Lips were locked in Thompson Park on May 17 for the Calgary Queer Kiss-in, a mass display of love with the goal of asserting the queer community’s right to public displays of affection. The kiss-in took place on the 9th annual International Day to End Homophobia and Transphobia, a worldwide event held to educate people about, and end, the many injustices queer people face.
The Calgary Outlink Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity organized the event. Twenty-two couples participated in the kiss-in.
Calgary Outlink board of directors member and recent University of Calgary graduate Gael James said the purpose of the kiss-in was to calm the nerves of people who feel uncomfortable at the sight of queer people being affectionate.
“We just want to raise awareness about the different queer phobias that exist and let people know that, hey, we’re people too and it’s all good,” said James. “If you see two queer people kissing or holding hands, it’s simply an expression of love. It’s not meant to be a threat to you or your beliefs.”
Gay Friends Calgary president Bill Taylor spoke during the event. Born and raised in Calgary, Taylor has long played an active role in Calgary’s queer community. He echoed James’s sentiments about the non-threatening nature of the kiss-in.
“I know that there are people who think it is offensive, but that’s not the idea,” said Taylor.
He said the event is simply to assert that queer people should not be uncomfortable about displaying their affection.
“Kissing your partner, hugging your partner, holding hands in a public environment — we should be able to do this also.”
Speaking in front of a crowd of 60 people, Taylor described how the treatment of queer people in Calgary has changed since his youth.
“When I was young, we hid, we pretended, we got married — we did everything we could to protect ourselves,” said Taylor. “We were at risk of losing our jobs and our homes. Our churches would reject us, our families would possibly reject us — the entirety of society had animosity towards us. It’s not that bad anymore.”
Calgary Police volunteer Calvin Campbell also spoke at the event, highlighting the challenges Calgary’s queer community still faces. Campbell described an assault he experienced after leaving the nightclub Twisted Element and how it affected his view of the city.
“In Calgary, I’m a little bit more gun shy because of the assault,” said Campbell. “I’ve already been assaulted once, so I’m a little bit more cautious about not being assaulted again.”
Campbell said harassment is still a regular part of many queer people’s lives.
“It’s often just taunts and slurs that are thrown from people who usually aren’t brave enough to say it to your face,” said Campbell. “I had one guy ride by on a bike and yell ‘faggot’ a little while ago. It’s usually pretty telling when people are not willing to say it to your face.”