Tag Archives: gay

Gay men are smarter than straight men – so says history.

{The Calgary Gay History Project is revisiting its most impactful blog posts—now numbering in the hundreds—since its inception nine years ago. Gay men are smarter than straight men—so says history has been, hands down, its most popular post since it was published on July 18, 2013. It also has a notable time reference to the big Calgary flood.}

The sixties were a boom-time for psychometric assessment, and in particular Intelligence Quotient (IQ) research. Perhaps one of the most famous and controversial papers of the time, was Arthur Jensen’s article, published in 1969, How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement? It concluded that 80% of the variance in IQ in the population studied was the result of genetic factors due to race.

Similar lines of research were done on homosexuals. In Canada, a University of Toronto Social Work professor, John C. Spencer, published an article in the Canadian Journal of Corrections (1961). He looked at 132 sexual offenders in the Toronto Forensic Clinic. These incarcerated individuals were categorized into three groups: exhibitionists, pedophiles and homosexuals. Spencer concluded that while exhibitionists and pedophiles had essentially normal IQ’s, the average intelligence of the homosexual offender was significantly higher than average (IQ of 114 vs. the population average of 100). Reading between the lines, he may have been an early homosexual rights advocate as he mused openly about criminal law being a vehicle for moral condemnation (see article image below).

Other researchers confirmed the IQ findings. Renée Liddicoat, published A Study of Non-Institutionalized Homosexuals, also in 1961, and found that South African homosexual men and women had significantly higher verbal IQ scores than that of her heterosexual control group.

A 1949 study of 100 neurotic homosexual and 100 neurotic heterosexual soldiers similarly found evidence of higher intelligence scores and educational achievement amongst the gay soldiers (Winterstein-Lambert, E. Bulletin de la Faculté de Médicine de Instanbul). In fact, this paper’s conclusion was that the gay community did not need psychological treatment, rather job placement support in order to deal with neurotic symptoms.

However, like many IQ studies there is a potential for cultural bias in the research as well as other sources of error. Some studies showed no difference, and at least one showed reduced intelligence in homosexual men. A quirky finding in many intelligence studies was the homosexual male’s sensitivity to art and culture. Silvio Marone, in the International Journal of Sexology (1954) wrote: “homosexual behaviour is not rare among artists, and homosexuality has a great influence on art.”

Finally, speaking of great influences, the Calgary Public Library’s Magazine’s and Newspapers department was devastated by the recent flooding in Southern Alberta. Many of the articles researched for this website have come from that basement department (such as: this one). We are really saddened by this particular loss. Individuals interested in donating to the Library’s flood recovery fund can find more information: here.

{KA}

Defending Lesbian Moms in YYC

{The Calgary Gay History Project is revisiting its most impactful blog posts—now numbering in the hundreds—since its inception nine years ago. Defending Lesbian Moms in YYC was initially published on August 25, 2017.}

For decades in Calgary, if you were out as a lesbian and had children, you would likely have them taken away. Therefore the stakes were high for gay women: being a mom was decidedly a good reason for keeping the closet door barricaded shut. Unofficial estimates claim up to 50% of lesbians in the 1960s and 1970s had children through previous heterosexual relationships or marriages. If they were outed, former husbands or even the state itself would intervene to ensure that these “unfit mothers” had their children removed.

Lois Szabo, recently honoured with a park named after her, is a lesbian and also a mother. She was able to work out a child rearing arrangement with her husband privately. Sadly, Lois knew of other lesbians in the 1960s who lost access to their children completely and became utterly broken. One lesbian she knew was institutionalized. Another killed herself slowly through alcoholism.

In fact, it was not until November 21, 1975, when an openly lesbian mother was awarded custody of her child in Canada. In the groundbreaking decision of K. vs. K., Justice D. W. Rowe of the Alberta Provincial Court reasoned that a child’s likelihood of becoming gay would not increase solely by being raised by a homosexual parent – contrary to the view widely held in Canadian society. Regrettably, this decision did not set a new legal standard as throughout the 1980s lesbian mothers continued to lose custody battles specifically due to their sexual orientation.

However, the 1975 decision fired up feminist activists to begin challenging the legal bias against lesbians in Canadian courts. In 1978, the first Lesbian Mothers’ Defence Fund (LMDF) was started in Toronto, initially through a grant from a local church group and then sustained through private donations.

In Calgary, Lynn Fraser was working at the Calgary Status of Women Action Committee, a job she described as “very low paid but very exciting.” Lynn was an unapologetic feminist and activist. She recalled, “I had a big button I always wore that said, ‘Lesbian Mother,’ which sometimes caused me trouble – but I never backed down.”

Lynn had organized Feminist Town Halls in Calgary which included both actions and public speakers. In 1982, the first “Women Reclaim the Night March” was staged in Calgary in conjunction with a talk by Andrea Dworkin, a well-known American anti-pornography activist. Another speaker in the Town Hall series was Francie Wyland, the coordinator at Toronto’s LMDF.

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 1.51.38 PM

Francie Wyland, Dustin Smith, and his mother, Lynn Fraser. Photo: Garth Pritchard, Calgary Herald July 2, 1981.

There was a loose collective interested in starting a LMDF chapter in Calgary after Francie Wyland spoke to the lesbian community in 1981. Lynn met Marilyn Atkinson and her partner Lou at that first gathering featuring Francie. Marilyn also became a key organizer in the collective. As a mother herself, Marilyn volunteered to provide peer support to lesbian mothers and women during any potential custody struggles. The collective was based out of Gay Information Resources Calgary (GIRC) initially.

Lavender Marilyn

Lou with Marilyn Atkinson featured in Calgary’s Lesbian Publication The Lavender Times on the occasion of their 25th Anniversary.

The LMDF was a low-budget, grass roots organization. Pot-luck suppers and community dances were its primary source of funding. In 1982, two Calgary lesbians took pledges to cycle across the county to raise money for the LMDF. It took them four months, but they made it to St. John’s that summer after starting in Vancouver.

In 1983, the father of Lynn’s son, Dustin, started making noises about challenging her for custody of their child. That mobilized Lynn to call Francie in Toronto for LMDF advice. Beltline lawyer, Neva Ramsay, volunteered to do the incorporation papers for the local chapter and on April 21st, 1983, the Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund Society of Alberta was born. Dustin’s father backed off.

There was a lively social scene with Calgary’s LMDF, which moved out of GIRC into their own office at the Old Y. The potlucks and dances would even attract lesbians without children! A bonus to the socializing was that their children got to play with other kids who had lesbian moms, making their family structures seem much more commonplace.

The Lavender Times, November 1987

The LMDF offered information, support, referrals to lawyers, and financial help to lesbian mothers struggling to keep or win custody of their children. The advice in child custody cases included: going to court is the last resort; do not leave your children behind; beware of ex-husbands kidnapping your kids. The LMDF also advocated for social change in the judicial system, proclaiming that the straight court system failed lesbians.

Lynn recalls: “It was an exciting time to get your voice out there and be heard. There was so much misinformation and so much fear—it seemed like almost everybody was in the closet.”

As the LMDF developed, Marilyn was hired to organize lesbian conferences which she remembered proved quite popular: “Women came from everywhere to attend.” The first conference in 1985, was funded by the local lesbian community itself. When the conferences began to attract public funding, protests were heard.

Maureen Buruill, a lobbyist with REAL Women of Canada in January 1987 wrote an editorial in the Calgary Herald complaining about her own organization’s lack of funding:

“Women’s groups across Canada receive funding from the Secretary of State’s Women’s Program. One example was a grant to the Calgary Lesbian Mothers Defence Fund to set up a “lesbian-gay” workshop collective. This organization also received a grant to arrange a lesbian conference. Why is our tax money given to these groups and refused to a group seeking to preserve family values?”

Despite the social conservative yowling, the legal system evolved to have less bias against lesbian mothers. Consequently, the LMDF’s activities morphed into helping lesbians get pregnant – initially by connecting donors to mothers but also by running sperm! It was not until 1992 that artificial insemination in hospitals became legally available to single and unmarried women, including lesbians in Calgary. The LMDF then began fundraising for artificial insemination in doctor’s offices and stopped running sperm themselves. Several babies were born from the LMDF’s sustained efforts.

In 1992, the society changed its name to the Lesbian Mothers Support Society to better reflect its efforts and developed a notable online presence. It also was active in advocating Provincially for adoption rights for the partners of lesbian mothers. The society wound down its operations in 2002. However, in its 21 years of history, the LMDF made a huge difference: defending lesbian mothers and moving social justice forward in Calgary.

{KA}

Undetectable

UNDETECTABLE has its Calgary premiere on Sunday, September 26th, 4PM at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF). UNDETECTABLE is a deep dive into the hysteria, misinformation, stigma and prejudice that has surrounded the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the early ’80s. Through the eyes of current front-line workers and tireless activists, the film exposes how early societal prejudice is directly linked to today’s rising infection rates.

This is the second collaboration between Calgary filmmaker Laura O’Grady and historian Kevin Allen, whose first project together GROSS INDECENCY: THE EVERETT KLIPPERT STORY was a CIFF award-winner in 2018.

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.

Join us on Sunday for the premiere at Eau Claire cinema or watch it online at home!

{KA}