Pride in the City!

It has been a momentous couple of weeks for LGBTQ2 history in Calgary, Alberta.

On July 27, 2018, the Calgary Police Service formally apologized to Calgary’s gender and sexually diverse community. In their official statement, they cited their historic opposition to Bill C-150 and said: “after the law changed our organization struggled to embrace the new direction and evolve.”

Bill C-150, of course, was the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada and a subject of our new film: Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story. The documentary short has racked up thousands of views since it launched on July 31. It also garnered some thoughtful media coverage. Thank you, everyone, for the flood of positive regard that has been filling my inbox and social media accounts.

gross title 2

On August 2, the Calgary Gay History Project along with Sage Theatre and playwright Natalie Meisner received a Calgary Heritage Authority Lion Award for the spring 2018 production of Legislating Love. We were very honoured.

Lion Awards

Actors Matt McKinney & Kathy Zaborsky, Director Jason Mehmel, and Historians Kevin Allen & Tereasa Maillie accepting the Lion!

Calgary Pride is just around the corner. The Calgary Gay History Project has partnered with Calgary Outlink to present an Intergenerational Tea on Saturday, August 25 from 12:30 – 2:30 PM at Memorial Park Library, followed by a Beltline Gay History Walk from 2:30 – 4:00 PM. This event is free and part of Pride in Vic Park, a multi-generational, inclusive and educational event to celebrate Pride Week in Calgary. We are looking for a $300 donation to cover the event food (tax receipt available). Email me at calgarygayhistory@gmail.com if you are feeling generous.

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 12.15.27 PM.png

And if you have more time than money, Calgary Pride needs to fill up their volunteer roster for their incredible ever-growing festival. You can sign up: here. All volunteers get swag!

Finally, we will have a history booth at Pride in the Park again this year on Sunday, September 2. After the parade, come over to talk to us about all things historical!

{KA}

 

Queer History Summer Read

If you have noticed the dearth of blog postings this summer, it is due to a preoccupation with the Calgary Gay History book project. I am working on copy edits and finalizing photos for publication! Hooray!

Speaking of books, I read a queer history classic recently, called The Well of Loneliness, published 90 years ago this month (July 1928). Written by the outspoken lesbian, Radclyffe Hall, the book is partly autobiographical. Radclyffe Hall lived scandalously then with Una Troubridge, the estranged wife of an Admiral, in an openly lesbian relationship.

Well of Lonliness cover

The Well of Loneliness Book Cover

Famously, the book was the target of a negative PR campaign by newspaper editor James Douglas, who famously wrote, “I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a vial of prussic acid than this novel.” It created such a stir that the book was banned in the U.K and led to an obscenity trial.

Radclyffe Hall’s contemporaries in the Bloomsbury Set, a group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers, and artists – many queers amongst them – defended the book on censorship grounds but thoroughly disliked it as an artwork. Virginia Woolf said it was a: “pale tepid vapid book which lay damp & slab all about the court.” This perturbed Radclyffe Hall who boldly insisted that they defend The Well as a work of significant artistic merit or not defend it at all!

The scandals and trials publicized the work extensively, making it sell like hotcakes internationally. It was actively smuggled and sold contraband (at inflated prices) in the UK.

radclyffehall1

Radclyffe Hall

I liked The Well and found it a perfect summer read. The narrative is a captivating window on queer culture in 1920s London and Paris and is breathtakingly courageous given its context. I grant that the author’s style takes a chapter or two to get used to, but once in, I found the book fascinating.

Radclyffe Hall had high hopes for this work. She considered it a pioneer novel with three purposes:

To encourage inverts* to face-up to a hostile world in their true colours and this with dignity and courage.

To spur all classes of inverts to make good through hard work, faithful and loyal attachments and sober and useful living.

To bring normal men and women of good will to a fuller and more tolerant understanding of the inverted.

The book has had lasting power and is often included in lists of queer literary classics: Radclyffe Hall’s noble aims ultimately realized.

*Invert was the term Radclyffe Hall used to refer to homosexuals, coined by the physician and human sexuality researcher, Havelock Ellis.

{KA}

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.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 6.34.53 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 6.34.36 PM

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.

{KA}