Tag Archives: gay

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.

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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.

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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.

{KA}

Fairy Tales @ 20

It does seem true that as one gets older time slips by more quickly…

Thus, it is astounding to me that the Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival is on its 20th iteration. Significantly, they have produced their own feature documentary to mark the occasion called: OUTLIERS: CALGARY’S QUEER HISTORY. The film will premiere Friday, May 25th at 7 PM. We were ever so pleased to support them in this mammoth undertaking. When the Calgary Gay History project started in 2012, we hoped it would lead to a community of local queer historians and OUTLIERS makes manifest that ambition – we couldn’t be happier.

Additionally, Fairy Tales is close to my heart, as I was present in year one (along with colleagues Kelly Langgard and Trevor Alberts). I have watched it blossom into the confident adult it has become – this year growing itself into the Calgary Queer Arts Society – an excellent move for the organization.

So here are some of my fondest Fairy Tales memories from the early days.

The poster for Fairy Tales #1 was done by the accomplished Calgary artist Lisa Brawn (famous now for her woodcut art); it remains one of my favourites.

Fairytales One

Fairytales poster from 1999 (a little worse for wear on my bulletin board).

Brenda Lieberman, arguably Calgary’s most notable film programmer, began working on Fairy Tales in 2000, while she was staff at the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF) and continued on with the festival as their talented volunteer programmer until 2006.

Kevin and Brenda

Kevin Allen and Brenda Lieberman at a Fairy Tales Fundraiser at Money-Pennies. From Outlooks Magazine, May 2002.

The festival grew and broke away from the CSIF to become its own non-profit society on January 30, 2004. Gordon Sombrowski (now my husband), who had been on the programming committee for a couple of years, stepped up to become the Society President, a role he served until 2010.

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Festival Preview from FFWD Magazine June 3, 2004 (we sure miss do FFWD)!

Fairy Tales always has had clever graphic design, but there does seem to be a preoccupation with food-themed images. Here is a tasting:

 

 

Congratulations to everyone, past and present, who sustained Fairy Tales to age 20. We are decidedly looking forward to opening night on Friday!

{KA}