I have lived in the Beltline for most of my adult life, which has also been central to Calgary’s queer community for more than 50 years. Additionally, most historians I know are voracious readers. Consequently, it is no surprise that my favourite Beltline store is Shelf Life Books.
Shelf Life has an interesting queer history itself as the site of the former Parkside Continental gay bar. There is an excellent mural on the backside of the store by Kyle Simmers, that subtly evokes this history with the inclusion of the bar’s now iconic logo.
The book store has been the largest seller of my book, Our Past Matters, and has hosted yycgayhistory special events for which I am very grateful. They also stock the books of queer friends and colleagues. Pick up any book by Suzette Mayr, Vivek Shraya, or Rae Spoon and you won’t be disappointed. Sharanpal Ruprai, whom I adore as a person, writes books of poetry that sing, charm, and sizzle. They also carry more comprehensive Canadian queer history readers such as the Valerie Korinek’s Prairie Fairies and The ArQuives‘ recently published OutNorth.
In fact, all independent book stores in Calgary need our custom. Furthermore think hyperlocal—support Calgary authors by buying their books. If you need inspiration, there is no greater source than Shaun Hunter’s Calgary Reading Lists. She virtually single-handedly has created a canon of local literature, as well as a useful reader in Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers.
I am wishing all Calgarians a safe, happy, and restful holiday season. Take care of yourselves and each other—find joy in unexpected places. — Kevin
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.
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.