Secret Life of Canada

Prairie Pride: How Winnipeg became a hub of queer history

If you were asked to name a Canadian city with a rich queer history, would you think of Winnipeg? If the Manitoba capital doesn't quite top your list, the latest episode of The Secret Life of Canada — The Golden Boy —might just change your mind.  
A group of protesters march the streets in the 1974 Winnipeg Gay Pride March. (Manitoba Gay and Lesbian Archives/University of Manitoba)
Listen to the full episode46:41

If you were asked to name a Canadian city with a rich queer history, would you think of Winnipeg? 

If the Manitoba capital doesn't quite top your list, the latest episode of The Secret Life of Canada The Golden Boy —just might change your mind. Co-hosts Falen Johnson and Leah Simone-Bowen dig deep into the University of Manitoba's Gay and Lesbian Archives to unearth some truly amazing material, including a "green book" style guide to gay Winnipeg.

They also explore the history of the city's queer spaces, interview historians and trailblazers, and reveal how the winged Greek god perched atop the Manitoba Legislature became a beacon for so many gay men. 

The Golden Boy sits atop the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

What you'll hear this episode

  • A brief snapshot of Canada's queer history, from coast to coast. Plus, a note on the umbrella term "queer" and why we're using it. 
  • The grave fates that befell queer folks in Canada before same-sex relationships were legal, and how a mechanic's helper became the last man to be imprisoned in Canada for being gay. 
  • A very abridged history of the Red River Resistance. (Also: which Canadian rock legend most resembles legendary Metis leader Louis Riel — at least, according to Leah.) 
  • How gay men and Chinese-run businesses developed a symbiotic relationship. 
  • The importance of safe gathering spaces, house parties and the secretive spot known as "homo heaven". 
  • A first-hand account of Winnipeg's first pride parade, and why "turning up" was so important in the early days of the movement. 
  • What the First and Second World War have to do with queer culture in the Prairies. 
  • Why Falen's new favourite tune is a cable access theme song from the 80s.
  • The origins of the term two-spirit, and why non-binary Indigenous folks felt the need to carve out space for a spiritually-rooted and culturally-informed identity. 
  • An archival interview with Glen Murray, the first openly gay mayor in all of North America. 

References

A Gay Community Centre pamplet calling for legal reform in favour of gay equality. (Manitoba Gay and Lesbian Archives/University of Manitoba)

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