Category Archives: Gay history

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.
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    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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CJSW’s Queer Programming: Old & New

This week saw the launch of Calgary’s newest queer radio show on the FM dial: Calgary Rainbow Radio. The Calgary Gay History Project is actively involved in the collective making the show. Our first piece is about CJSW’s own queer history.  Here is the transcript.

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CJSW 90.9 FM has been a beacon of alternative, and independent voices on Calgary airwaves since its inception. It also has a proud queer history. Over the past 25 years, you might have heard the classic “First Dyke on Dynasty,” segments on lesbian life, features on butt plugs, and the often used tagline “Just us, and not always them.”

The first queer show on CJSW was Speak Sebastian. It premiered on September 5, 1990. Niall O’Rourke, the show’s founder said then “the gay community is now confident enough to stand up and be counted.” In an interview with the Calgary Herald, he said he hoped both gays and straights would be interested in the subjects Speak Sebastian tackled during its regular Wednesday 9 – 10 p.m. time-slot.

The program was set up like many radio lifestyle shows, with regular features and panels discussing various subjects: for example, the risks faced by professionals who “come out.” Its mandate, however, was to examine the question of how the homosexual community could grow “in a so- called ‘straight’ world.” Early shows addressed controversial issues like “outing,” popular with gay activist groups then. Outing is when a person or news source publicly revealed the homosexuality of a well-known figure, who had been keeping it under wraps.

Niall said, “Though many homosexuals are private about their preferences, the people directly and regularly involved in Speak Sebastian are not able to use pseudonyms. If you’re not ready to go on the record, you’re not ready to be on the show.”

Niall came to CJSW five years earlier through hosting a classical music show called Excursions. Though he enjoyed working on Excursions, Niall said: “The more mature I get, the more I find myself bringing my background, my homosexuality, into my work.”

One of the program’s regular features was a monthly segment of AIDS information and updates produced by AIDS Calgary.

The Show proved to be popular and co-host Michele Sharp soon joined Niall as well as other segment volunteers. Giving everybody an equal voice was the goal. Niall and Michele would go through the show programs in advance and try to give equal time to male and female issues.

Michele said: “I think Niall got blown away by me at the beginning because I was like this radical feminist dyke who was going to bowl them over and make sure women got a voice. But then I realized he was on my side and I didn’t have to slap him down or make him stay in line; he tried to keep everything on an even keel between the two of us.”

Speak Sebastian expanded in 1991 to produce a live community awards show. The first Speak Sebastian Awards happened in June of that year as part of Pride Week.  Awards were given to community members in seven categories which were:

  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • Award of Distinction
  • Community Service Award
  • Humanitarian Award
  • Business of the Year
  • Sportsperson of the Year

In 1992, Niall and Michelle moved on, passing the show on to the queer radio collective that had formed. The new hosts that year were Stephen Lock and Cate Vail, who were both heavily involved in Calgary’s gay and lesbian support organizations, Gay Lines and Lesbian Information Lines (respectively).

The Speak Sebastian awards had three iterations, ending in 1993. Organizers ran out of steam to keep it, and the radio show, both going. This was also the period in Calgary of peak AIDS deaths in the community, another source of stress.

In the fall of 1994, two volunteers in the Speak Sebastian collective, Gene Rodman and Craig Lewington, started to experience creative differences with Stephen and Cate. Gene and Craig approached CJSW and asked if they could start another queer show, and they were granted one by the station. Calling it Freedom FM they began to alternate Wednesdays with Speak Sebastian.

Freedom FM’s concept was a high energy, fast-paced show with lots of audience participation. They tried to present a positive view of Calgary’s queer community and to focus on the community’s altruism. Gene and Craig felt they had many closeted listeners who needed an informative, non-judgemental show to coax them into the community. They had many innovative segments including the Queerstion of the day, Gay Jeopardy, and a radio soap opera called Tomorrow’s End. Freedom FM also experimented with live remote broadcasts from gay bars and coffee shops.

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CJSW Queer Community Broadcasters from left to right: Gene Rodman, Michelle Wong, and Stephen Lock.  This photo appeared on the cover of the June 12, 1997 edition of FFWD Magazine.

In 1997, a group of four enterprising lesbians launched Dykes on Mikes adding a third queer show to CJSW programming. The original collective consisted of Michelle Wong, Vicki LaLonde, Corinne Cornish and Kam Wong. Their show aired the first Tuesday of the month at 8 PM, and the four stayed together until the year 2000 when new hosts were added to the collective Morag Misselbrook and Nico Hofferd.

For many years into the 21st century, all three programs kept running. Freedom FM had a name change to Urban Sex and a new host Angus Goodkey. Dykes on Mikes had host Christine Brownell in 2003 and eventually morphed into the contemporary feminist CJSW show Yeah, What She Said.

Queer programming on CJSW has a proud history, asserting a space for us on the FM dial. The transmission was heard well outside the city limits and on multiple occasions in the Calgary Gay history Project’s work we have heard from individuals who said those CJSW programs saved their lives, by letting them know they were not alone. When these people did not have the courage to live open lives, they were consoled by knowing that queer voices existed every week in Calgary on their radio dial.

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2016 YYC Gay History Wrap

Today is our last post of 2016 as we devote our final energies of December to completing the Calgary Gay History book project.  Here is a recap of the year.

The three most popular history posts in 2016 were:

#1 Ralph Klein’s Gay Rights Tempest

#2 Klippert back in the news 50 years later

#3 2016 Hero Awards – Nancy & Richard

We recently passed the 50,000 person odometer mark on the history website and have 966 followers, hundreds of whom have signed up for our weekly email.

Calgarian Everett Klippert, who was jailed in the 1960s for being gay, was back in the news in February thanks to the journalistic efforts of the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has subsequently promised a posthumous pardon. The Calgary Gay History Project was then invited to write a feature on Klippert for the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Over 1000 Calgarians gathered in memory of the victims of the Orlando shooting at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.

cool-choir

The Calgary Police opened up their archives to the history project.

Calgary City Councillor Evan Woolley spearheaded the creation of a LGBTQ Legacy Committee to develop a plan for a history memorial that recognizes our contributions to the city.

We made historical reproductions of Pride buttons from previous decades that we gave away for free (and quickly ran out of) at Calgary’s Pride Festival.

Finally, we are looking forward to making more history in 2017.  So to all of our readers, we send you our warmest wishes for a happy New Year.

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