Leon Crane Bear is Siksika and a treaty Indian, as well as a graduate of the University of Lethbridge. Larry Hannant is a Canadian historian specializing in twentieth-century political dissent. Karissa Robyn Patton is a historian of gender, sexuality, health, and activism, and is a Canada Research Chair postdoctoral fellow at Vancouver Island University.
[A] beautiful mosaic of activist history for many reasons. It’s an intersectional collection that takes for granted the links between social justice struggles. It’s well-written, well-organized and insightful. [. . .] Groups embarking on future projects will benefit from the robust list of references that marks each piece. [. . .] Bucking Conservatism offers a blueprint, a model, for others who want to continue this work, in whatever time period.
—Joe Kadi, Alberta Views
With such a breadth of subjects, there really is something for every reader in the book. This is a book I can imagine picking up off the shelf again and again and looking at for ideas and inspiration.
—Belinda Crowson, Canadian Journal of History
Congratulations, Leon, Larry and Karissa! We’re very pleased for you. Thank you for the invitation to participate.
While on holiday this year, I was pinged by Calgary playwright Natalie Meisner about a book that had just come out, about a rural gay couple living in New Brunswick—more than 100 years ago. Meisner, originally from the Maritimes, explained, “I just found this [story] so lovely, uplifting….” That is how Len & Cub: A Queer History ended up on my books-to-read list.
Through an amazing find in the New Brunswick archives, authors Meredith J. Batt and Dusty Green delve into the lives of Leonard Keith and Joseph “Cub” Coates and their long-term relationship in the early 20th century. Len, an amateur photographer, created a photo documentary of his life with Cub. The images show a striking intimacy, and authors Batt and Green start with the refreshing premise that Len and Cub are in a relationship. This queer lens informs the incredible detective work that follows. Through assiduous research, the authors uncover many more details about the men, their families, and their life events. Impressively, Batt and Green are frank about what they cannot know but still weave a tapestry of their subjects’ lived experience in relatively unknown terrain for queer studies.
The book is beautifully designed with archival photos of Len and Cub given pride of place. Batt and Green write intelligently and accessibly about their subjects. The text struggles with the lives of Len and Cub gracefully and avoids presentism—the impulse to judge the past by present-day standards. However, the authors reflect on how this old story connects to contemporary queer life in New Brunswick, including what Len and Cub mean to them personally.
Many queer historians are acutely aware of how sexual and gender identity concepts have changed over time. Len and Cub were secretive about their love, but this was largely divorced from politics. The men would never have had a sense of being part of an equity seeking minority community. For modern-day queers, it’s hard to imagine what that would be like.
I enjoyed this book immensely and was delighted to learn that Batt and Green have also founded the Queer Heritage Initiative of New Brunswick. This archival and educational initiative will collect further queer histories of 2SLGBTQ+ people; I hope that means future books from these authors.
One can find Len & Cub in stock at Pages on Kensington or Shelf Life Books in Calgary. Support local independent books stores!
We talked to hundreds of people at last Sunday’s Pride Festival at Fort Calgary. Thank you, everyone, for the insightful questions, oral history tidbits, and sharing. For example, we learned about a former gay bar on Macleod Trail that we never knew existed (a future blog post…).
Two notable visitors to the history booth were this year’s Calgary Stampede Princesses, Sikapinakii Low Horn and Jenna Peters. They were enthusiastic to be participating in Calgary Pride. We also saw them, waving to the crowds, on an impressive float in the Pride Parade. The Calgary Stampede has been formally participating in Pride since 2017.
Meeting the Princesses made us think how the pageantry of the Calgary Stampede and Calgary Pride are similar. Both have famously well-attended parades (now on the same route) with many participants dressing up in a particular fashion (cowboy-drag vs. drag-drag).
Fabulously, which two communities have such a strong connection to royalty protocols?
The Calgary Stampede anointed their first monarch in 1946, Stampede Queen Patsy Rogers.
Our own royal society, the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch, is the longest running queer organization in the city. Their first coronation ball, held in January 1977, crowned Calgary’s first Empress Veronica Dawn and first Emperor Jack Loewen.
Both royal societies have a robust tradition of fundraising and being ambassadors for their respective Calgary communities. Good work we can celebrate and particularly resonant this week with the passing of our national monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.