We recorded this episode live at last Friday’s opening of "If These Walls Could Talk: 50 Years of 2SLGBTQ+ Activism in Winnipeg," a new exhibition on display at the Manitoba Museum in partnership with the Rainbow Resource Center.
The exhibit explores the stories, activism, and milestones that have shaped Winnipeg’s 2SLGBTQ+ community over the past 50 years, and we’re talking to attendees about their experiences, activism, and sharing Winnipeg’s 2SLGBTQ+ community’s history on their own terms.
Stuart Murray 0:00
This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty 1 territory. The traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis nation.
Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 0:19
This is Humans, On Rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.
Stuart Murray 0:30
On this episode of humans on rights, I'm going to go to the Manitoba Museum, where they are in partnership with the Rainbow Resource Center. They're launching an exhibit called, 'If These Walls Could Talk'. First, some background on the Rainbow Resource Center. Rainbow Resource Center began as a student group, the University of Manitoba in the early 1970s. First known as the Campus Gay Club. The name was changed in 1973 to Gays For Equality. Gays For Equality offered a telephone information line, peer counseling service or resource library on the University of Manitoba campus. And the group went on to become a leader and an important resource for the gay and lesbian community providing community services, education, outreach, and political awareness and activism. In 1988, the group changed again and became Winnipeg Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, establishing itself as an independent organization in a new location at Confusion Corner in Winnipeg. The Resource Center was incorporated as a nonprofit organization applied for charitable tax status under the legal name of Manitoba Institute of Society and Aexuality. In 2008, the Rainbow Resource Center relocated just a few blocks from its old location and this year, the Rainbow Resource Center is celebrating 50 years of identity, advocacy and community. The Rainbow Resource Center is the longest serving continuously running two spirited, LGBTQ+ Resource Center in North America. The exhibit 'If These Walls Could Talk' is as I said earlier, produced in partnership with the Manitoba Museum and the Rainbow Resource Center and explores the history of the two spirited LGBTQ+ community in Winnipeg from 1970. Until the 2010s. This period of activism after the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969, covers campaigns such as coming out in the 1970s, HIV/AIDS information in the 1980s. Marriage and adoption rights in the 1990s and 2000s and protection for gender diversity in the 2010s and more. I've told the exhibit provides a better understanding of the issues facing the two spirited LGBTQ+ community over the last 50 years and the types of activism used to advance and protect rights. Two spirited LGBTQ plus people have always been a part of Winnipeg society. They have a history and it should be told on their terms and that is why the Rainbow Resource Center is leading the way in this exhibit. I'm looking forward to experiencing and learning from this exhibit. The challenges, the difficulties and the celebrations this community has had and how they plan to share that with every visit. Let's get started.
While I'm at the Manitoba Museum and for the launch of 'If These Walls Could Talk' and I run into a good friend, Kristie Cumming. Kristie, why are you here at 'If These Walls Could Talk'?
Kristie Cumming 4:27
Well, Stuart I was graciously invited by the Rainbow Resource Center to come and partake in today's events. As an event manager for the 50th anniversary gala celebration and Saturday night pride party this year. I have had a fabulous opportunity to work with the center and the amazing people that are doing amazing work there and I wanted to become more informed and take a look at the unbelievable history of what has happened in the community over the years right here in the city that we live in.
Stuart Murray 5:03
So Kristie, were you aware of the rainbow Resource Center? Or how did you get involved?
Kristie Cumming 5:08
I was aware of it and became more involved as I became involved in in running an event for the organization.
Stuart Murray 5:17
And you're talking about the 50th anniversary, what a milestone, can you share some of the ideas or thoughts that are going into the celebration of 50 years of the Rainbow Resource Center,
Kristie Cumming 5:27
We are working very hard in multiple ways to make sure that this is a fabulous event, celebrating the community and bringing people to recognize and applaud Rainbow Resource Center being the longest running to 2S LGBTQ organization in Canada. I mean, it's pretty amazing. 50 years ago, you would not have been able to run this event.
Stuart Murray 5:57
So if you were talking to somebody about wanting to get involved with the Rainbow Resource Center, to celebrate what this community has done, what advice would you give them?
Kristie Cumming 6:10
I would say, take a look at social media. There's many wonderful things happening to celebrate the 50th anniversary things that are going on all year. Two of the events that I mentioned, Saturday night Pride happening June 3 and the 50th Anniversary Gala, November the 4th, but in between there's lots of ways to get involved, support, become more educated. Contact the Rainbow Resource Center.
Lewis Trepel 6:39
Yeah. And it's about learning. It's about learning. And that's what you're doing. And that's what I'm doing. And I'm delighted to have run into today. And I look forward to all the great work that you continue to do at the Rainbow Resource Center Kristie.
Kristie Cumming 6:51
Thanks. Great to see you, Stuart. Take care.
Stuart Murray 7:05
Hi, how are you?
Kristie Pearson 7:06
I'm great. Thanks for having me, Stuart.
Okay, and who are you?
I'm Kristie Pearson.
Stuart Murray 7:11
Kristie, great to meet you. Great to have you here. And you're with somebody who we also know.
Lewis Trepel 7:16
Stuart Murray 7:17
Hey, Louis, how are you?
Lewis Trepel 7:18
Excellent. Thank you.
Okay, now I understand the two of you are working on something pretty exciting. Lewis, what is that?
It is massive. It's the 50th Anniversary Gala for the Rainbow Resource Center serving the LGBTQ+ community. And it will be a blockbuster like nothing Winnipeg has ever seen before. Being that it's the 50th anniversary in the longest running in all of Canada, we will be throwing a party and messaging that you have never seen in this channel.
So if you're co-chairing this event, which sounds amazing. What else are we going to look forward to?
Kristie Pearson 7:57
I am. I think what we'll see this gala is we'll see a lot of allies coming forward, I myself see myself as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I have a child that fits in on the rainbow and I feel that we're going to see different people showing up to show their support for this committee, we're going to see people in the community that may not have stepped forward and they are going to be showing their support to stand beside people in the community.
Lewis Trepel 8:22
So Kristie, you said a word that's very important and that is the word ally. And I think a lot of people wonder, what does that mean? Or how can I become one? What would you say to somebody who said, I'd like to be or how can I learn more about that?
Kristie Pearson 8:37
I think it starts with listening and learning. So here at the Manitoba Museum, there's an exhibit going on talking about 50 years of activism here in Manitoba. So it's learning about what it means to be LGBTQ plus, and to be in that community. I think then it's it's about lifting voices. So it's about stepping back and lifting others up to be able to share their voice and be able to share what their story may be.
Lewis Trepel 9:08
And Lewis we're sitting here in the Manitoba Museum, they were launching this fabulous exhibit 'If These Walls Could Talk'. What would you say to somebody who's not sure whether they should or shouldn't come to this exhibit?
It's an absolute must. It is a very moving experience, and a really great opportunity to learn and to see the history of what's going on here in this province. And I would say that when you talk about 55, zero years, you know, I don't you want to use the expression, it's about time because that might seem demeaning to those people who have gone through some horrific experiences. But we are here today and hopefully the sun is shining and hopefully this is an opportunity for people to learn and I would say if nobody has not sure who or what they're Rainbow Resource Center is doing partnering with the Manitoba Museum must be a very special opportunity for sure. Absolutely.
Stuart Murray 10:08
And what would you say is one of the biggest hopeful takeaways of this exhibit? And I'll ask both of you the same question.
Lewis Trepel 10:16
That people come with an open mind and walk away with new information and grow, continue growing.
Stuart Murray 10:27
Kristie Pearson 10:27
I agree and I think especially right now, with what we see going on down south and even across our own country, I think it's, we'd be remiss to not to think that we have reached a stage that everything is just okay. That I think that at times, even now, we need to step forward and support organizations, for people who are vulnerable or people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. I think that that it this time is it's important now.
Lewis Trepel 11:01
Well, I can't tell you how fortunate I feel to come to this exhibit and run into the two of you who are doing amazing work in the community and planning something very special. Is there a date?
Yes Stuart the date is November 4, but although it's November 4 tickets go on sale June the 7th and believe me, you do not want to miss out.
Stuart Murray 11:24
Lewis always selling. Kristie, Lewis, congratulations. Thank you for taking a moment to speak with me.
Lewis Trepel 11:30
Kristie Pearson 11:30
Thanks for having us.
Stuart Murray 11:50
Hi, can you introduce yourself?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 11:52
Hi, I'm Jordan Anglin-Riemer. I am a trans woman. I'm a member of the Prime Minister's Youth Council in the Federal government.
Lewis Trepel 12:01
Jordan, we're here at the Manitoba Museum. They've just launched this exhibit with the Rainbow Resource Center called 'If These Walls Could Talk'. Why is this an important exhibit?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 12:12
I would say that it's an important exhibit because it matters to remember the past to see how awful things were in the past and the struggles that we've taken to get here as well as realizing the patterns of history repeating itself, and understanding the past to try to stop that from happening again.
Lewis Trepel 12:33
And Jordan, you know, people always talk about this issue about I'd like to be an ally. What does that mean to you? And what advice would you give to somebody like me that would say, Jordan, how can I become an ally in this issue?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 12:48
You can become an ally in this issue by speaking up for your queer peers, speaking up for their rights and stopping people when they speak against us.
Lewis Trepel 13:01
And you know, that sounds, to be honest, very achievable. Why is it so hard from your perspective of somebody who is living this life, to achieve what it is so that people will come out and be more respectful of human beings and the decisions that they make to become who they want to be?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 13:24
Because a lot of people are very vocal against us. A lot of people do not like those who are different from themselves. And we'll do what they can to try to make a very homogenous society.
Lewis Trepel 13:36
And one of the challenges always Jordan is people are always have an issue with somebody who may be different. How do we start to have conversations with people to celebrate our differences? Rather than say, well, because we different, we are different, or we have maybe we have differences of opinion.
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 13:54
Stuart Murray 13:54
Which is nothing wrong either to have a difference of opinion, we still are human beings. What would you say to people who are saying, well, how do we get to know somebody who is different than we are?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 14:06
Honest conversation. The thing about the people who are saying these against us is that they aren't listening to other people. The key here is communication. There needs to be honest communication between both sides to understand each other.
Lewis Trepel 14:23
And when you talk about honest communication, which I agree in support, how has social media helped or hindered that conversation?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 14:33
Oh, I would say social media has greatly hindered it. Because the thing with social media and the thing with algorithms is that it puts people in bubbles it if anything, I would say that people are more likely in real life to encounter people with more diverse opinions than they are in their own bubble of where they are in social media with their echo chamber.
Lewis Trepel 14:55
And you mentioned at the outset of this Jordan that you are sitting on if I get it right, the Prime Minister Gers Youth Council, the Prime Minister's Youth Council, how did you get involved in that?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 15:05
It was a quite lengthy application process. There were postings online for people who wanted to join it. And I wanted to join it because I have very strong opinions about trans rights being trans myself, and I fear what's happening in the States right now. And I want to get my voice to as many people as I can to stop that from happening here. And so I applied, at first it was a written process. And then they got back to me, a couple of months later, for a recorded interview, where similar to this, they asked me questions, and then I would record my questions and send it back my answers and send it back to them. And then I got a call a couple of months later saying that I was in.
Lewis Trepel 15:50
Wow, congratulations. Thank you. And do you have a mandate Jordan with this committee, too? Is there something specific that they've asked you to do?
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 15:59
Essentially, the committee is just for being the voice of youth in the country, because the thing with the ministers and public servants who are very high up in the federal government is that they tend to only hear each other's voices a lot of the time. And so there's been an initiative to try to reach out to more diverse groups of people, and that includes youth. So truly, the point of this council is just for them to hear the voices of the youth and have ambassadors for our age group to represent us to talk to them.
Lewis Trepel 16:36
So I'm going to ask a question, Jordan, if I don't ask it properly, please make sure that I use the proper way in asking the question. But as a member of the transgender community, tell me something that you feel so incredibly positive about.
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 16:52
I feel positive, honestly, after coming out of this exhibit with just how far that we've gotten. I have been thinking about this a lot over the last hour while I've been here. And I am very proud to be a part of this community with the people who have come before me in this province, who have fought tooth and nail for the rights that we have now. I am proud to have places like Rainbow Resource Center and clinic in the city to help us.
Lewis Trepel 17:18
Jordan, thank you so much for spending some time with me. I really appreciate it. It's wonderful to meet you. And I wish you all the success on the Prime Minister's Youth Committee, because clearly you're somebody who's very passionate, and I know you're going to make a difference. So thanks for spending some time with me.
Jordan Anglin-Riemer 17:37
Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you for inviting me here. It was wonderful to talk to you.
Stuart Murray 17:49
Sally, we're standing at the entrance of the Manitoba Museum where Rainbow Resource Center has partnered with them to create incredible exhibit called 'If These Walls Could Talk'. What's your impression, having just seen the exhibit?
Sally Papso 18:06
Well, it's really interesting, like I volunteer a little bit down at the center and how this all started. They had boxes and boxes and boxes of posters from our history of everything about our history starting way, way back in the early 70s. And so we Brace and I, the the person who works at the center, brought them all out, organize them all sorted them all out, digitize them all out. And so they're all there and they're all recorded now. And then Ashley Smith came along. And he wanted, he thought it would be good idea. He thought, I just like to take some of the highlights of our history and do a poster. historical journey. And so that's how it all began. So I knew it was happening. I knew it was going on. And yeah, I've got I've got 1000s of stories to tell and it's not like I haven't told stories before anything about it. But it's one thing, I think when you're telling the story, and you know, you censor yourself and you don't say everything and, and a lot of the stuff when we were doing all this activism work. I mean, it wasn't something we thought about, geez, we better save this one day because it's gonna be so important. Things had to be done and we just went ahead and did it. And so it's out there. And then when I come down here and I see it now on the wall looking back at me and I say holy crap this was us. This was me, this really happened. We really did this. We really survived through this. And then when I stand out here in the larger space And I see now, a lot of younger and younger faces than myself. And I look out the faces, and I say this, you're, you're an expression of the work that we did, you're hearing now, like, you're young, and you have all these rights and and that was because all of our work and that's such a great thing and, and so good to see them there. And then I think so this is what we worked for, so that people could be who they were and love who they are, and be here and come and go as they please. And yet, here we are, again, in some kind of a rally, protesting and activating for our inherent human rights. And so it goes on and on and yeah, it's very emotional. Very emotional. I'm so grateful that Ashley did this work. It's just a such a small part of it. I mean, there's so much of it, then, to even sort out what were some of the major highlights is very difficult so.
Lewis Trepel 21:18
Well, and Sally, one of the great things must be that somebody had the foresight to save some of these elements in the archives, so that they were saved, and allowing people to then bring them forward. From your perspective, who you've been involved in this for a long, long time to understand that those memories that were in boxes are now on people's minds, they're on walls, they're part of a conversation.
Sally Papso 21:48
And this is the thing like I, I'm an oral historian, and I'm a bit of a art archivist as myself. And so I started saving, and I've got boxes and boxes, and a lot of the information that is here on the walls is part of my own archive archival papers, and yes, and other members of the community, like Chris Vogel, for instance, who from like he was tenacious, he was a packrat, he saved everything, everything, everything, everything, and even payslips you know, from from, check, check stubs, and he says, not so much for the amount of money but for the name so that we knew in our community who might be our supporters, and he said at the time, too, that he was archiving all this material and saved everything it wasn't because he thought, oh, this would be famous one day, and people would want to know about it. He was saving it at the time and hanging on to it for educational purposes, because we were always in dialogue with people and other like politicians and religious people arguing for ourselves and our human rights. So all of this information that Chris had been gathering was used, like he read everything, every article, every every everything, and so we could use it as arguments when we were arguing for for our rights. And yeah, bless their hearts, everybody who and save this stuff. Me, you know, because I have inboxes, what do you do with it? And this is the first time that somebody has, like Ashley has wanted to bring it forward, do something with it.
Lewis Trepel 23:42
Can I just ask so you mentioned Ashley, can you just explain who actually is pleased?
Sally Papso 23:46
Smith, who is the advocate, right now the Rainbow Resource Center. At the time, he was the coordinator for the over the rainbow group who have the 55+ folk at the Resource Center. And so he was he's the one who motivated this, this whole thing. Yeah.
Stuart Murray 24:09
Sally, if somebody's wondering whether they should come to this exhibit, and we're asking you, what would you tell them? I think I know the answer to it. But the question I would like you to explain is when you after you said yes. Why is it important for people to come to this exhibit?
Sally Papso 24:28
Well, everybody, everybody's human rights is important. And when you have grown up as a part of a marginalized group, and you've been isolated, you've been rejected you've been spit on. It's important. It's just important for people to know like, we're all human. We're all people. We're all the same. When things are pushing back, stand out, use your voice, find your voice, push back against it. I don't know. I get lost in my own. In my, in my own emotion.
Lewis Trepel 25:17
Well, rightly so, Sally. I mean, and I know when I asked you, if you would be part of this conversation, I know your reluctance was because of your emotion of what you've just been through. I just can't thank you enough for stopping and at least sharing in a very small way, which is not even the tip of the iceberg of what you have seen. But I just thank you for spending a bit of time with me.
Sally Papso 25:41
Yes, you're welcome. And thank you, you know, and like I always, I mean, this is wonderful. And this is great. I always remind our people though, like, don't get complacent. We always have to be vigilant. And I think we will always have to be vigilant, not just our our group, but other marginalized groups. And that's a sadness.
Stuart Murray 26:06
Yeah, Sally, it is. And but, you know, I see in you as somebody who is a passionate member of this community, and, you know, I would love you just to sort of share your last thoughts about what's your biggest, most happiest moment about this struggle that you will carry as a memory that takes you to the next level?
Sally Papso 26:34
I guess. I don't know if there's anyone memory and like, you know, this isn't what this isn't work I did by myself. This is work we all did together. And just when I think about and I think about all those people, I walked with all those people, I rallied with all those people that that we experienced laughter and humor and hardship together with and all those people, friends of mine have lost through through aids, through suicide, through other things, it's to still be here today is is is pretty marvelous. Pretty marvelous.
Stuart Murray 27:21
Sally, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit about who you are, and the importance of what it is that all of us can learn more about and support.
Sally Papso 27:32
I think like the most important thing is we all have a voice. Find your voice and use it. Don't think don't stay silent. Your silence won't protect you.
Stuart Murray 27:49
Well said Sally, thank you so much.
Sally Papso 27:51
Matt Cundill 27:53
Thanks for listening to Humans, On Rights. A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans, On Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray. Social media marketing by Buffy Davey. Music by Doug Edmund. For more go to humansonrightshub.ca.
Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 28:14
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai