‘Queer History’ app documents Edmonton’s LGBTQ history

Dozens of men, handcuffed and in various states of undress, were escorted out of the bathhouse and herded into the streets of Edmonton by undercover police.

The 1981 raid on the Pisces Health Spa on the corner of 109th Street and 105th Avenue, which resulted in the arrest of 56 men for “acts of indecency,” is one of the landmark moments in the city’s LGBTQ history captured in a new smartphone app.

The Edmonton Queer History App uses newspaper clippings, archival news footage, graphics and eyewitness accounts to document important landmarks in the fight for equality for gay and lesbian people in the city.

Jason Harley, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Alberta, spent months developing the augmented reality program.

He likens the Pisces bathhouse raid to Edmonton’s Stonewall — a series of violent demonstrations that followed a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York. 

“It encouraged a lot of people to take action, to engage in advocacy work and challenge what was, at the time, a very negative status quo for LGBTQ individuals,” Harley said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. 

“A number of gay men were arrested, their names were published, and this was a huge problem at the time because there was a lot of stigma, these people weren’t necessarily out, their jobs were put at risk.

“For the LGBTQ community, it was described as a wake-up call … it was really a catalyst.”

After months of research, Harley developed the app, which can be used in the classroom or on the street.

The program, available for download on iPhone or Android, relies on GPS technology to lead users on a guided walking tour of the city.

This app was designed to help fill a void in education.– Jason Harley

Harley interviewed prominent figures in Edmonton’s LGBTQ movement and identified eight key landmarks, including Club 70, the city’s first gay bar, which opened in 1969.

Harley said the app will help students connect with city history in a more personal way.

“The idea was to go beyond just simply reading about facts, names and dates and inject some humanity and personality into those stories,” Harley said. “By bringing in audio and video, we have a chance to hear people’s perspectives on these things.

“This really brings a human dimension to interacting this technology.”

‘Foster empathy’ 

LGBTQ history is rarely discussed in junior high or high school classrooms, he said.

“This app was designed to help fill a void in education in Alberta,” Harley said. “It’s unthinkable that we wouldn’t learn anything, like these things didn’t even happen, but that’s what the case is with regards to LGBTQ history.”

Harley hopes a better understanding of the city’s fight for queer civil rights will foster solidarity around the challenges still faced by LGBTQ people today.

“Learning about these kinds of historical events and locations is important because they stand to foster empathy,” Harley said.

The app launched Tuesday to coincide with the Edmonton Pride Festival June 8-17.

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Originally posted 2018-06-05 11:37:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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