Fernie is a renowned, picturesque, little ski town 300 kms away from Calgary, and secondary home to many Calgarians, including myself. The Fernie Pride Society hosts the Elk Valley Pride Festival every Autumn. Part of the charm of this Festival, is how thoroughly Fernie embraces Pride. This year, Lindsay Vallance, the Fernie Museum’s Collections Manager, produced an entertaining short video of a little-known gay history story from 17th Century proto-Canada.
She includes rowing galleys, French kings, missionaries, executioners, and the Iroquois Confederacy.
Thank you, Lindsay. You have made a wry, thrumming, drumming contribution to gay history!
Reflecting on the 30th anniversary of Calgary Pride, I am struck by our progress. In June 1990, the Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild (CLAGPAG), organized the founding Calgary Pride rally in Central Memorial Park, explicitly to protest our lack of human rights protections.
In his address to the pride rally, organizer Stephen Lock exclaimed:
“The prejudice and hatred continues. In Alberta, gay men, lesbians and bisexual women and men still do not have the rights our heterosexual peers enjoy. We still live under a government that, despite every opportunity to educate themselves on the reality of our lives and being, choose instead to cling to the poisonous myths, and to deny us, once again, the rights and protections that should be guaranteed every citizen of this province…
The right wing has enormous power on this continent and it is on the attack against us. It is dedicated in its zeal to eradicate the world of ‘the evil of homosexuality.’ Bashing us from the podiums and pulpits is no different than bashing us with baseball bats and iron pipes…
We need to fight back.”
In the early ’90s, there were more than 30 LGBTQ community organizations in Calgary, operating almost completely without government or institutional funding. AIDS deaths were increasing exponentially, gay bashings were commonplace, and lesbian mothers and gay fathers were denied access to their children.
Local media published hateful articles and editorials, such as this example in the Gauntlet, that same summer:
“Personally, what I see is a bunch of people who have nothing better to do with their time than wallow in self pity, and want to pass a law so they can enjoy an advantageous position over the rest of society. This is not a request for tolerance but shoving their choice in sexual practice down everyone else’ throat.”
Our community was defiant to sentiments like this.
Those early Calgary Pride Celebrations were astoundingly fuelled on volunteer power and button sales. Furthermore, we were standing on the shoulders of another generation who had defied even more intense social stigma and criminalization, organizing the first gay spaces, like Club Carousel.
During Calgary Pride 2020, our resilience has been again on display. The community has come together in innovative ways, offering programming, connection and empowerment to all of us. I am grateful that our community leaders sought to take the pandemic head on, reimagining what Pride could be in the context of a health crisis.
I am also grateful that Calgary Pride commissioned the Our History Matters series curated by historian and researcher Tereasa Maillie. It’s critical that we can reflect on our human rights journey: to see where we have come, and to understand what still needs to be done.
Thanks to all of the Calgarians who have come on Gay History Walks—fundraisers for Calgary Pride—all sold out!
The book, Our Past Matters, feels like it has been rediscovered this month. For everyone who has sent compliments, my heartfelt thanks. Some people have been uncertain as where to buy it. Here is the skinny.
Finally, if an e-book is more your thing, you can order it from Amazon.ca.
Fans of the book, can support its future by leaving positive reviews on Amazon or Good Reads.
One of this week’s highlights for me was meeting (virtually) lesbian historian Lillian Faderman. If you are interested in American LGBTQ history, her books are fine!
So tomorrow, in the other dimension where we are marching and celebrating and dancing and feasting after the Pride Parade, pause a moment to consider how far we have journeyed with Calgary Pride since 1990.
One of Kevin Allen’s favourite aspects of the Calgary Gay History Project are public gay history walks. Started at Jane’s Walk 2013, Kevin has been conducting these tours of a little known Calgary ever since. There is something unique about locating history in the landscape. Parks, alleys, and storefronts open to reveal their hidden past. Walkers learn new stories about the neighbourhoods they live in or travel through.
Every year the walk evolves as more stories from Calgary’s LGBTQ2 past come to light. Kevin will be hosting several walks for Calgary Pride 2020: two in the Beltline, and two Downtown. All of them are fundraisers for Calgary Pride, whose operations have been sharply impacted by the pandemic.
The Beltliner Presents Pride History Walk & Brunch
Kevin has teamed up with The Beltliner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Calgary Pride with a History Walk through the Beltline, followed by brunch on both Saturday, August 29th and Sunday, August 30th at 11 AM.
The event begins at The Beltliner (243 12 Ave. SW) with coffee and pastry for the Walk, which lasts approximately one hour. We will travel to significant historical gathering spots for the LGBTQ2 community in this inner city neighbourhood, including Calgary’s first gay bar, Club Carousel. Returning to the restaurant, brunch will be served! Tickets are $50 (plus applicable taxes and fees) and are available at www.showpass.com/pridehistorywalk.
The event is an #OURPRIDE initiative which invites businesses to host their own pride festival event to show support for Calgary’s LGBTQ2 community and raise funds for Calgary Pride.
Downtown Calgary presents a Downtown Gay History Walk
The Calgary Downtown Association is hosting a tour with Kevin that will explore the city’s LGBTQ2 past through the city core on Saturday, August 29th and Saturday, September 5th at 2 PM. This one hour tour will inspire a deeper understanding of the community’s struggles and activism in Calgary and highlight significant political and social events that affected the gay community. On the way, tour guests will pass by several former watering holes where Calgary’s gay community gathered.
Note: Tickets are limited in all tours to allow for physical distancing. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather. Although we will miss the Pride Parade this year, march with Kevin on a 2020 YYC Gay History Walk!