This week’s post is a bit of a departure from the standard queer history snippet. I am not keen on the word “faggot” especially used as an insult. We have not repatriated it like “queer,” and I wonder if in a generation I would feel the same way about “faggot” as many of our elders do about “queer” having a permanent taint.
Until this week, however, I had not heard that insult thrown at me for a good long time – perhaps not since the 90s. Yet I was verbally assaulted with “f@$%ing faggot” TWICE in the last few days: Monday on the C-Train and Tuesday on a downtown street. Both times I stood there in disbelief after the parting verbal blow was delivered. It seemed so unlikely to have happened, that it took me a long moment to process – no witty or angry retorts – just stunned silence.
There is a national congratulatory theme in some of my queer history presentations, when we compare how far Canada has come in 45 years with respect to human rights after the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969. Now I am having a rethink of tone.
In April, I met Scott Jones on an anti-homophobia panel at Knox Presbyterian Church. He suffered a physical homophobic attack last year in Nova Scotia that left him in a wheelchair. He is transforming his tragedy into a public anti-homophobia campaign – called “Don’t Be Afraid” – but the fact of his attack is appalling.
I have no immediate remedy for homophobia and transphobia in Canada – or Calgary for that matter. However, these events have redoubled my commitment to the Calgary Gay History Project. We have an immediate need to get our history recorded and our archives preserved.
To this end, my job at the Alberta Media Arts Alliance (AMAAS) is quickly wrapping up this month. AMAAS is a great organization: I enjoyed the work, the camaraderie, and it was very good to me. But, I am leaving to devote more time to Calgary’s queer history – my new priority. It is my hope that we will be able to incorporate more volunteers into the project, as we aspire to create a history community.
Finally, support your local queer organizations, like Third Street Theatre, whose fundraiser is tomorrow night. Queer non-profits and community groups do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to social change. We obviously have further to go…