960s and early 2000s. Participants must also be English-speaking as I am unilingual. You will be asked to participate in an interview lasting around 60 to 90 minutes during which we will talk about your participation in sport—mainstream and/or LGBTQ+ specific (e.g., Apollo, Different Strokes, softball, bowling, etc.)—or physical activity (e.g., YMCA/YWCA). I would also like to discuss the meaning that sport and physical activity has had in your life.

Calgary’s Different Strokes Swim Club at the Gay Games in Australia (2002)

I will be conducting interviews virtually given the global pandemic; we can discuss different options such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, phone, etc. The interviews will be confidential, and steps will be taken to ensure your privacy throughout the process. If you choose, a pseudonym can be used in place of your name and team and organization names can be altered at your request. Interviews will be scheduled for a day/time that is most convenient for you.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please email me at william.bridel@ucalgary.ca with the following information: (1) name; (2) brief comment on your involvement in sport and/or physical activity during the 1960s to early 2000s; (3) your gender identity and sexuality; and (4) your pronouns. Once your message is received, I will contact you to discuss the study in further detail and to determine if you are still interested in volunteering to participate.

Womyn’s Annual Golf Classic organizers, Sam & Bailey, organized Lesbian long weekends in Fernie, BC in the 90s

I am also happy to answer any questions that you may have about the study. I can be reached at william.bridel@ucalgary.ca. Thanks so much for your time and consideration. —William (he/him)