Tag Archives: Our Past Matters

Grateful for #YYCPride

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.”

Button Sales paid for early Calgary Pride events.

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.

If you want a physical copy, please support Calgary independent bookstores! Our Past Matters can be found at Shelf Life, Owl’s Nest and Pages on Kensington. As well, the Glenbow Museum and Lougheed House gift shops have copies for sale.

You can purchase a copy and have it mailed through the Calgary Gay History Project website.

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!

2020 Pride Mural in Central Memorial Park by artist Mike Hooves

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.

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#GlenbowFromHome with #OurPastMatters

As we celebrate pride month and commemorate the Stonewall Riots tomorrow with 24- hour worldwide programming, here in Calgary, the Glenbow Museum’s Jenny Conway Fisher interviewed Kevin Allen about his book Our Past Matters.

In this far-ranging discussion, Jenny and Kevin explore how queer history resonates with the currents of today. They talk about the Pride movement and note that Calgary Pride, whose origin event was in June 1990, celebrated their 30th anniversary this month. Kevin also explains how the Glenbow Archives contributed to the making of Our Past Matters.

Check out the 36-minute conversation: here. Thank you, Glenbow! It was a delight.

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Awards & Bad Blood

Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary was selected as a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the category of regional non-fiction. We must give a massive shout out to Calgary Gay History Project supporter, Lolly de Jonge, who encouraged us to enter. The award ceremony this year is being held virtually on June 26th at 6 PM on Facebook Live. Thank you, Lolly, we feel grateful for the honour!

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Collage from Bad Blood

In January, we were approached to participate in a journalism multimedia project by students from Mount Royal University. They were interested in exploring the history of Canada’s blood donation ban from men who have sex with men. The creative team consisted of Nathan Woolridge, Karina Zapata, and Riggs Zyrille Vergara. They recently published an interactive website titled: Bad Blood. It takes a deep dive into the history of the tainted blood scandal, the current legal context for gay donors, and the champions who are trying to progress the country forward. It is well worth a read. Congratulations, Nathan, Karina, and Riggs!

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