Tag Archives: twospirit

Hugh Dempsey (1929-2022)

The Celebration of Life service was held this week at Fort Calgary for Alberta Historian Hugh Dempsey. His contribution to local history is inestimable but the Calgary Gay History Project would like to reflect on a personal connection.

Hugh Dempsey in 2016. PHOTO BY CHRISTINA RYAN /Calgary Herald

Thirty years ago this autumn, I {Kevin} took a University of Calgary class, from Professor Dempsey: Canadian Studies 311, Indians of the Canadian Plains: an interdisciplinary approach. In 1992, Dr. Dempsey was recently retired from the Glenbow Museum, and his reputation was impressive.

The class really stuck with me; in fact, it was the only history course I took in my degree program. My term paper was about homosexuality in Plains Indian culture. I remember being very nervous about working on the topic because of taboos at the time, but Dr. Dempsey was unfailingly polite and supportive. He gave great feedback too; it turned out he knew a lot about the subject.

In 2020, I wrote to him as editor of Alberta History magazine (which he edited for more than 60 years!) and sent him a copy of my book, Our Past Matters.

I explained, “It wasn’t until I was 40 that I discovered a deep interest in history—almost by accident—and it has become a significant part of my life. I was just one of your many students, but I wanted to let you know that it was your class which planted a seed and eventually culminated in this book.”

He then dutifully read my book, and reviewed it in the next issue of the magazine. I was so pleased.

One never fully knows the ripples we cause in other people’s lives. I am very thankful that Dr. Dempsey affected mine.


Queer Film Saved Us

The Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen has created a historic poster exhibition for the City of Calgary’s Open Spaces program. Open Spaces began in 2009 and celebrates the diversity and quality of works by regional artists, with gallery windows on the Centre Street LRT platform: enlivening the Calgarian commuter experience.

The Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival premiered in Calgary on June 17, 1999, and has become a treasured annual event ever since. The LGBTQ2 Festival has a history of engaging talented local artists to design its festival posters. Over the years, Fairy Tales accumulated a backlog of visually iconic posters that served as both marketing vehicle and artwork. Queer Film Saved Us is a curated retrospective of those beautiful posters. They assert—on the walls, streets, and bulletin boards of Calgary—that queer people were here and always have been.

The 23rd Annual Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival, produced by the Calgary Queer Arts Society, is happening soon (online again this year): running from May 21 – 30, 2021.

Seeing ourselves represented on the big screen was alchemy and moved LGBTQ2 rights forward when public funding for queer cultural events was considered controversial. Festival organizers routinely got harassing phone calls and hateful mail but kept the event going—defiantly.

Fairy Tales posters would paper the streets every year at festival time, claiming space in our city. Queer Film Saved Us is a retrospective of those claims: stylized, beautiful and proud. Artists and graphic designers represented in this exhibition include Lisa Brawn, Glen Mielke and Toqueboy Studios.

Poster from the 5th Annual Festival created by Toqueboy Studios

We especially thank Heather Campbell, Public Art Consultant for the City of Calgary, who managed all of the administrative details for this exhibition. She is a delightful and enthusiastic collaborator.