Tag Archives: Rick Sullivan

CURED @ CUFF.Docs

Today the 8th Annual CUFF.Docs Documentary Film Festival opens and runs until December 1st. As per new pandemic restrictions the festival has moved completely online. If you like documentaries, this festival always delivers. Now they have a must-see film for queer history fans.

CURED takes viewers inside the campaign that led to a pivotal moment in the struggle for LGBTQ equality: the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Combining eyewitness testimony with newly unearthed archival footage, the film reveals how a small group of impassioned activists achieved this unexpected victory.

“Suspenseful and furnishing a slam-dunk case about the landmark importance of this event, Cured is probably the best LGBTQ documentary of the year.” – Bay Area Reporter

Interestingly, there is a Calgary connection to this historical event. Rick Sullivan, a University of Calgary grad student and gay activist of the early 70s attempted a similar intervention. He met with local delegates to the American Psychological Association’s AGM to bring forward a motion to strike homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM. The U of C delegates going to the convention declined to bring his motion forward. He says: “I remember being very stung by this at a personal as well as a political level.”

U of C Student and Calgary Gay Liberation Front co-founder Rick Sullivan in 1974

Brennan Tilley, CUFF’s lead film programmer says: “a common theme across many selections in CUFF.Docs this year is how stories are told and by whom. We have several films that feature subjects that define their own narrative. The inclusion of homosexuality in the DSM is an oft mentioned piece of history. What is rarely covered is how it came to be removed. The ultimate decision came four years after the Stonewall uprising. There is a stark contrast in the methods of these two events but they are closely tied stepping stones in the progress of LGBTQ rights. It is important to highlight how a landmark decision was reached through meetings, academic research, symposia, reviews, deliberations, and a vote. It also is much more entertaining than one might expect from a documentary about a scientific body altering a manual.”

An image from CURED: activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and Dr. Anonymous

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Gauntlet Mining finds History Gems

The University of Calgary Student Press, 1970-1980: From Anonymous Classified Ads to Gay Liberation Op-Eds to Gay Academic Union as a Part of Campus Life

As the Criminal Code changes that decriminalized private same-sex acts between consenting adults in Canada went into effect in August 1969, the legal struggle against discrimination, for full civil and human rights of sexual minorities and for social and political change in Canada was just beginning. The 1970s are often called a formative age of queer activism: a time of gay and lesbian liberation movements, changing mores about sexuality in general, of a forging of a more visible community of people identifying by their sexual orientation, building upon but moving away from underground queer subcultures (as discussed in an earlier post on The Body Politic).

We looked at over ten years (1969-1980) of the University of Calgary student newspaper, The Gauntlet, to deepen our understanding of Calgary’s gay and lesbian history during this turbulent decade, and explore the role that the University and its student press played, providing a space for debate, but also for reaching out, support and organizing around an emerging advocacy agenda.

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The Gauntlet Classified Ads – 1972

Despite the Gauntlet’s uneven editorial tone and often flawed reporting, as well as many omissions of landmark moments in gay and lesbian activism of the 1970s, a look at its writing from this decade still reveals important aspects of gay and lesbian history in the city. Moreover, it testifies to the role that the University of Calgary played as a public space, where early gay activism, as well as debate on some of the defining national gay and lesbian issues of the decade took place.

Read the full essay: here.

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