Tag Archives: Stephen Lock

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.

{KA}

Infighting in 1980

Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC) hosted the 8th Annual National Conference of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition (CLGRC). Typically all of the cities who had hosted the conference in years prior also had coordinated a parade. However, factions in Calgary’s gay community were opposed to having a gay rights march here. The most prominent voices against were gay club owner Vance Campbell and Reverend Lloyd Greenway of MCC Calgary.

At a feisty public forum, sponsored by GIRC on April 7th, the parade’s opposition was strongly manifest, forcing GIRC to reluctantly cancel the planned march and propose a rally instead. The critique against the march centred around fears of property damage as well as religious, homophobic backlash.

Vance Campbell, who owned the Parkside Continental and who also was a part owner of Myrts and the Backlot, sent a letter to Mayor Ross Alger regarding the parade, stating: “The remarks attributed to GIRC are not fully representative of the gay community, but of a small group of persons interested in creating a problem where previously there had not been one.” He copied his missive to Calgary’s Chief of Police, Brian Sawyer.

Rev. Lloyd Greenway said, “We’ve had it good here for so long. There are other ways to get rights than be going out and marching. Calgary does not need a bunch of eastern radicals – and believe me I’m from the east and I know what they’re like – marching through downtown.”

The Imperial Court of the Chinook Arch was on the record saying: “the minute you start flaunting yourself, you’ve got a problem. [The march] is an embarrassment to the entire community.”

There was also a petition, whose source was unknown, circulating in local gay clubs, addressed to the Mayor and Chief of Police to thwart any proposed gay rights march.

The divisive debate was widely covered in local press, and saw several gay sources make controversial statements such as suggesting that there was no discrimination in Alberta, and that gays have it good in Calgary. GIRC, and the rest of the activist community in Calgary (as well as across the country), strenuously disagreed. The Body Politic, Canada’s gay liberation journal, wrote an editorial decidedly in support of a march.

By mid-May GIRC’s Board of Directors decided to obtain a parade permit – just in case – should the conference delegates decide to hold a march on their own accord. However, Chief Sawyer refused to sign a parade permit and told GIRC that participants in an unauthorized march would be arrested and charged with creating an unlawful public disturbance.

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GIRC President Bob Harris talking to Police at City Hall Rally, June 28, 1980.  Photo source: Body Politic, Issue 65 August 1980.

In the end, about 40 angry conference delegates massed on City Hall on June 28th, for refusing to issue the parade permit. They silently picketed for about 30 minutes: purposefully silent so as “not to create a public disturbance.” They then sang, “O Canada,” and headed off to their planned gay rights rally on St. Patrick’s Island. Ironically, the assembled group marched over there without any trouble.

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Calgary Activist Stephen Lock at City Hall Protest.  Source: Body Politic, Issue 65, August 1980.

{KA}

 

1989 – Burning Down The House

Arson in the Old Y, is our third and final post in advance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia coming up next week on May 17th.

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On the evening of April 20th, 1989 a fire was started in the basement office of Lesbian and Gay Youth Calgary (LGYC), one of several gay and lesbian groups housed at the Old Y, 223 12 Ave. SW (now called CommunityWise). Firefighters were called around 8:30 pm to extinguish the blaze which fortunately was contained to the LGYC office. There were no injuries, but about 40 people were evacuated from the three-storey brick building. The LGYC office was heavily damaged by smoke and there was approximately $1000 worth of structural damage to the building.

“Quick extinguishing of the blaze kept damage to a minimum,” said fire department Captain Gord Cantley to local press.

Arson investigators determined the blaze was deliberately set. The fire was started in a garbage can and was made to appear as an accident. None of the contents of the office were disrupted and it occurred about an hour after volunteers had left the LGYC office.

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Modern Pink Cover Illustration: Joey Sayer

Stephen Lock, who worked at Gay Lines upstairs in the Old Y, speculated that LGYC had been targeted. He said: “The fact that the offices are tucked away in the basement in a maze-like area indicates to me somebody searched them out.”

The LGBT community was bracing for an increase in violence that summer due to the very high profile Gordon Summers case in Calgary. The 24-year old, who knowingly was HIV positive, faced three counts of aggravated assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with one man and two women, one his girlfriend. This precedent-setting legal case made Summers a household name that April, and a source of AIDS panic locally. {He later pled guilty to the lesser charge of being a common nuisance and was sentenced to a year in jail.}

The arson investigation seemed dormant for a couple of months but then police started questioning members of LGYC. In June, the group received a letter from the city stating that the investigation may reveal that LGYC was responsible for the damages to the city-owned building, surprising everyone at the Old Y.

That same day as receiving the letter, the Police arrested 19-year old Robert John Girouard at the LGYC office, who was carted away to the surprise and shock of the other LGYC members present. LGYC later released a public statement: “It is the position of Lesbian and Gay Youth Group of Calgary, that the arrest was unjust and that the accused is completely innocent.”

Girouard went to court July 11th and pled not guilty. The court set a preliminary inquiry date for October 18th, but it is unclear that he was ever convicted.

{KA}