Last weekend was likely Calgary’s gayest in history, featuring the largest Dyke March and Pride Parade the city has seen (not to mention a countless assortment of glitter-filled dance parties, barbecues, brunches and film screenings held throughout the preceding week). As a result, Sunday might have been the perfect day for a local historian to launch a research project looking back at the once-hidden gay community in Calgary.
Kevin Allen, the executive director for the Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society (AMAAS) and part-time senior elections official, received an artist-in-residence (AiR) grant from Calgary 2012 to compile a history of the local LGBQT community in the ’50s and ’60s. For 25 days — which will be staggered rather than consecutive due to other work commitments — Allen will be “in residence” at Calgary Outlink in the Old Y Centre; he will interview gay seniors who lived through that period prior to Stonewall (often viewed as the beginning of the gay rights movement) and also consult archives from across the country in order to complete his project, which will include a website and public presentation given sometime in early 2013.
Allen sees this project as significant for the city. “Calgary has been under the radar as a queer community for a number of decades. We seem to be late bloomers coming into our own as a community. Some would even argue that we’re still kind of fragmented. I know queer people existed back then, and very few people know where they were. Where did people go? What did they do? I’m interested in finding out that.”
The official website for the project is calgaryqueerhistory.ca.