Tag Archives: transgender

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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Remembering Mark

One of the moving aspects of working on local gay history is that—sometimes—the stories you are sharing of long dead activists come to life when living family members reach out and connect.

In April, I was writing a series about AIDS: reflecting on one pandemic while we move through another. I discovered the story of Mark Perry-Schaub, a thwarted Calgary ’88 Winter Olympics volunteer, who fought to regain his volunteer position after losing it, because he had AIDS.

After coming across the post, Ann—a relative—wrote to me. Mark died before Ann was born; this unknown Uncle left a haunting ache in Ann’s family.

Mark Perry-Schaub (photo courtesy of his family)

Ann explained: “I’ve always been drawn to learning more about Mark, and talking about him. That’s why I contacted [his friend] Dave McKeen when I was 16, and attempted to contact Doug McKay, Mark’s friend who’d been his roommate and cared for him in the final months (unfortunately McKay died in 2005 when I was a toddler). I’ve written a number of essays on Mark, and AIDS in general, for school… I just always wanted to know more, like as much as is possible without being able to meet him. I think being LGBT+ myself results in me being even more interested, like he could have been such a great supportive figure in my life. We could have been close.” 

Ann shared photos, news clippings, and fleshed out details of Mark from family stories. Mark, even appeared in an AIDS Calgary video: Respect Yourself Protect, Yourself. Although I had seen it before, I did not make the connection that the man named Mark in the video was Mark Perry-Schaub. What a surprise to see Mark animated again!

Mark in a still from AIDS Respect Yourself Protect Yourself

According to Ann, Dave McKeen told her that: “Mark had a heart of gold and even when too ill to really help, he was still volunteering his time and energy to help those in greater need; no one volunteered as much as he did.”

Mark died on April 1, 1988, aged 26, just weeks after the Calgary Winter Olympics concluded. His memorial service was held at the Metropolitan Community Church. Although his parents weren’t in attendance, his siblings were; it was a profound loss.

Ann shares, “it sounds like he was an amazing person. Of everyone, alive or dead, he’s the person I’d want to meet the most. I imagine he’d have been an awesome uncle.”

I think Ann is right…

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The Drummer of Ville-Marie

Fernie is a renowned, picturesque, little ski town 300 kms away from Calgary, and secondary home to many Calgarians, including myself. The Fernie Pride Society hosts the Elk Valley Pride Festival every Autumn. Part of the charm of this Festival, is how thoroughly Fernie embraces Pride. This year, Lindsay Vallance, the Fernie Museum’s Collections Manager, produced an entertaining short video of a little-known gay history story from 17th Century proto-Canada.

She includes rowing galleys, French kings, missionaries, executioners, and the Iroquois Confederacy.

Thank you, Lindsay. You have made a wry, thrumming, drumming contribution to gay history!

{KA}