The Path To Equality Isn’t Always Straight
May 25, 2020
For the first time ever, this PRIDE season you can take a walking tour through Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ history. The Really Gay History Tour by Forbidden Vancouver shines a light on stories from Vancouver’s past that have remained in the shadows for too long. You’ll hear tales of clandestine gay meet ups at the Hotel Vancouver to trials at the courthouse to drag kings at the legendary Quadra. It’s 2.5 hours packed with queer history you’ll scarcely believe took place.
Your guide is Forbidden Vancouver storyteller Glenn Tkach – the man in pink. An experienced walking tour guide with the company, Tkach spent a year researching queer history and carefully putting together an experience that touches every corner of Vancouver’s most important LGBTQ2+ history.
“The tour covers some dark history, including the persecution of queer people by government agencies and police right into the 1990s. But overall the experience is a celebration, not just of our community’s success in achieving equality, but a celebration of the brave people who fought back against a hostile society,” says Tkach.
Those brave people include Jim Deva and Janine Fuller, who ran Little Sister’s bookstore despite bomb attacks, government persecution, and media hate campaigns. They also include Heather Farquhar, who opened Vancouver’s first lesbian-owned lesbian bar, and Jamie Lee Hamilton, the transgender activist who blew the whistle on the biggest crime in Vancouver’s history.
“In creating the walking tour I was able to interview many of these people and hear their stories first hand. It was an honour to listen to them. These were people who fought back, whatever the consequences. I feel like our community owes these early campaigners so much. Sharing their stories on the walking tour is a real privilege,” says Tkach.
The walking tour starts outside Vancouver City Centre Skytrain Station across the street from the Hudson’s Bay Company building. There you’ll discover a whole other side of Canada’s earliest fur traders. You’ll soon venture west to the Hotel Vancouver, whose elegant beer parlour was for many years a much loved gay meeting place. Hotel concierges, servers, and bartenders turned a blind eye and helped gay men escape the attentions of an unforgiving public.
Only a block away lies the old Vancouver courthouse, now the Vancouver Art Gallery. For decades gay men were hauled in front of judges there on vague charges of gross indecency. You’ll hear about the bizarre case of Rex vs. Singh and the detective who truly went beyond the call of duty.
Next up is Vancouver’s entertainment district on Granville Street. Tales of some of the city’s earliest gay bars await, from the Castle to the Ambassador to the Shaggy Horse. You’ll hear about legendary queer rights campaigner ted northe, Imperial Court coronations, and the day Queen Elizabeth marched to the Royal. One more block takes you to the story of the Quadra, famed home to some of Vancouver’s very first drag king shows.
Heading next to Burrard Street you’ll visit the United Church – a true global landmark in the battle for acceptance of queer people by the Christian faith. Across the street lies St. Paul’s Hospital, epicentre of the “GRID crisis” in Vancouver, where you’ll hear the story of Patient Zero.
After a break to grab a coffee, snack, and bathroom break you’ll enter the famous West End – one of North America’s most vibrant gaybourhoods. First up is beautiful urban oasis Nelson Park, home to many of the city’s earliest gay rights protests. Arriving on famous Davie Street you’ll discover bookstore bombings, Jim Deva Plaza, the much loved rainbow crosswalk, and the story of Jamie Lee Hamilton, the first transgender person in Canada to run for city council.
Next you’ll hear about Vancouver’s secret gay village, before your walking tour finishes with the legend of Gone to the Spirits, a two-spirit warrior who fought, loved, and died, but never compromised on their identity.
The Really Gay History Tourruns at 2 p.m. every Sunday from July to November, 2018. During Vancouver PRIDE the tour will run every day at 2 p.m., from July 22 to August 4.
Tickets are $32 for an adult or $28 for a senior or student and are available at forbiddenvancouver.ca or by calling 604 227 7570.