Absolutely Manitoba Presents: One Gay City

An eye-opening and emotional history of Winnipeg's LGBT community through personal stories, news reports and rarely seen archival images and recordings. Directed by Aaron Floresco.

One Gay City: A History of LGBT Life in Winnipeg

8 years ago
Duration 3:36
An eye-opening and emotional history of Winnipeg’s LGBT community through personal stories, news reports, and rarely seen archival images and recordings.

One Gay City: A History of LGBT Life in Winnipeg sheds light on the community through personal stories, news reports and rarely-seen archival images and recordings. It's directed by local filmmaker Aaron Floresco.

Shawna Dempsey. (Photo courtesy Past Perfect Productions)
Winnipeg artist Shawna Dempsey has been exploring lesbian, feminist and social issues in her work for more than 25 years:

"In many ways, the gay rights movement has created structures and rights for the most normative of gay people. For gay couples, for gay families, for middle-class gays. The challenge for us as a movement is not to forget our transgender aboriginal sisters, to not forget the full spectrum of queerness, and even in ways maybe we haven't considered yet, or we haven't acknowledged. We all deserve the same rights."

The voice of Bert Sigurdson in an oral history interview. (Photo courtesy Past Perfect Productions)
Bert Sigurdson recalls some of the dangers associated with being gay in mid-20th-century Winnipeg, a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Canada:

"I can remember the fear walking home and I would take crazy, all the dark streets home … to avoid being stopped by the police, because that was the fear in the gay community, that they would take you in. The morality squad would stop us every once in a while — 'What are you doing? What are you doing out at night? Where are you going? Haven't you got a home to go to?' That kind of thing. And every once in a while, 'Are you built like everybody else? Have you got private parts like other men?'"

Ruth Krindle. (Photo courtesy Past Perfect Productions)
While the majority of gay existence in mid-20th-century Winnipeg was underground, there were pockets of tolerance. Ruth Krindle is a retired judge and the first openly gay person appointed to Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench:

"I went to high school in the '50s in West Kildonan Collegiate, which happened to be unusual. My friend Terry ran for snow queen in full drag and got elected as snow princess. I don't think they knew what to do with Terry at school, and because they couldn't figure out what to do with him, they — and this is just wonderful — they did nothing, which allowed Terry to be Terry. It wasn't an issue. It wasn't an issue with the teachers and you could be who you wanted to be. I'm aware of how totally unusual those circumstances were, but they were the circumstances and they made it easy for me to grow up."

Chris Vogel and Richard North. (Photo courtesy Rainbow Harmony Project)
In 1974, Chris Vogel and Richard North were married in the Unitarian Church of Winnipeg, becoming the first same-sex couple to marry in Canada.

Richard North: "Being openly gay, it wasn't easy for me. I was ashamed of it and so on, but I knew in my mind that it was the right thing to do and that these feelings of shame and inferiority weren't realistic. It was the culture that was unrealistic."

Chris Vogel: "Certainly the basis had been established through other movements, through the notion that it was up to young people like ourselves to do these things because otherwise they might not happen."

Glen Murray. (Photo courtesy Past Perfect Productions)
In 1998, Glen Murray was elected mayor of Winnipeg, becoming the first openly gay person elected mayor of a North American city:

"I'll never forget the moment that I got elected, and the sense of impossibility. We stayed up until the first newspapers came out to see that we'd actually won the mayor's job, because I don't think I believed it until I actually saw it in print. When I got elected, I'll never forget all these police cars showed up; there had been so many death threats that we all had to move away from the windows in the campaign office, they covered them all and put brown paper up, and it was a moment of sitting in the darkness there thinking, 'Yeah, this is going to be a tough time.' You cannot live your life for the people who hate you and the things you're afraid of … too many people are intimidated by fear and intimidated by hatred."

An eye-opening documentary about the evolution of Winnipeg's LGBT community has its broadcast premiere on CBC TV in Manitoba this Saturday, July 4, 2015, at 7 p.m.