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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{KA}

9 responses to “GIRC Origins

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