Tag Archives: Gay history

Slumming on the Wrong Side of History

In Canada, the House of Commons just passed Bill C-6: An Act to amend the Criminal Code, regarding conversion therapy.

The law defines conversion therapy as a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change a person’s gender identity or gender expression to cisgender or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour or non-cisgender gender expression. For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration and development of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

In a vote of 263-63, Parliamentarians determined conversion therapy, cheekily referred to as “praying away the gay,” will no longer be tolerated in Canada.

Celebrating the City of Calgary’s own Conversion Therapy Ban Legislation in February 2020 (Photo by Lou De Asis/The Press)

For many Canadians, this issue seems like a fait accompli. Notably, there were 63 opposed Members of Parliament. Moreover, a quick internet search reveals many wacky websites that make astounding arguments in support of conversion therapy. In fact, a creaky warhorse also known as the REAL Women of Canada—are they still around?—pronounced the legislation “wicked.”

Are the 63 MPs representing this anti-gay, anti-trans constituency?

Alternatively, Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison stated that he in fact opposes conversion therapy but: “voted against the bill because the government politicized the bill at a committee level and refused to support two amendments put forward by the Conservative party that he claims would add clarity to the bill and ensure that ‘voluntary conversations between individuals and their teachers, school counsellors, pastoral counsellors, faith leaders, doctors, mental-health professionals, friends or family members are not criminalized.’”

If this was a fatal flaw in the legislation why did 51 of Morrison’s Conservative peers vote in favour, even with their amendments thwarted?

Nine out of ten Calgary MPs voted on Bill C-6; there were six “yeas” and three “nays.” What did our Calgary nay-sayers conclude then about conversion therapy? And what will they think in 20 years? Will anyone remember to inquire? Will they feel embarrassed when asked and quickly change the subject?

These questions intrigue me. Our community’s human rights struggle has been dramatic but rapid. How do decision makers feel now who have been “on the wrong side of history?” My questions are not intended to shame but really probe how sentiments and community standards change.

For example, what do the MPs who voted against same-sex marriage in 2005 believe now? You may recall that vote was a closer: 158 yeas to 133 nays, and blurry across party lines.

And even this week’s vote might be behind Canadian public opinion. According to the Pew Research Centre, 85% of Canadians say homosexuality should be supported by society, and only 10% not. The 63 nay-sayers represent 19% of voting MPs.

What are the stories we tell ourselves to solve the complications of past decisions? Stay tuned Calgary Gay History Project readers—perhaps we have tripped across a new field of inquiry…

{KA}

p.s. Check out Senator Paula Simons’ moving and personal speech on Bill C-6.

The Pisces Bathhouse Raid @ 40

We just passed the 40th anniversary of the Pisces Bathhouse Raid in Edmonton on May 30, 1981.

Queer historian and esteemed colleague, Darrin Hagen, has plumbed this history extensively. For the anniversary, he has written a five-part series for the Edmonton City as Museum Project and produced a video titled: PISCES for Theatre Network.

Court Sketch
Court sketch. Image courtesy of Darrin Hagen.

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

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Front page news that summer in the Body Politic

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.

{KA} 

One year later #OurPastMatters

Our Past Matters launched one year ago today at the Central Library. I wanted to take a moment to thank readers, history buffs, and Calgary Gay History Project supporters for their positive embrace.

Here are some highlights from the book’s year.

On November 22, 2018, hundreds of Calgarians attended the book launch and filled the Central Library’s Theatre with warmth and enthusiasm for queer history.

Noel photo

Book launch at the Calgary Central Library: Photo Noel Bégin

Our Past Matters stayed on the Calgary Herald’s non-fiction best seller’s list for months, eventually hitting #1 in February 2019.

Thank you Number one

From the Calgary Herald – February 2, 2019

The University of Calgary’s Joe Kadi selected Our Past Matters as a course textbook for his spring class: LGBTQ+ Social Change History: From Stonewall to CalgaryIn June, we were invited to attend a lecture. It was a genuine honour to receive insightful questions and pertinent observations about the book from this group of engaged readers.

In September the Our Past Matters received national attention when the Calgary Gay History Project made the shortlist for the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming. (We just learned that we were not selected for the award, but remain grateful to have been given the nod).

GovernorGenerals-History-Award

So, it has been an absolutely lovely year. Upcoming plans for Our Past Matters include the imminent launch of the e-book edition and a book tour to a handful of Canadian cities in the New Year. (As a preview of touring, we just went to Fort Macleod’s inaugural Get Lit! festival last weekend and had such fun meeting local readers and pride organizers). Thank you again for believing in the Calgary Gay History Project and making Our Past Matters a “good read.”

Kevin @ shelflife

StarMetro Cover Story by Madeline Smith – December 3, 2018

{KA}