With many festivals taking a break for the last 2 years, Edmonton is once again ready to host some amazing events for the summer, and it all begins with Pride! Pride is a celebration of people coming together in unity, love, and friendship to show how far 2SLGBTQ+ rights have come and to recognize the impact that this important segment of our community has had on society locally, nationally and internationally.
“ I remember a time when there was no place in this town where I could go and come out as a gay man and have a beer with another gay man. »— A quote from Ron Byers, queer historian and founder of the Rainbow Story Hub
Check out the full article on CBC Radio-Canada (French) (Use the Translate feature in Chrome or Edge for English)
Edmonton’s first recognized Pride event was a Picnic In The Park thought to be held at Camp Harris, home of the 49th Battalion, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Association. It was attended by about 75 people in 1980 to bring awareness to our community and celebrate the decriminalization of homosexuality with a campfire, picnic and softball game.
1982 saw the first Pride weekend – Pride Through Unity which included a drag show and buffet at Flashback sponsored by the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose, a Unity Dance at the Phoenix Hall put on by the Gay Alliance Towards Equality (GATE) and a picnic and BBQ again held at Camp Harris. Organized in part as a reaction to the Pisces Spa raid a year earlier it looked to bring the community together and bring awareness to the challenges they still faced.
From the audience, Ron Byers said the latest iteration of the project is particularly valuable to future generations who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the knowledge and experience of those who lived Edmonton’s queer history.
“Because it’s all up here,” he said, pointing to his head. “It opens up the history for our younger community … so the kids learn our history because it’s not taught anywhere else.”
A queer historian himself, Byers runs the Rainbow Story Hub, which collects accounts from members of the community — an effort that he sees as complementary to the queer history project’s encyclopedic, research-driven approach.
To call any of those who did drag as charitable… while in drag… would be stretching the truth. Known for their caustic wit, quick retorts and haughty gestures, raising money for anything charitable was almost non-existent.
Then in 1984 reports that had been surfacing out of San Francisco and New York for the previous few years of a new “gay-related immune deficiency” (GRID), finally named by the CDC in the U.S. as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), attracted the attention of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose in Edmonton.
WE TAKE A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE TO DISCOVER THE HISTORY OF EDMONTON’S GAYBOURHOOD
Most major cities have a neighbourhood that has clearly defined itself as the “gay” neighbourhood, an area where LGBTQ2S+ folks can build a community together while living, working, shopping, and eating at welcoming businesses. Toronto’s Church Street and Vancouver’s Davie Street are just two that come to mind. Edmonton breaks tradition by having not one but two gaybourhoods that have come together to form a community for LGBTQ2S+ Edmontonians.
I chat with radio personality J’Lyn Nye from 630 CHED about the impacts and damage done to the gay community on the 40th anniversary of the Pisces Bathhouse raid by the Edmonton Police Service May 30, 1981. Catch the podcast at the link below.
“They just did this raid in such a totally different manner from what they had done in previous raids in massage parlours, other common bawdy houses in the city, which were more straight-oriented,” Byers said.
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the Pisces Health Spa bathhouse raids by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).
To acknowledge the trauma and impact of the raids, and to show their support to the Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Transgender, and Queer (2SLGBTQ+) community, the EPS is releasing a documentary-style video with commentary from local community members sharing their experiences and perspectives.