Activist wins award for work on LGBTQ history in Saskatchewan
The Homo Hike shows the changing landscape of LGBTQ lives and activism in Saskatoon
A Saskatchewan activist has picked up the Saskatoon Heritage Award for shedding light on the province's rich LGBTQ history.
Joe Wickenhauser took the honour at City Hall in Saskatoon on Monday after creating the Homo Hike walking tour, which showcases Saskatoon's changing landscape for LGBTQ people and its activist history.
"It's very humbling to receive an award like this. I really hope that it opens some eyes and it opens some doors," Wickenhauser said.
Wickenhauser is the executive director of Moose Jaw Pride but previously worked with OUTSaskatoon. He developed the Homo Hike while doing his masters research which focused on experiences of older gay men living in Moose Jaw.
I think that there is a lot of people that wouldn't expect that our veterans, that our pioneers also share in this history of gender diversity.- Joe Wickenhauser, Executive Director of Moose Jaw Pride
"I tried to put them in context with archival, historical documents and what I found was doing this research, there weren't a lot of people who really knew what has happened in the past and there wasn't a lot of people talking about it," he said.
"It's not in any of our curriculums in Saskatchewan schools, which I hope can change soon."
The walking tour became a part of Saskatoon's annual pride week. It starts at the Avenue Community Centre — now called OUTSaskatoon — and goes into the downtown core.
"We talk about a bunch of different stories from the first challenge of the human rights code in Canada based on sexual orientation, which happened here in Saskatoon, to Jenny's Bridal and the more recent controversy around trans' rights," Wickenhauser said.
He added that pioneers and veterans actually played a large role in the history of gender diversity.
"There were a lot of drag performances that happened. The Dumbbells is one famous group that did drag performances where soldiers would dress as women at the front lines to entertain the troops," he said.
"And you know, it was thought of as just a normal thing, a funny thing that people could do. I think that there [are] a lot of people that wouldn't expect that our veterans, that our pioneers also share in this history of gender diversity."
Wickenhauser said he hopes this award can lead to more conversations about bringing the LGBTQ history of the province into the classrooms.
"I think it's important for people to know some of the history of where their identities come from and where their rights come from because it gives them a better sense of who they are and where they could go in the future," he said.
Wickenhauser said if people are interested they can visit the Homo Hike Facebook page and follow the self-guided tour available online.