Tag Archives: University of Calgary

One year later #OurPastMatters

Our Past Matters launched one year ago today at the Central Library. I wanted to take a moment to thank readers, history buffs, and Calgary Gay History Project supporters for their positive embrace.

Here are some highlights from the book’s year.

On November 22, 2018, hundreds of Calgarians attended the book launch and filled the Central Library’s Theatre with warmth and enthusiasm for queer history.

Noel photo

Book launch at the Calgary Central Library: Photo Noel Bégin

Our Past Matters stayed on the Calgary Herald’s non-fiction best seller’s list for months, eventually hitting #1 in February 2019.

Thank you Number one

From the Calgary Herald – February 2, 2019

The University of Calgary’s Joe Kadi selected Our Past Matters as a course textbook for his spring class: LGBTQ+ Social Change History: From Stonewall to CalgaryIn June, we were invited to attend a lecture. It was a genuine honour to receive insightful questions and pertinent observations about the book from this group of engaged readers.

In September the Our Past Matters received national attention when the Calgary Gay History Project made the shortlist for the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming. (We just learned that we were not selected for the award, but remain grateful to have been given the nod).

GovernorGenerals-History-Award

So, it has been an absolutely lovely year. Upcoming plans for Our Past Matters include the imminent launch of the e-book edition and a book tour to a handful of Canadian cities in the New Year. (As a preview of touring, we just went to Fort Macleod’s inaugural Get Lit! festival last weekend and had such fun meeting local readers and pride organizers). Thank you again for believing in the Calgary Gay History Project and making Our Past Matters a “good read.”

Kevin @ shelflife

StarMetro Cover Story by Madeline Smith – December 3, 2018

{KA}

#OurPastMatters @UCalgary

It was with great delight that we hauled 48 copies of Our Past Matters to the University of Calgary bookstore recently. It has been selected as course reading material in the upcoming Spring term (May-June 2019). The class offered through the Department of Women’s Studies is called LGBTQ+ Social Change History: From Stonewall to Calgary and is taught by Joe Kadi.

Hannah Fan

A grad-student annotated copy of Our Past Matters.

Our Past Matters was intentionally written to be accessible – eschewing academic publishing standards and tone. However, the Calgary Gay History Project is excited that the academy has found a place for it. Local queer history should be digested and discussed in our post-secondary institutions! University students were essential players in Calgary’s queer history from 1970 onwards.

It is poetic to think that students taking this class are linking themselves to previous generations – on the same campus – through their interest in social change history.

{KA}

Our History with the Police

This week’s announcement by Calgary Pride, editing the presence of the Calgary Police in the Pride Parade, has stirred deep waters. Calgary’s LGBTQ community has a decidedly conflicted history with the city’s police: ignoring that fact or conflating the past with the present is equally unhelpful. Mayor Nenshi says: “Blaming current people for historical oppression would be like saying: ‘previous mayors of Calgary have refused to proclaim Pride Week, therefore the current mayor of Calgary isn’t invited to the parade.’ I have a challenge with that.”

Yet, as an analogy of the situation, his response is far too superficial.

Redistribution of power is the existential issue of our generation. At every level in society, we see social justice combating social conservatism. There has been a lot of fallout. Although Canada seems to be managing this redistribution slightly better than other places, dealing with atonement, integration and resistance to change has been a weary-making struggle for everyone.

One of the strategies in progressing forward is to know our history and to look at it unflinchingly.

Fact: We were surveilled and incarcerated in large numbers, particularly in the period between World War II and 1969. In 1967, Everett Klippert, a Calgary bus driver received a life sentence just for being gay which triggered a change in the laws around the criminalization of homosexuality in 1969. Calgary leaders, including our politicians, were vehemently opposed to decriminalization. Then police chief Ken McIver described homosexuality as a “horrible, vicious and terrible thing. We do not need this in our country.”

Ken McIver 1968

Police Chief Ken McIver examines police graduates in January 1968: Source Glenbow Archives.

Fact: Calgary Police tracked gay student activists in the 70s, asking the University of Calgary for their records (the University courageously refused), showing up at their apartments and purposefully intimidating them.

Fact: Calgary Police routinely harassed gay men in Central Memorial Park in the 70s and 80s and would sometimes incarcerate them overnight without cause. This was not challenged until 1981 when gay University of Calgary Law Student, Henry Berg, filed a formal complaint against Calgary Police regarding abuse of police power after he spent a night in the drunk tank when he was not inebriated.

Fact: I (Kevin), personally, was stopped by a Calgary Police Officer in the summer of 1996 walking home after work in the late afternoon.  The male officer kept me for 15 minutes, and it became evident during his interrogation that the only reason I had been targeted was for my sexual orientation which he identified by the “funny way I was walking.” Although defiant at the time, I regrettably never pursued a complaint.

Fact: Goliath’s, a gay bathhouse in Calgary was raided for being a common bawdy house in 2002 with both found-ins and operators charged. The Crown eventually stayed the charges citing changed community standards.

Notwithstanding these facts, the Calgary Police have made great strides in transforming their culture concerning sexual and gender diversity – which could not have been easy. The first gay/police liaison committee began in the early 80s and was not a sincere effort but a cynical, placating move. However, over time, the two historically opposing communities built more trust. The police were actively trying to prevent hate crimes against our community throughout the 90s. Now they have diversity officers and actively try to recruit LGBTQ individuals to their ranks. Most recently they courageously opened their archives to the Calgary Gay History Project. It was courageous because a peek in their closet wasn’t pretty.

police-flag

A visit to the Calgary Police Archives with the Pride Flag flying at half mast for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida.

We in minority communities have some unattractive things in our closets too. But I firmly believe that we need to seek and share empowerment as we are able. I am a fan of creating braver spaces, as opposed to safer spaces. The viral video of Michelle Obama’s 2016 university commencement address, “Living Without Privilege Makes You Stronger” resonated forcefully with me.

If I had to decide whether Calgary Police could march in the Pride Parade in full uniform this year, I would not know what to do.  I understand and sympathize with the arguments from both sides. I have met Calgary Police officers who are decent people and great allies.

Intellectually, I want to trust police: there are many good reasons to do so, but emotionally – because of my lived experiences – I cannot say that I do. My deepest reflex is to not trust them.

Can my feelings change?  I am not sure.  I earnestly hope so.

{KA}