Tag Archives: CBC

Social Distancing in 1985

{As part of a new series, the Calgary Gay History Project is writing about AIDS to explore how Calgarians and Canadians reacted to this earlier pandemic.}

In the early years of the AIDS pandemic, people didn’t know how it spread. The gay community was particularly fearful and reactions varied. In 1985, Brian Chittock of the AIDS Committee of Montreal reported that the friends of one person with AIDS summoned a police car when he fell sick in their house, sent him away and then discarded all his clothes and everything he touched. Social distancing made pariahs of many AIDS victims. A mobilizing fact for journalist June Callwood, who founded the first AIDS hospice in the world, Toronto’s Casey House.

By the mid-80s however, scientists had determined that casual touching was not transmitting the virus; it could only be transmitted by an exchange of bodily fluids.

Nonetheless, some gay and bisexual men were so terrified of contracting AIDS they became celibate and had physical intimacy problems ever after – call it “sexual distancing” or “sexual self-isolation” perhaps. Allan Pletcher, a Vancouver community college teacher who had tested positive, participated in a three-part panel show on CBC television that was watched by more than a million people each day. He declared: “I am chaste, and I will remain so until I am cured or I die. I assume that responsibility.”

The Body Politic, Canada’s gay newspaper founded on gay liberation principles, had an editorial approach to AIDS coverage that was skeptical of scientific and media authority. They wrote about: “the need to resist panic and hysteria both within and beyond the gay community; the need to seek information on which we can make informed judgments about sexual practices; and, most recently, the need to preserve what is best and most distinctive about gay erotic culture in the face of a disease which apparently threatens its very roots.”

A telephone survey of 500 San Francisco gay and bisexual men in June 1985, found that eight out of 10 respondents said they had made dramatic changes in their sexual behaviour. Later that summer, celebrity actor Rock Hudson revealed he had AIDS; he was dead by October. Hudson’s plight had an immediate impact on the public profile of AIDS.

Reagans_with_Rock_Hudson

Rock Hudson with Nancy & Ronald Reagan in 1984: source, Wikipedia.

In Calgary, there was a “social coming together” of people concerned about AIDS and the deaths that were happening in the city. The first meeting for what was to become AIDS Calgary happened in September 1985.

{KA}

get lit soon!

The Calgary Gay History Project is back. Our first event this month is the Get Lit! Festival in Fort Macleod on November 16th.

“The beautiful and historic Empress Theatre is starting what it hopes to be an annual event – the Get Lit! Festival: a literary evening celebrating reading, writing, and Canadian fiction and non-fiction. Five exciting writers will converge on Fort Macleod to read from their works, discuss their writing, and participate in panel discussions. And not just any old writers here.  We’re talking medal winners, Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize winners, CBC Canada Reads finalists, Alberta Literary Award finalists, and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Award winners!”

Invited by literary maven and author, Angie Abdou, Kevin Allen will be reading from Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary and participating in a panel discussion on advocacy through non-fiction writing. Joined by authors, Fran Kimmel, Ali Bryan, Sid Marty and hosted by CBC Daybreak Alberta’s Russell Bowers, Get Lit! is going to be “Wunderbar!”

get-lit-LOW-RES-no-logos-002

{KA}

Local gay history is sprawling!

Happy Pride Calgary!

Today, Global Television airs Brave Beginnings of Calgary Pride and the Gay Rights Movement, as part of their Pride 2019 programming. A part of Club Carousel still exists! Thank you, Jill Croteau, for embracing yycgayhistory (and maybe saving that wall)…

Lois at CC

Club Carousel Founder Lois Szabo back at 1207 1 St. SW!

Last week we wrote incorrect dates for this weekend. The upcoming Calgary Gay History Project events are:

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.

Jeremy Klaszus, editor and founder of The Sprawl, invited us to write an essay about gay history. We used the opportunity to mark the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150, the decriminalization of homosexuality coming into force, and the Calgarian who precipitated it, Everett Klippert. You can read it: here. After reading the essay, CBC Radio requested a live radio interview about the anniversary too.

Consider being a Sprawl supporter yourself – pop-up journalism may be a unique model for news, but the Sprawl has an impressive track record of insightful and meaningful local reportage. We love it.

Another highlight of the week was RISE. The audience at the Plaza Theatre was honoured and moved by the passionate recollections of two heroes from the gay rights movement, Ruth Coker Burks and Cleve Jones. Afterward one Calgarian exclaimed: “It was one of the most inspirational evenings I have ever attended.” I was very grateful to have MCed the event, which was manifested by Twisted Element’s Keon Brawn. Thank you, Keon, for showing the community such inspired leadership.

{KA}