AIDS created both personal and political crises in Canada and our gay communities were irrevocably changed. Now in hindsight we are beginning to see the shape of those changes and understand their impact. For one, it politicized the gay community dramatically – the stakes could not be higher – people were dying in a backdrop of little information and government action. For two, it brought the community closer together after years of division from fractious identity politics (read this interesting article about survivors of the AIDS crisis and the role of lesbians). For three, the public at large could no longer ignore or fail to notice the queers amongst them.
AIDS was first reported in Alberta in 1983: the first death a bisexual Calgary man in early June. On June 30th, Alberta was the second province in Canada to declare AIDS a notifiable disease. Grassroots organizing by Calgary’s gay community began almost immediately. By late July, the city’s gay club owners raised and donated $10,000, to the University of Calgary to become the foundation for an AIDS research and education fund.
One year later (1984) the number of confirmed AIDS cases in Alberta had grown to six with only two men still alive – and every one was a gay or bisexual man. For ten years the stats kept getting darker and bleaker until newly diagnosed cases peaked in 1994 at 134. From then onwards, sex education and cocktail drug therapies started bringing the numbers and the mortality down. Calgary was the hardest hit city in the province.
The first meetings for what was to become AIDS Calgary began in September 1985. Doug Young, a gay activist and community organizer collected papers from those early meetings, which can be found at the Glenbow Archives. Sadly, he himself died of AIDS in 1994.
Nationally, the recently launched AIDS Activist History Project is working to document Canadian AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s. The Calgary Gay History Project will work collaboratively with the project to preserve our local stories. As always, if you do have something to share, please contact us: here.
The Calgary Gay History Project is honoured to participate in Historic Calgary Week 2014, a program of the Chinook Country Historical Society. We are reprising the very popular Beltline Gay History Walk that happened during last year’s Pride Week celebrations.
The event “runs” from 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Saturday, July 26th and begins and ends at CommunityWise (formerly known as the Old Y) at 223 12 Ave. SW. We will be meeting outside the building near the front steps. As an aside, those steps and porch were recently renovated and have been nominated for the Calgary Heritage Authority’s Lion Awards on July 31st (also an event in Historic Calgary Week).
Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.
In a happy coincidence, I was at the Glenbow Museum Archives today, going through gay activist Doug Young’s personal records and came across his hand drawn map of the Beltline from the mid-80’s. Interestingly, there were more queer spaces at that time, then we have today.
Looking forward to seeing you at the walk!
We needed a quiet month after the excitement of the Club Carousel Cabaret. The amount of press we had was amazing and the sold out performance was more amazing still. Check out the Calgary Herald review by Stephen Hunt.
The Calgary Gay History Project owes a big thanks to the artistic vision of Third Street Theatre: Paul Welch and Jonathan Brower for the creation of the cabaret. Their next production opens this month: Late, A Cowboy Song runs from March 11 – 22nd, 2014: you should check it out. Congratulations also to Paul for getting the Enbridge Emerging Artist Award at the recent Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions.
Look for new weekly gay history posts this month on Thursdays. Now, however, we are calling you to search for old files, photos, meeting minutes, T-shirts, badges, pins, flags, queer publications, or other memorabilia that you could donate to a newly forming gay archives. We (Kevin Allen and Carolyn Anderson) met with the Glenbow Archives last month, and walking through their vaults, saw that our community’s history is missing.
Here is where it could go:
Future Gay History Archive at the Glenbow here? Photo: Carolyn Anderson
The Calgary Gay History Project is currently gathering archival materials. If donated to the future archives they will be cared for in perpetuity and made accessible to future researchers. You might even be eligible for a tax receipt! Contact Kevin for more information.