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GayCalgary® Magazine

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Queer History? In Calgary??

Community Spotlight by Stephen Lock (From GayCalgary® Magazine, May 2006, page 34)
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This magazine’s recent Readers’ Survey indicated that many readers are interested in knowing more about the history of our community. This has long been a topic close and dear to my heart. Steve Polyak has approached me to do a regular historical column and I have agreed. Sometimes it pays to have been around since The Creator’s Bar Mitzvah….

Our local queer history is an interesting one. Certainly, we are not San Francisco, or Vancouver, or Toronto, or Montreal. Our city has not been around as long as those cities and so our GLBTQ community is likewise not as entrenched with such large roots throughout the fabric of the city. Still there is a history there; sometimes quirky, sometimes sad, and sometimes we in little ol’ Calgary have even been on the national radar with what we have done here. This actually is a community with roots much older than last year’s bar.

There are some of us, believe it or not, who have witnessed much of the growth. Some of us were around when the community first started becoming a community and, in the great scheme of things, it’s not that many years ago. We need to know about our history because it gives us a sense of who we are today - a context and, hopefully, a deeper understanding of ourselves and the community we are a part of.

As a city, Calgary has never been big on preserving its history. I have seen wonderful old buildings bulldozed for no good reason. I have seen some perhaps not such wonderful old buildings (but nevertheless important ones) smashed into debris and broken wood, leaving only a barren empty lot in its place. However, our it is about more than just old buildings; it is the people who lived, worked, laughed, argued, drank, fucked, even died in those buildings that make up our history. It is the ideas hatched after too many cups of coffee (or mugs of beer) around kitchen tables, or standing by the bar that created our community organizations, our events, the hallmarks of our community; the things that make our community unique and ours. History is a living thing. It affects who we are even if we are not aware of that effect.

I came out in 1979…27 years ago, when I was 26 years old. I suddenly found not only a community starting to form, but also my own voice. As I matured, so did my community. We both made mistakes, got caught up in youthful impetuousness, were brash and then mellowed, loved, lost, and carried on. My history is tied up with our history and your history.

This column will be a regular feature in Gay Calgary.com Magazine. Sometimes it will be my recollections of events or circumstances, or it will be interviews with others who witnessed the blossoming of our community. There is much to tell about our organizations - those we have lost and those we still have today - about gay space, and the sometimes quirky individuals who created, were involved with, and who worked or otherwise occupied those spaces. Urban queer space is largely unseen and unrecognized by dominant culture, but it is there and an important part of the fabric of any city or town. I hope future columns will begin the process of helping newer generations to recognize and honour the spaces carved out, often in difficult circumstances, by our queer foremothers and forefathers – and maybe the odd Funny Uncle or Eccentric Aunt…

(GC)

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