Tag Archives: Twisted Element

Local gay history is sprawling!

Happy Pride Calgary!

Today, Global Television airs Brave Beginnings of Calgary Pride and the Gay Rights Movement, as part of their Pride 2019 programming. A part of Club Carousel still exists! Thank you, Jill Croteau, for embracing yycgayhistory (and maybe saving that wall)…

Lois at CC

Club Carousel Founder Lois Szabo back at 1207 1 St. SW!

Last week we wrote incorrect dates for this weekend. The upcoming Calgary Gay History Project events are:

Saturday, August 31st:

12:00-4:00 PM  – Join author Kevin Allen for a book signing of Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary at Chapters-Indigo Dalhousie or just stop by to say, “hi.”

Sunday, September 1st:

11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Pride in the Park. After the parade, stop by the Calgary Gay History Project’s History Booth. Share your own stories and learn more about Calgary’s LGBTQ2 Past.

Jeremy Klaszus, editor and founder of The Sprawl, invited us to write an essay about gay history. We used the opportunity to mark the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150, the decriminalization of homosexuality coming into force, and the Calgarian who precipitated it, Everett Klippert. You can read it: here. After reading the essay, CBC Radio requested a live radio interview about the anniversary too.

Consider being a Sprawl supporter yourself – pop-up journalism may be a unique model for news, but the Sprawl has an impressive track record of insightful and meaningful local reportage. We love it.

Another highlight of the week was RISE. The audience at the Plaza Theatre was honoured and moved by the passionate recollections of two heroes from the gay rights movement, Ruth Coker Burks and Cleve Jones. Afterward one Calgarian exclaimed: “It was one of the most inspirational evenings I have ever attended.” I was very grateful to have MCed the event, which was manifested by Twisted Element’s Keon Brawn. Thank you, Keon, for showing the community such inspired leadership.

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RISE: An Evening of AIDS History in YYC

Two legendary figures associated with AIDS History, Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, are speaking in Calgary during Calgary Pride; we are agog!

Join us on Wednesday, August 28th, from 7-10 PM at the Plaza Theatre for an evening of social commentary and essential history.

Ruth Coker Burks is perhaps better known as the Cemetery Angel. Ruth, a former caregiver of AIDS crisis victims, is an AIDS awareness advocate based in Arkansas. During the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, she used her salary as a real estate agent to care for AIDS patients whose families and communities had forsaken them. Due to prejudice, fear, and stigma surrounding the disease, she was often the patients’ only caregiver until their passing. She is also recognized for burying abandoned bodies in her own family cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.


Cleve Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which grew into one of the largest and most influential People with AIDS advocacy organizations in the United States.

In 1985, Jones then started The Names Project, which resulted in tens of thousands of people making quilt panels to commemorate those they had lost to the disease. Also known as the AIDS Memorial Quilt, thousands of panels at a time toured North America. The Canadian National Tour of the quilt stopped in Calgary in July 1989. The 1000 visiting panels were hung in layered sections in the Calgary municipal building atrium. Fourteen panels created in Calgary were added to the Quilt during its pause in the city.

When We Rise

Jones will be available for a book signing at Pages on Kensington after the event.

There will be a free after-party for everyone who wants to carry on the conversation over beverages immediately afterward at Twisted Element.

RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement is presented by Twisted Element and HIV Community Link. Tickets are available: here.

Names Project

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest piece of community folk art in the world.

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YYC LGBTQ Legacy Sites

The City of Calgary’s LGBTQ Legacy Committee recently formed: a group spearheaded by Ward 8 City Councillor Evan Woolley, with support from the Calgary Gay History Project. The Committee’s goal is to commemorate our city’s LGBTQ history with a significant and lasting monument. We are at the beginning of the process but look forward to engaging with everyone who is interested in helping to shape what our monument could be.

One of the initial questions for a monument is where? The Beltline and the inner city seem like an obvious choice, as it is where much of our community spaces were clustered in the 20th Century.

Gay Beltline in the 80s

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

Gay activist Doug Young’s personal records are in the Glenbow Archives. His hand drawn map of the Beltline from the mid-80’s illustrates there were more queer spaces at that time, then we have today.

Some ideas for a monument location that we came up with:

  • The Old Y – now called CommunityWise, was the location of the first peer support organizations in Calgary, PLC and GIRC. It later hosted dozens of other queer non-profits and collectives and became the de facto hub for the LGBTQ community. Currently, CommunityWise is home to Calgary Outlink and Fairy Tales.
  • Central Memorial Park – a gay cruising park in the 70s, it was also the site of frequent police harassment of queers. Law student Henry Berg fought back in 1981. He took the police to task and won. Later in 1990, the Boer War Memorial at the centre of the park was the site of the first Pride Rally in 1990 – the origin of Calgary Pride.
  • McHugh House – Calgary’s 6th oldest building was moved recently into Humpty Hollow Park, in a corner of the Beltline that saw a lot of gay action, with nearby bars Myrts (later the Republik), Off Centre and later MoneyPennies in the Centre 15 building. Centre 15 also housed AIDS Calgary for a number of years.
  • Tomkins Park – the block-long green space nestled on the south edge of the Beltline, was the site of a number of Pride Festivals in the 1990s when the Pride Parade’s route went down 17th Avenue.
    screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-5-07-43-pm

    Sept 1978 Ad in Gay Calgary – a GIRC Newspaper

    It was also close to Books N’ Books, an independent bookstore which proudly sold LGBTQ books, newspapers and magazines (now Big Cheese Poutinerie).

  • Greenline 12th ave station – this new LRT station opening in 2024 might pop out at 12th avenue and 1st street SW (or be an underground station): super close to the original Club Carousel as well as the Old Y.
  • Connaught Park – this West-Central Beltline Park is surrounded by lots of hi-rise apartment buildings and walk-ups. Nearby City View Manor was rumoured to have been designed to house gay men exclusively, with walk-in closets and wrap around balconies.
  • Barb Scott Park – is close to current gay bar Twisted Element and the former Warehouse and Underground Pub (which earlier was a short-lived gay bathhouse).
  • Haultain Park – is close to Central Memorial Park, Old Y, and Club Carousel. Also not too far from A Woman’s Place Bookstore, another community hub in the 80s and 90s.
  • East Village – outside of the Beltline this is one of the oldest parts of Calgary. There was a historic bath house, somewhere east of City Hall in the early 20th century that had gay undertones. Later in the 70s, there was a gay steam bath named Dan Dominique’s on 3rd St. East between 7th and 8th Avenue, reportedly not recommended for the squeamish.

Where would you like to see a memorial? Write to calgarygayhistory@gmail.com – share your thoughts.

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