Tag Archives: MCC

Before the Net: Calgary’s 70s Gay Press

The history of gay publishing in Calgary goes back virtually 50 years. In a time before the internet existed, local gay publications served as an essential medium for bringing the community together. They served as the connective tissue to Calgary’s LGBT body politic: allowing for reflection, celebration, and debate. They also were the main advertising vehicle for promoting gay businesses and services.

Some publications were decidedly modest affairs and others more professional. The Calgary Gay History Project presents this stroll through our community’s past press – part one….

Carousel Capers: The newsletter of Club Carousel – this monthly publication which ran from 1969 to at least 1975, was a hand typed and drawn, mimeographed affair. It grew to 24+ pages in its heyday with columns such as Chatter Box, and Cecil’s secrets. Club business, including attendance figures, budgets and meeting minutes were presented – keeping the Club leaders accountable to their membership.

Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC), founded in 1975, was Calgary’s first peer support centre and community hub. It had a series of publications changing format, name, and page length – with the occasional hiatus – as budgets and volunteers waxed and waned. GIRC’s first newsletter published in late 1976 became “Gay Moods” in 1977. In January 1978, the publication changed to newsprint and a tabloid design, called “Gay Calgary.” As GIRC helped spearhead the formation of the Alberta Lesbian and Gay Rights Association in 1979, Gay Calgary became provincial. They published the first issue of “Gay Horizons” in December 1979 with expanded distribution to Red Deer, Edmonton, and later, Medicine Hat.

Gender Review: Canada’s first national transgender publication was started in Calgary in 1978 under the leadership of Nicholas Ghosh (now Rupert Raj). In the 70s, a handful of local doctors created a leading gender dysphoria clinic based out of the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine. Providing both counselling and surgical services, the Sexuality Clinic attracted trans individuals from across the country, like Ghosh, who later moved back to Toronto in 1979. Note: transgender replaced transsexual as a more expansive umbrella term for the trans community in the 1990s.

New Wine: a publication “printed for the ‘glory of God’ by members of a Christian fellowship” reads an early editorial. The monthly newsletter of Calgary’s Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), offered the meditations of a gay-positive church, as well as news, a community calendar and church happenings from MCC congregations across the country.

Dignity Alberta: was a combined newsletter for Dignity Calgary and Dignity Edmonton. Dignity chapters represented gay Catholics across the country and the 1978 issue reported a circulation of 100.

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The Calgary Gay History Project has an incomplete collection for many of these early publications. If you have any in storage and would like to donate them to the archives (we do not mind having multiple copies), please contact us – we can even pick them up.

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Infighting in 1980

Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC) hosted the 8th Annual National Conference of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition (CLGRC). Typically all of the cities who had hosted the conference in years prior also had coordinated a parade. However, factions in Calgary’s gay community were opposed to having a gay rights march here. The most prominent voices against were gay club owner Vance Campbell and Reverend Lloyd Greenway of MCC Calgary.

At a feisty public forum, sponsored by GIRC on April 7th, the parade’s opposition was strongly manifest, forcing GIRC to reluctantly cancel the planned march and propose a rally instead. The critique against the march centred around fears of property damage as well as religious, homophobic backlash.

Vance Campbell, who owned the Parkside Continental and who also was a part owner of Myrts and the Backlot, sent a letter to Mayor Ross Alger regarding the parade, stating: “The remarks attributed to GIRC are not fully representative of the gay community, but of a small group of persons interested in creating a problem where previously there had not been one.” He copied his missive to Calgary’s Chief of Police, Brian Sawyer.

Rev. Lloyd Greenway said, “We’ve had it good here for so long. There are other ways to get rights than be going out and marching. Calgary does not need a bunch of eastern radicals – and believe me I’m from the east and I know what they’re like – marching through downtown.”

The Imperial Court of the Chinook Arch was on the record saying: “the minute you start flaunting yourself, you’ve got a problem. [The march] is an embarrassment to the entire community.”

There was also a petition, whose source was unknown, circulating in local gay clubs, addressed to the Mayor and Chief of Police to thwart any proposed gay rights march.

The divisive debate was widely covered in local press, and saw several gay sources make controversial statements such as suggesting that there was no discrimination in Alberta, and that gays have it good in Calgary. GIRC, and the rest of the activist community in Calgary (as well as across the country), strenuously disagreed. The Body Politic, Canada’s gay liberation journal, wrote an editorial decidedly in support of a march.

By mid-May GIRC’s Board of Directors decided to obtain a parade permit – just in case – should the conference delegates decide to hold a march on their own accord. However, Chief Sawyer refused to sign a parade permit and told GIRC that participants in an unauthorized march would be arrested and charged with creating an unlawful public disturbance.

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GIRC President Bob Harris talking to Police at City Hall Rally, June 28, 1980.  Photo source: Body Politic, Issue 65 August 1980.

In the end, about 40 angry conference delegates massed on City Hall on June 28th, for refusing to issue the parade permit. They silently picketed for about 30 minutes: purposefully silent so as “not to create a public disturbance.” They then sang, “O Canada,” and headed off to their planned gay rights rally on St. Patrick’s Island. Ironically, the assembled group marched over there without any trouble.

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Calgary Activist Stephen Lock at City Hall Protest.  Source: Body Politic, Issue 65, August 1980.

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Calgary Chamber of Hostility

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is one of the city’s oldest institutions – 125 years old this year!  In 1981, it was the regular meeting place of the Knights of the Round Table: a group that has met weekly in Calgary since 1925. The Knights promote learning through discourse, typically inviting a guest speaker of historical or contemporary interest, and then peppering the speaker with questions.

On September 15th, 1981, the questions got more aggressive than usual. The invited speaker was Reverend Lloyd Greenway, from the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a predominantly gay church and at that time one of seven MCC congregations in Canada. The pastor spoke to the approximately 70 gathered Knights about MCC but the questions afterwards turned hostile.

74-year old, local historian, James H. Gray, stood up and asked Greenway: “Do you sodomize?”  The stunned pastor delivered a clever rejoinder, “I’m a Calgarian, not a Sodomite.”  The undeterred Gray rephrased his question: “Do you do buggery?”

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Photo source: Nov 6, 1981 edition of the Alberta Report

The meeting chair determined that the questions were not out of order; Greenway was left dangling and the event came to an awkward end. Ed Wolf, who chaired the speakers’ committee and had invited Greenway, was incensed. A 25-year veteran of the club and prominent oil industry geologist, Wolf tendered his resignation one week later.

“Free speech was not well served by the unprecedented and hypocritical handling,” Wolf wrote in his letter to the Knights’ executive, demanding that they apology to Greenway. Wolf was a founding member of the Calgary Civil Liberties Association and the Unitarian Church of Calgary.  He likely first met Greenway there, as MCC services were hosted at the Unitarian Church, which is still located at 16th ave and 1st St. NW.

Greenway had come from MCC Toronto in 1977 to start MCC Calgary.  Back in Toronto many years later, Greenway became a subject of renowned Canadian filmmaker Allan King, in the 2003 documentary, Dying at Grace. The sad and highly praised film follows Greenway in his final days, suffering from inoperable brain cancer in the palliative care unit of the Toronto Grace Hospital.

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