Tag Archives: Memorial Park

#YYCGayHistory @CalgaryPride 2019

Calgary Pride launches tomorrow, and the Calgary Gay History Project has a full slate of activities during the next ten days. Here are the offerings:

Friday, August 23rd: The Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary e-book release!

Sunday, August 25th: as part of Memorial Park Pride

1:30-2:30 PM – Calgary Gay History Lecture at the Memorial Park Library

3:00 PM – Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Outliers Screening

5:00-6:30 PM – Beltline Gay History Walk

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Beltline Gay History Walk during Pride 2017. Gary Evans, photo.

Monday, August 26th: Bill C-150, the bill “decriminalizing” homosexuality came into force on this day, 50 years ago. Keep your eyes peeled for a particular essay to commemorate this important date.

Wednesday, August 28th:

7:00-10:00 PM RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement: Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, Kevin Allen, MC.

Saturday, August 31st:

12:00-4:00 PM  – Join author Kevin Allen for a book signing of Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary at Chapters-Indigo Dalhousie or just stop by to say, “hi.”

Sunday, September 1st:

11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Pride in the Park. After the parade, stop by the Calgary Gay History Project’s History Booth. Share your own stories and learn more about Calgary’s LGBTQ2 Past.

Phew. It’s going to be a busy Pride!

On a final and sadder note, the Calgary Gay History Project would like to acknowledge the sudden and unexpected passing of Lisa Fahey last month. The 47-year old Calgarian was an indefatigable ally to our community and a driving force behind the Pride Employee Network for Imperial. She was a massive fan of the Calgary Gay History Project: one of our biggest cheerleaders in fact. Lisa regularly marched in the Calgary Pride Parade with her rainbow-festooned wiener dog, Pebbles – who proved to be a media darling, year after year. Lisa’s big heart, enthusiasm, and deep regard for social justice will be sorely missed.

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Greg Cashin and Lisa Fahey of Imperial’s Pride Employee Network with Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen (centre) in November 2016.

{KA}

 

The Western Alienation Merit Badge

Every summer, I take it upon myself to read some gay history fiction while enjoying seasonal downtime. Last summer it was The Well of Loneliness; this summer, to my delight, it is a Calgary story. The Western Alienation Merit Badge is the first novel from author Nancy Jo Cullen, a former Calgarian, and recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. It has been gathering plaudits and praise.

Western Alienation Merit Badge

Our Summer Read for 2019

The book chronicles the staggering trials of the Murray family during the 1982 oil recession in Calgary. A death in the family, unplanned pregnancy and a coming-out story test family bonds against a backdrop of economic precariousness – a lot of drama, which Cullen deftly weaves with a poetic touch. My favourite aspect of the book is its use of non-linear time. The plot ricochets through the decades and only slowly reveals the larger tapestry of the Murray family’s sadness and regrets.

The Western Alienation Merit Badge has some eerie resonances to the Calgary of today. An economic slump mixed with anti-Trudeau rhetoric and general Calgarian embitterment makes one think distressingly about the cyclical nature of our city. After all, was it not that legendary 1980s recession that brought us the bumper sticker: “Please God, let there be another oil boom. We promise not to piss it away this time.”

The book also takes us to a period where gay identity was generally disparaged. In the early 80s, coming out was fraught with rejection, and new support groups like the Lesbian Infomation Line were saving lives.

It is fun to read a smart book where Calgary is given a starring role. The locations, the atmosphere, and the dialogue are all achingly familiar. Plus there is a queer protagonist at the heart of it – fans of Calgary gay history could not ask for anything more!

Tangentially, “Oh The Fun We Had” is the theme of this year’s Historic Calgary Week, which starts today. History buffs have a bursting smorgasbord of programming to feast on.

The Calgary Gay History Project will be part of Historic Calgary week again in 2019. In collaboration with the Calgary Public Library, we are hosting a lecture titled: Among friends: the history of LGBTQ2+ recreation and sport in Calgary. Join us on Saturday, August 3rd from 1:00 – 2:00 PM at the Memorial Park Library. There is a post-lecture screening at 2:30 PM of Outliers: Calgary’s Queer History (the Directors Cut) in partnership with the Calgary Queer Arts Society.

We hope to see you out and happy summer reading!

{KA}

Our History with the Police

This week’s announcement by Calgary Pride, editing the presence of the Calgary Police in the Pride Parade, has stirred deep waters. Calgary’s LGBTQ community has a decidedly conflicted history with the city’s police: ignoring that fact or conflating the past with the present is equally unhelpful. Mayor Nenshi says: “Blaming current people for historical oppression would be like saying: ‘previous mayors of Calgary have refused to proclaim Pride Week, therefore the current mayor of Calgary isn’t invited to the parade.’ I have a challenge with that.”

Yet, as an analogy of the situation, his response is far too superficial.

Redistribution of power is the existential issue of our generation. At every level in society, we see social justice combating social conservatism. There has been a lot of fallout. Although Canada seems to be managing this redistribution slightly better than other places, dealing with atonement, integration and resistance to change has been a weary-making struggle for everyone.

One of the strategies in progressing forward is to know our history and to look at it unflinchingly.

Fact: We were surveilled and incarcerated in large numbers, particularly in the period between World War II and 1969. In 1967, Everett Klippert, a Calgary bus driver received a life sentence just for being gay which triggered a change in the laws around the criminalization of homosexuality in 1969. Calgary leaders, including our politicians, were vehemently opposed to decriminalization. Then police chief Ken McIver described homosexuality as a “horrible, vicious and terrible thing. We do not need this in our country.”

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Police Chief Ken McIver examines police graduates in January 1968: Source Glenbow Archives.

Fact: Calgary Police tracked gay student activists in the 70s, asking the University of Calgary for their records (the University courageously refused), showing up at their apartments and purposefully intimidating them.

Fact: Calgary Police routinely harassed gay men in Central Memorial Park in the 70s and 80s and would sometimes incarcerate them overnight without cause. This was not challenged until 1981 when gay University of Calgary Law Student, Henry Berg, filed a formal complaint against Calgary Police regarding abuse of police power after he spent a night in the drunk tank when he was not inebriated.

Fact: I (Kevin), personally, was stopped by a Calgary Police Officer in the summer of 1996 walking home after work in the late afternoon.  The male officer kept me for 15 minutes, and it became evident during his interrogation that the only reason I had been targeted was for my sexual orientation which he identified by the “funny way I was walking.” Although defiant at the time, I regrettably never pursued a complaint.

Fact: Goliath’s, a gay bathhouse in Calgary was raided for being a common bawdy house in 2002 with both found-ins and operators charged. The Crown eventually stayed the charges citing changed community standards.

Notwithstanding these facts, the Calgary Police have made great strides in transforming their culture concerning sexual and gender diversity – which could not have been easy. The first gay/police liaison committee began in the early 80s and was not a sincere effort but a cynical, placating move. However, over time, the two historically opposing communities built more trust. The police were actively trying to prevent hate crimes against our community throughout the 90s. Now they have diversity officers and actively try to recruit LGBTQ individuals to their ranks. Most recently they courageously opened their archives to the Calgary Gay History Project. It was courageous because a peek in their closet wasn’t pretty.

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A visit to the Calgary Police Archives with the Pride Flag flying at half mast for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida.

We in minority communities have some unattractive things in our closets too. But I firmly believe that we need to seek and share empowerment as we are able. I am a fan of creating braver spaces, as opposed to safer spaces. The viral video of Michelle Obama’s 2016 university commencement address, “Living Without Privilege Makes You Stronger” resonated forcefully with me.

If I had to decide whether Calgary Police could march in the Pride Parade in full uniform this year, I would not know what to do.  I understand and sympathize with the arguments from both sides. I have met Calgary Police officers who are decent people and great allies.

Intellectually, I want to trust police: there are many good reasons to do so, but emotionally – because of my lived experiences – I cannot say that I do. My deepest reflex is to not trust them.

Can my feelings change?  I am not sure.  I earnestly hope so.

{KA}