Watch above: Edmonton’s LGBTQ community has had its share of victories and challenges over the years, and now a group is looking to document them.
EDMONTON — In anticipation of the 35th anniversary of Edmonton Pride this year, a number of local organizations are coming together to preserve the history of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community.
It’s called the Edmonton Queer History Project. The hope is to capture people’s stories, videos and photos of the events that have helped develop the queer community in Edmonton over the past half-century. The items will then be used in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta this June.
“There have been many fascinating political battles, many tense human rights disputes and many hilarious celebrations and funny stories and wild adventures in the night life and at the dances, so we’re interested in capturing all of that,” said Michael Janz, a researcher with the Edmonton Queer History Project.
“I think it’s vital for any community to remember where you’ve been, the struggles it’s taken to get to where you’re at, so you don’t keep repeating the same struggles,” said Rick Dagg, who is heavily involved in the LGBTQ community for decades.
In the 1990s Dagg had a hand in building and opening Boystown, a store that was opened to the gay and lesbian community. He’s also been involved in organizing numerous gay and lesbian business directories and trade fairs.
Dagg says Edmonton has come a long way since he came out in the early 1980s. 1980 was also the year of the first Edmonton Pride celebration. At the time, many people who took part wore paper bags on their heads because they were afraid of losing their jobs.
“When I first came out in the very early 80s it really was not safe to be open,” he said. “Open discrimination was certainly safe, if not encouraged, in some quarters. Now we have legal protection; there’s a greater sense of pride within the community.”
Watch below: Raw video footage from Edmonton’s Pride Parade in 1993
While progress is being made, Dagg says there is still work to be done and projects like the Edmonton Queer History Project are important when it comes to education.
“We seem to keep repeating the same struggles. We make advances but it seems as though there’s always a segment of the population that doesn’t accept it and so the same misinformed opinions come out,” he said.
“I think that the best way you can move forward as a society is just to be more aware of where you’ve been, where you’re going to and removing the fear around difference.”
Janz says organizers have already collected several items, including court records dating back to the 1940s. Open houses will be held for the next three Sundays at the Stanley A. Milner Library for people to bring down their contributions.
“It’s the old saying that facts may tell, but stories sell,” he said. “Contributions and exhibitions like this … are helpful to building inclusiveness and helping all citizens know that they’re welcome in Edmonton.”
The exhibition will run at the Art Gallery of Alberta from June 5 – 19. For more information, visit the Edmonton Queer History Project’s website.