We’ve returned from a three-month hiatus to celebrate both pride month and ten years since the Calgary Gay History Project was founded. We began as a tiny project for Calgary 2012 and have been growing ever since due to an active and engaged community.
In gratitude, Kevin has reflected on a number of special moments from the decade’s deep dive into local queer history.
Gay History Walks. Ever since 2013, situating queer history in the Calgary landscape on a warm summer night with enthusiastic walkers is a slice of heaven (although we had a snow squall once that added a decidedly different frisson).
Everett Klippert. His life story has been a focus of the Calgary Gay History Project since its inception. However, everything deepened when his family got involved with the Project in 2015. Together we excavated Everett’s very profound role in changing Canadian history in 1969. His story continues to have posthumous impact, most recently with the expungement of his criminal record in 2020.
Club Carousel. Calgary’s original gay bar founded in 1970 was arguably the most formative queer space the city has ever seen. Our first commemorative Club Carousel Cabaret was held in 2014 at the High Performance Rodeo thanks to Third Street Theatre and our impresario Michael Green (RIP). Our second Cabaret was held in 2015 thanks to One Voice Chorus—sold out each time!
Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story (2018). Saying “yes” to filmmaker Laura O’Grady was one of the best decisions we ever made. Not only did this short film garner festival laurels, but through the process Laura became a good friend. We made another great film in 2021, called Undetectable. Laura has our highest esteem.
Our Past Matters. The book had a difficult birth. It took four years to write—not one year, as planned. However, it was embraced in pre-production by a successful Kickstarter campaign and since has gone on to be a local best-seller as well as on the curriculum for some University of Calgary undergraduate classes. We are ever so grateful both for insightful readers as well as independent bookstores.
Legislating Love. Natalie Meisner’s play about the life of Everett Klippert was history turned into sublime art (I wept). Sage Theatre mounted the world premiere in 2018, and the play continues to gather praise, most recently winning an “Oscar” at this year’s Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival.
HiR. Kevin was honoured to be the inaugural Historian in Residence when the New Central Library opened in 2018. It was a high water mark for the Calgary Gay History Project and a terrific experience. The Library graciously hosted the book launch of Our Past Matters—an incredibly special memory now.
No historian is an island. So many people have contributed to the success of the Calgary Gay History Project. In closing, we would like to give a shout out to project volunteers past and present: Nevena, Del, Rosman, Matt, Ayanna, Sheldon, Laura, Jonathan, Nolan, and Tereasa!
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.
UNDETECTABLE was featured earlier this month at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival where it won the audience award for best short film.
UNDETECTABLE is a TELUS Original documentary and was produced with the assistance of the Government of Alberta, the Alberta Media Fund and Calgary Arts Development, in collaboration with the Calgary Gay History Project.