Tag Archives: lesbian

Shop local with @yycgayhistory

‘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}

Giller Mayr

We are delighted that Calgary queer author Suzette Mayr has won the 2022 Giller Prize for her latest novel, The Sleeping Car Porter. It is the story of Baxter, a closeted gay Black man working as a porter on a Canadian passenger train in 1929. 

Suzette Mayr with her Giller Prize. Photo: Taro PR via Xtra.ca

Of the winning book, the jury wrote:

“Suzette Mayr brings to life –believably, achingly, thrillingly a whole world contained in a passenger train moving across the Canadian vastness, nearly one hundred years ago. As only occurs in the finest historical novels, every page in The Sleeping Car Porter feels alive and immediate and eerily contemporary. The sleeping car porter in this sleek, stylish novel is named R.T. Baxter called George by the people upon whom he waits, as is every other Black porter. Baxter’s dream of one day going to school to learn dentistry coexists with his secret life as a gay man, and in Mayr’s triumphant novel we follow him not only from Montreal to Calgary, but into and out of the lives of an indelibly etched cast of supporting characters, and, finally, into a beautifully rendered radiance.”

We last saw Suzette two years ago in the depths of the Covid pandemic at the Fernie Pride Festival. There was a window in September 2020 when public health restrictions allowed for outdoor gatherings in restricted numbers. So despite the evening chill and the anxiety of the early pandemic, Suzette came out for Pride. Her author talk and reading was from Monoceros—a previously celebrated, queer-themed work, which had been long-listed for the Giller Prize.

Authors Angie Abdou and Suzette Mayr at the Fernie Pride Festival, Sept. 25, 2020.

Our literary event host, author Angie Abdou, and Suzette were good-humoured about the hot drinks, warm clothes and torch heaters that made the event possible. Despite the obstacles, we were all so grateful to be together after months of being home alone. Thank you, Suzette, for showing up for the queer community the way you do. We’re such big fans and proud of your success—congratulations!

{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}