Tag Archives: Windi Earthworm

1978: a Windi blowback for Anita Bryant

The Calgary Gay History Project has written before about gay activist Windi Earthworm and anti-gay rights crusader Anita Bryant – but separately. In fact, they had an antagonistic encounter in 1978. That year, Anita swung through Canada as part of Renaissance International’s Christian Liberation Crusade. She made a tour stop in Edmonton on April 29th. 40 Calgary activists hurried north, joining activists there, to protest her cross-Canada tour.

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Anita Bryant in the May 1, 1978 edition of The Albertan

Windi and his friend Myra “My” Lipton went independently of the loosely organized “Calgarians against Anita” delegation. They decided direct action was required to disrupt Bryant’s auditorium of 6000 supporters. My remembered: “We got in under the guise that we were students doing a study about the spaces people meet in. We scoped out the stage and decided on our spot. I helped Windi chain and lock himself.”

My then went into the seats to find a spot to generate a call and response disturbance with Windi, but she turned back when she noticed audience members hassling him. She asked Windi if he was OK. He replied, “Yeah, except these really kind Christian folk are ready to hang me,” by the chain around his neck.

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Windi Earthworm in the May 1, 1978 edition of The Albertan

Anita eventually appeared at the Northlands Coliseum under heavy police escort. Windi screamed: “You have me in shackles, Anita!” She replied, “I love you, and I know enough to tell you the truth so you will not go to eternal damnation.” Windi called back, “You love me so much you want me in prison.” The heckling continued intermittently throughout the event. The courageous Calgarians were detained briefly afterwards for questioning by police and were permitted to leave.


Before GIRC. YYC gay support in the 70s.

The Calgary Gay History project recently posted about the origins of Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC). However there was an earlier, somewhat short-lived group, “A People’s Liberation Coalition” (PLC), which pre-dates GIRC.

Started in early January 1973, the PLC aimed to serve the local gay community by offering information and counselling: the peer support model which carries through to this day. Their office was located at the Old Y (now CommunityWise) in room 314, and they attempted to have office hours from 7-11 PM, seven days/week.

After its founding,the PLC announced their intention to sponsor “a mixed boogie” at a local community hall.

An Australian gay activist named Brian Lindberg who travelled through Western Canada later in 1973 described the movement in Calgary as going through a difficult period. He wrote:

The gay information centre was staffed by only a few people (one in particular) who continued to maintain the service even though little assistance could be obtained. Considering the population size of Calgary, I was surprised not to find a well organized gay liberation movement.

Some of the people involved, in PLC were activists, Windi Earthworm, My Lipton, Len Girivitz and Jeannie MacKay, who as a group were later responsible for GIRCs founding in 1975. We know that some of the PLC liberationists came from the University of Calgary. My Lipton, a lesbian feminist, was described in the student newspaper, The Gauntlet, as a “militant gay liberationist,” and was involved in the founding of a Gay Liberation Front chapter on campus in the Autumn of 1972.

Gay lib front meeting - first ad_announcement_Sept 1972

Little else is known at present about the PLC. At the Old Y they are not listed as one of the historic groups who had office space there.  If you know more, contact us: here.


GIRC Origins

Calgary has had a steady succession of social service groups for the LGBTQ community. Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC) began in June 1975, and was spearheaded by gay artist and activist Windi Earthworm. It lasted until the early 80s, and notably hosted the National Gay Rights Conference in 1980.

Although it eventually became resident at the Old Y, its first location was in the historic Thomson Brothers Block on Stephen Avenue, now part of the Hyatt Hotel complex.

Thomson Bros Block, 1983

Thomson Bros. Block in 1983.  Photo Credit: Harry Palmer, http://www.aportratitofcanada.ca

Windi and his cofounders were considered radicals: upsetting the homophobic and uptight status quo. To announce the founding of the new group, they sent postcards to other gay groups locally and nationally. The phrase, “Calgary has finally gotten off its ‘cowboy ass'” was deemed abusive language by Canada Post, but with push back, GIRC got them through the mail unaltered.

Marketing their new organization further proved difficult with local media. Calgary had two daily newspapers at the time, the Albertan and the Calgary Herald. GIRC targeted local gays with a simple ad consisting of their name and address. This was accepted by the Albertan, who commented, “if it’s alright with Trudeau, it’s alright with us.” {A reference to the Trudeau backed 1969 omnibus bill which decriminalized homosexuality.}

The Calgary Herald flatly refused.  GIRC organized a meeting with the newspaper’s advertising manager, who opined that GIRC’s goal was to destroy the family.  He said: “The Herald is a family medium and it’s going to stay that way.” GIRC complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the Alberta Press Council; both refused to help.

Media censorship of LGBTQ content was prevalent throughout Canada in the 1970s. There were several high profile lawsuits in other cities, as Canadian society struggled with an increasingly vocal and visible queer minority. In Calgary this kind of censorship continued until the end of the century with media resistance to the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Association’s (GLCSA) Out is OK advertising campaign. Like GIRC 25 years earlier, the ad consisted only of text: the phrase “Out is OK” and a telephone number.

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