This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Calgary Gay History Project. Phew, it feels like we have done a lot, but we couldn’t have done it without ongoing community support and encouragement—thank you!
The Project is powered by volunteers who do this research off the side of their desks. Consequently, I’m happy to introduce a new research volunteer, Sheldon Cannon, who is exploring the history of the Goliath’s Bathhouse raid in Calgary.
The raid is also having an anniversary—it’s been 20 years—and Sheldon will be writing a series of blog posts to explore the raid’s impact on the city’s queer history. In addition to archival research, Sheldon is interviewing people who were present during the raid and community members who have memories of the event to share. Covid-willing, we hope to have a public presentation about the raid sometime this year.
Sheldon is a medical student with a background in science and an interest in history, politics, and anthropology. Raised in rural Saskatchewan and having completed his BSc in Physiology at the University of Alberta, he is a prairie boy through and through. Having dipped his toe into history as a teenager on his local museum board, it was a workshop with Edmonton’s premiere queer historian Darrin Hagen that got him interested in gay history specifically. He discovered the Calgary Gay History Project through their video on Everett Klippert after finding out Everett was born in Sheldon’s hometown. Sheldon’s project on the 2002 Goliath’s Bathhouse raid seeks to explore our community’s ever-changing relationship with police and how physical spaces (or lack thereof) impact gay life. Outside of history, Sheldon also assists in medical research and endeavours to develop his artistic side as a beginner dancer and acrobat.
“PISCES reveals some never-before seen details of the undercover investigation, the actual raid, and the aftermath of the largest mass arrest in Edmonton’s history. These actual documents are read by young members of Edmonton’s Queer arts community. It also feature first-hand recollections from one of the only men arrested that night to ever speak on the record about the raid, Edmonton Queer icon Michael Phair.” —TheatreNetwork.ca
One of the most striking details in the sting operation was how methodical and intense it was. In February 1981, the Edmonton Police Service started sending pairs of young undercover police detectives to pose as members of the Pisces Spa. In total, there were nine officers who spent weekend nights mingling, watching, and making copious, detailed notes concerning the activities of the men who gathered there for the purpose of sex.
Darrin’s work is riveting and recounts an important flashpoint in our human rights struggle in Alberta. Looking for a Calgary connection, Darrin told us: “so far we have not discovered any Calgarians in the list of found-ins but after a year, we still don’t have all the names. Navigating the process or getting info is a whole separate story, and it’s far from over.”
Queer history fades without champions; we thank Darrin for this consequential work.