Tag Archives: human-rights

Bucking Conservatism Wins Award

At this month’s Alberta Book Publishing gala, Bucking Conservatism: Alternative Stories of Alberta from the 1960s and 1970s was awarded the Regional Book of the Year prize. Calgary Gay History Project researchers Nevena Ivanović and Kevin Allen contributed a chapter to the book with editor Larry Hannant called, “Gay Liberation in Conservative Calgary.”

About the Editors

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.

Reviews

[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.

{KA}

The 30 Years Ago Culture War

1992 was a tumultuous time for the LGBTQ2 community. AIDS deaths in Calgary were exponentially rising. Its response, Queer Nation (We’re here, we’re Queer, get used to it!) was also in the ascendent. Opinion polls stated clearly that the majority of Canadians did not support our rights.

If you were an out, undergraduate student at the University of Calgary, you were quickly conscripted into a culture war—I remember a lot of shouting on campus and gay bashing in the Beltline.

Our club at the University was called GLASS, which stood for the Gay and Lesbian Academics Students and Staff Society. GLASS was supposed to be a social organization but its very existence then was political. GLASS members—virtually all students and no staff—were foot soldiers in our human rights struggle.

On June 17, 1992, a poster was found tacked to the GLASS office door. It was an invitation scrawled in black sharpie: “FAG & LESBIAN BASHING. JUNE 30, 8 AM UNTIL MIDNIGHT. PLEASE COME, NEED VICTIMS.” The date and address listed were for Calgary’s 1992 Pride Parade & Festival at Tomkins Park.

From the U of C archives, GLASS file

In a press release the next day, Greg Lane, Co-chair for GLASS wrote: “Lesbians, gays and bisexuals live in a continual climate of potential violence. I am deeply concerned about these tools of oppression.” He noted that it was not the first time that GLASS had been targeted on campus.

In a move of solidarity, student politicians from the Students’ Unions of U of C, SAIT and Mount Royal College, all swiftly and publicly condemned the action of the unknown poster author, who was never caught, despite police involvement.

That October, GLASS held its second Blue Jeans Day, a borrowed gay liberation intervention from the 70s. It was rediscovered by many campuses in the 90s to coincide with National Coming Out Day. The idea was to wear denim if you supported gay rights. Blue Jeans Day became an explosive event in 1992 that was vociferously debated both in campus media and at many social gatherings on campus.

Gay Blue Jeans Day Poster from 1973, University of Melbourne Archives

Despite the vocal opposition, on October 9, 1992, Blue Jeans Days proceeded. Many varsity queers and their allies were cloaked head to toe in denim: our pride armour. Many others were pissed off and denim-less. It was an angry moment.

FFWD to 2022. Calgary Pride is back in person after the pandemic and will likely top 100,000 participants again. A decisive majority of Canadians support our rights. So much has changed, yet here we are in another angry moment in history, like the irate Valbella email sent to Canmore Pride.

Is this a call to arms? How did we get through this last time? Where can future pacific days be found? These are my questions—without answers yet—30 years after 1992.

{KA}

10 Moments in 10 Years @YYCgayhistory

We’ve returned from a three-month hiatus to celebrate both pride month and ten years since the Calgary Gay History Project was founded. We began as a tiny project for Calgary 2012 and have been growing ever since due to an active and engaged community.

Book Launch in November 2018
One of Kevin Allen’s first public history presentations in 2013

In gratitude, Kevin has reflected on a number of special moments from the decade’s deep dive into local queer history.

  1. The blog: www.calgarygayhistory.ca was the information clearing house that started everything. One post that blew up was: Our History with the Police, written during the 2017 debate around police participation in Calgary Pride. The most read blog post continues to be Gay men are smarter than straight men – so says history, written in 2013. It seems every day someone in the world googles “are gay men smart?”
  2. Gay History Walks. Ever since 2013, situating queer history in the Calgary landscape on a warm summer night with enthusiastic walkers is a slice of heaven (although we had a snow squall once that added a decidedly different frisson).
  3. Everett Klippert. His life story has been a focus of the Calgary Gay History Project since its inception. However, everything deepened when his family got involved with the Project in 2015. Together we excavated Everett’s very profound role in changing Canadian history in 1969. His story continues to have posthumous impact, most recently with the expungement of his criminal record in 2020.
  4. Club Carousel. Calgary’s original gay bar founded in 1970 was arguably the most formative queer space the city has ever seen. Our first commemorative Club Carousel Cabaret was held in 2014 at the High Performance Rodeo thanks to Third Street Theatre and our impresario Michael Green (RIP). Our second Cabaret was held in 2015 thanks to One Voice Chorus—sold out each time!
  5. Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story (2018). Saying “yes” to filmmaker Laura O’Grady was one of the best decisions we ever made. Not only did this short film garner festival laurels, but through the process Laura became a good friend. We made another great film in 2021, called Undetectable. Laura has our highest esteem.
  6. Our Past Matters. The book had a difficult birth. It took four years to write—not one year, as planned. However, it was embraced in pre-production by a successful Kickstarter campaign and since has gone on to be a local best-seller as well as on the curriculum for some University of Calgary undergraduate classes. We are ever so grateful both for insightful readers as well as independent bookstores.
  7. Legislating Love. Natalie Meisner’s play about the life of Everett Klippert was history turned into sublime art (I wept). Sage Theatre mounted the world premiere in 2018, and the play continues to gather praise, most recently winning an “Oscar” at this year’s Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival.
  8. HiR. Kevin was honoured to be the inaugural Historian in Residence when the New Central Library opened in 2018. It was a high water mark for the Calgary Gay History Project and a terrific experience. The Library graciously hosted the book launch of Our Past Matters—an incredibly special memory now.
  9. A Queer Map: The Calgary Atlas Project (2019). Kevin collaborated with artist Mark Clintberg on the first published map of the Calgary Atlas Project: an art project by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities at the University of Calgary. It’s beautiful.
  10. Lois Szabo Commons. Last summer the City of Calgary unveiled a new park dedicated to Lois Szabo, the only living founder of Club Carousel. The park is a public and permanent commemoration of queer history in our city. We were honoured to participate in the nomination process and count Lois as one of the dearest people we know.
Lois Szabo Commons Opens July 21, 2021

No historian is an island. So many people have contributed to the success of the Calgary Gay History Project. In closing, we would like to give a shout out to project volunteers past and present: Nevena, Del, Rosman, Matt, Ayanna, Sheldon, Laura, Jonathan, Nolan, and Tereasa!

{KA}