Tag Archives: Gay history

Manifestations

Today is a holiday for many in the world. From my secular angle, Epiphany, or January 6th, represents the conclusion of the Christmas holidays. In 2015, I wrote: “I just looked up the meaning of epiphany and it means “manifestation” which I think will be the running theme for the Calgary Gay History Project.”

The Calgary Gay History Project has done manifesting well. Check out our top ten list: here.

In 2023, our manifestation priority is developing the Calgary queer archives. Since the Project was founded in 2012, we have been accepting donations of papers and artifacts about Calgary’s 2SLGBTQ+ past. They now need to be accessioned appropriately in a professional archive—likely at the U of C—to be made available to future researchers. (And to free up some floor space in our apartment…)

A portion of the Calgary Queer Archives stored at home and loosely catalogued.

One of our favourite objects in the archive is Jack’s vest!  Jack Loenen was the first Emperor of the Imperial Court of the Chinook Arch (ISCCA), elected to that position in January 1977 to a sold-out crowd at the then-downtown Holiday Inn.  He wore this leather vest during and after his reign and placed all the pins he collected from other courts he visited representing the ISCCA.

Jack Loenen, Emperor I of ISCCA
Jack Loenen’s vest, Emperor I of ISCCA.

Although Jack is now deceased, his partner Peter Kelsch made this important donation to the Calgary Gay History Project in 2015. I just met up with Peter again a few weeks ago, who had more archive donations and stories to tell (thank you, Peter)!

We at the Calgary Gay History Project wish you a happy new year, including some epiphanies, manifestations or both.

{KA}

Shop local with @yycgayhistory

{The Calgary Gay History Project is on hiatus in December. Look for new queer history content in 2023—happy holidays!}

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping. If you are looking for a good read, check out our two award-winning books from our in-house imprint, ASPublishing.

Our books with faux holiday additions

Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary hit #1 on the Calgary Herald bestseller list in 2019 and has been selling ever since. John Ibbitson, from The Globe and Mail, explains: “You are going to read about some amazing people, places, and times in these pages… There is no one better equipped than Kevin Allen to give us a tour.”

What Narcissus Saw is Gordon Sombrowski’s second book of fiction exploring life in Fernie, BC. It was selected from hundreds of contenders as a finalist in the Whistler Independent Book Awards this past October. The awards jury wrote: “Sombrowski’s linked short stories immediately draw in the reader. He deftly breathes life and intrigue into his settings and characters with language to be savoured.”

Books are available in Calgary at Pages on Kensington and Shelf Life Books. You can also purchase books and have them shipped to you from our online store.

Happy holidays!

{KA}

Queer History Halloween!

{A spooky treat—a guest article from Jarett Henderson, a former Calgarian and historian of Canada, gender and sexuality, and the British Empire – K.}

Today, many queer folks celebrate Halloween as a topsy-turvy Gay Christmas of sorts: an opportunity to live loudly and proudly as one’s authentic self. For sixteen-year-old Walter McHugh in 1901, his Halloween night could not have been more different. That night Walter confessed to his rancher father that he had been having sex (for some time) with the Calgary lawyer J. B. Smith. 

Walter’s Halloween night assertion set into motion a three-month-long ordeal that culminated in February 1902. After a series of appearances before the Supreme Court of North West Territories that paradoxically archived unspeakable sexual encounters, Smith was proclaimed “not guilty” of gross indecency: the federal crime that regulated sex between men in Canada and its territories since 1892. Walter was removed to Ontario, where he was enrolled in Ottawa College before returning to Calgary, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. Walter and his headstone remain at rest atop the Calgary skyline in the Catholic Cemetery. 

Walter McHugh’s grave in Calgary’s St. Mary’s Pioneer Cemetery

While much remains unknown about the nature of the relationship between Walter and Smith, in what follows, I offer some observations about how efforts to regulate sex between men can shed light on how queer carnal acts were perceived as threats to male settlers, their bodies, and the state’s efforts to reproduce heterosexual settler colonialism in early-Calgary.

Original citation for full text: Jarett Henderson, “Rex v. J. B. Smith (Calgary, 1902): Queer Carnal Acts and Heterosexual Settler Colonialism in Canada’s Prairie Empire,” Prairie History: The Journal of the West, 5 (Summer 2021): Click here for full article. 

The McHugh Family at the start of the twentieth century. Walter is standing directly behind his father who reported him to authorities: University of Calgary, Glenbow Digital Photo Collection, NA-217-6

{JH}