Tag Archives: Doug Young

YYC LGBTQ Legacy Sites

The City of Calgary’s LGBTQ Legacy Committee recently formed: a group spearheaded by Ward 8 City Councillor Evan Woolley, with support from the Calgary Gay History Project. The Committee’s goal is to commemorate our city’s LGBTQ history with a significant and lasting monument. We are at the beginning of the process but look forward to engaging with everyone who is interested in helping to shape what our monument could be.

One of the initial questions for a monument is where? The Beltline and the inner city seem like an obvious choice, as it is where much of our community spaces were clustered in the 20th Century.

Gay Beltline in the 80s

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

Gay activist Doug Young’s personal records are in the Glenbow Archives. His hand drawn map of the Beltline from the mid-80’s illustrates there were more queer spaces at that time, then we have today.

Some ideas for a monument location that we came up with:

  • The Old Y – now called CommunityWise, was the location of the first peer support organizations in Calgary, PLC and GIRC. It later hosted dozens of other queer non-profits and collectives and became the de facto hub for the LGBTQ community. Currently, CommunityWise is home to Calgary Outlink and Fairy Tales.
  • Central Memorial Park – a gay cruising park in the 70s, it was also the site of frequent police harassment of queers. Law student Henry Berg fought back in 1981. He took the police to task and won. Later in 1990, the Boer War Memorial at the centre of the park was the site of the first Pride Rally in 1990 – the origin of Calgary Pride.
  • McHugh House – Calgary’s 6th oldest building was moved recently into Humpty Hollow Park, in a corner of the Beltline that saw a lot of gay action, with nearby bars Myrts (later the Republik), Off Centre and later MoneyPennies in the Centre 15 building. Centre 15 also housed AIDS Calgary for a number of years.
  • Tomkins Park – the block-long green space nestled on the south edge of the Beltline, was the site of a number of Pride Festivals in the 1990s when the Pride Parade’s route went down 17th Avenue.
    screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-5-07-43-pm

    Sept 1978 Ad in Gay Calgary – a GIRC Newspaper

    It was also close to Books N’ Books, an independent bookstore which proudly sold LGBTQ books, newspapers and magazines (now Big Cheese Poutinerie).

  • Greenline 12th ave station – this new LRT station opening in 2024 might pop out at 12th avenue and 1st street SW (or be an underground station): super close to the original Club Carousel as well as the Old Y.
  • Connaught Park – this West-Central Beltline Park is surrounded by lots of hi-rise apartment buildings and walk-ups. Nearby City View Manor was rumoured to have been designed to house gay men exclusively, with walk-in closets and wrap around balconies.
  • Barb Scott Park – is close to current gay bar Twisted Element and the former Warehouse and Underground Pub (which earlier was a short-lived gay bathhouse).
  • Haultain Park – is close to Central Memorial Park, Old Y, and Club Carousel. Also not too far from A Woman’s Place Bookstore, another community hub in the 80s and 90s.
  • East Village – outside of the Beltline this is one of the oldest parts of Calgary. There was a historic bath house, somewhere east of City Hall in the early 20th century that had gay undertones. Later in the 70s, there was a gay steam bath named Dan Dominique’s on 3rd St. East between 7th and 8th Avenue, reportedly not recommended for the squeamish.

Where would you like to see a memorial? Write to calgarygayhistory@gmail.com – share your thoughts.

{KA}

1979 – Linking Arms

By 1979, the gay community in Alberta was developing its political activist muscles. With support from GIRC in Calgary and GATE in Edmonton, Red Deer formed its first gay organization called the Gay Association of Red Deer (GARD). 15 people showed up to its incorporating meeting on February 24, 1979. GARD quickly took Red Deer’s newspapers to task for failing to let them advertise.

In the lead up to the Alberta Provincial Elections on March 14, 1979, activists in Calgary and Edmonton crashed political forums, asking repeatedly about the lack of human rights protections for gays in legislation. They were successful in getting the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) to declare its support for gay rights: the first Alberta political party to take that stance. In addition, GIRC sponsored an all candidates’ forum on March 12th at the Old Y.  They were successful in getting five candidates from city centre electoral divisions to attend.

Progressive Conservative (PC) Premier Peter Lougheed was pigeonholed during the campaign in TD Square by an out gay man. The conversation was reported as follows:

Q: What is the Tory Party doing about the recommendation by the Alberta Human Rights Commission to include sexual orientation in the Individual Rights Protection Act?

A: It is under consideration.

Q: What is the Conservative party’s policy on the gay rights issue?

A: That’s a caucus decision, they will decide.

Q: What is you own position on this?

A: I don’t have one.

Peter Lougheed 1967

Bromosocial – Peter Lougheed flanked by his first elected PC caucus in 1967.  Image Source: National Post, September 13, 2012

Lougheed took his party on to a commanding victory in the election – 74 of 79 seats – but gay power was on a roll. On April 21st, the Alberta Lesbian and Gay Rights Association (ALGRA) was created in Edmonton at the conclusion of the first ever Alberta Gay Conference. 20 delegates from Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer met to coordinate efforts in human rights, rural outreach, public education, government lobbying and inter-city communication. Doug Young from Calgary and Clare McDuff Oliver from Edmonton were elected to represent ALGRA at the national level on the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition’s (CLGRC) Executive Coordinating Committee.

{KA}

Our Windi City

Windi Earthworm, a gay artist and activist, lived in Calgary in the 1970’s, and was notable for his gender non-conforming dress and street music. He was a dedicated agitator who had the conviction of his beliefs.

In the early 1970s, Windi chained himself to a marble pillar in the Palliser Hotel when the during a provincial Conservative convention, to protest the absence in Alberta of legislation protecting homosexuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

windi_Neg720

Windi Earthworm circa 1979.  Photo: François Couture from kersplebedab.com

In 1975, as part of the People’s Liberation Coalition, he was one of four protestors who took guerrilla action against an anti-gay skit.  It was included in the nightly performance of a band called The Dandies in the Four Seasons Hotel’s Scotch Room.  One evening in June, when the skit was about to be unleashed, Windi and his friends rushed the stage and took over the microphone.  They explained to the surprised audience why they were offended.  As the hotel bouncers dragged them away, they asked the manager if she had ever been to a gay bar.  When she replied, “no,” they told her they would going to invite all of their friends and turn the Scotch Room into a gay bar the following night if the performance was not changed.  It was changed.

At that point the four activists saw the need for a gay activist group in the city.  Gay Information Resources Calgary (GIRC) started shortly thereafter.  The group’s first chair was John Windi (a.k.a. Windi Earthworm).

Activist Doug Young (1950-1994), in a 1980 interview, remembered Windi hanging out in the Kings Arms Tavern in the mid 70s, and always thought him a bit strange with his long bluejean skirts.  He noted that Windi did not stay long at GIRC as the other people who helped set it up thought he was crazy and eventually squeezed him out.

Filmmaker, Claude Ouellet, recalled meeting Windi in 1976 when he was a young person hitchhiking across the country.  Finding himself in Calgary, without money, he ended up meeting the troubadour on 8th Avenue Mall.  Windi at that time was taking in street kids who needed shelter.  Windi sheltered Claude and his friend for the night.  Claude thought the denim skirt and cross dressing flare was courageous for Calgary in 1976.

Later in the 1980s, when both lived in Montreal, Claude made a documentary about Windi as a year-end film school project.  At that time Windi was central to that city’s anglo anarchist left.  He often was hassled by the Montreal police (or worse) for being a strolling musician (despite being licensed as such).  He was also seen occasionally in press coverage being dragged away from peace demonstrations.

Described as a caring, unique, and challenging human, Windi died of AIDS in 1993.  Windi’s courage and artistry are remembered fondly on a memorial website: There’s a Fire Truck on My Ceiling: Windi Earthworm Remembered.

{Wishing you a reflective holiday season and a happy new year!}

{KA}