Making Our Heritage Visible

Written by Avery, an APS community member.

I’ve struggled to write this one for weeks now. This is not my first time writing for Airdrie Pride. In fact, my last post was the first piece of extracurricular writing that I’d shared publicly since middle school. That post was written in a timely, purposeful manner that I was genuinely proud of. This post was barely written at all. I suppose the previous post came so easily to me out of eagerness. Finally, I would project my voice into a community that I knew would accept me. Finally, the message that had been residing in my soul for as long as I could remember would be shared.

What are you supposed to do with your life after you’ve spread your word?

That’s the type of question I would have harassed Randolfe Wicker with, had I committed to my goals and held a phone conversation with him. At eighty years old, he’s one of the last surviving figures of the gay liberation movement – a staple of a time that’s gone largely ignored. The history was salvaged, but only barely so. After all, how is a community defined by erasure supposed to properly recognize its heritage?  The harder I try to find the answer, the more obscured it becomes. In the limited online chats that I did have with Randolfe, he made an intriguing point; how arbitrarily chosen history tends to be. Most people in the LGBTQ+ community – including myself – could not name five historical queer icons off the top of their head.

One of the only names that may come up could be that of Marsha P. Johnson, who (through much time and revival through her friends such as Randolfe) has recently started to become recognized for her legacy. I cannot possibly do her story justice – every second of her tragically short life was filled with a fierce goodness that only those who knew her can convey properly. A paragon of marginalization, she remains a beacon for those who find themselves facing isolation. Her spirit has inspired me since I first heard of her. For those interested in Marsha’s life, I highly recommend the documentary Pay It No Mind. Unlike the Netflix documentary The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson, which is composed of work stolen from trans filmmaker Reina Gossett, Pay It No Mind consists of hard work from the people who genuinely knew and cared for Marsha. At only fifty-five minutes, it’s a short and highly rewarding watch.

I ramble about Marsha not to showcase a self-satisfied knowledge, nor to preach in her name. I mention her because I find her emblematic of something I value – culture. People like her do not hesitate to exist. They wear their names proudly, declaring to the world that they are there and will not be moved.

For a long time, I was of the belief that no such people existed in Alberta. They were an unattainable type of superhuman, the type of person I would never encounter in my lifetime. Only recently has this changed. Lately, I have found groups of people like me  – queer, young, and above all dedicated to changing our world however possible. For some groups, this is through writing and performance – enhancing their surroundings through art. For others, it takes a smaller form, such as helping with a fundraiser or making posters for a GSA. No option is less valid than the other – a difference is a difference, and such a change is certainly needed at the moment.

Our community is made difficult to find by the people who try to erase us. It’s not a case of us being nonexistent, however hard they may try. Once a group of peers is found, the sense of alienation subsides.

And we are becoming more visible than ever.

1 thought on “Making Our Heritage Visible”

  1. Barb Sensabaugh

    Wow, what an informed, articulate young person. I enjoy reading your messages Avery.

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