By Troy Hasselman, March 8 2019 —
Presented by the Calgary Queer Arts Society, The Coming Out Monologues, YYC is returning for its 10th edition this year. The event serves as a celebration of Calgary’s LGBTQ+ community with a selection of spoken word, musical and movement pieces all centred around the theme of coming out stories.
“The monologues originally started as a small event that happened at the University of Calgary and has moved out into larger and larger venues and now we’re in the new Central Library Theatre,” says James Demers, the Executive Director of the Calgary Queer Arts Society. “The types of stories we’re telling have changed over the 10 years. We’re having a lot more conversations about gender diversity and gender identity in the stories than we used to, but they’re productive. We also have a really huge age range — our youngest monologue participant was eight and our oldest was 72.”
For the last 10 years, the program has provided a platform for local LGBTQ+ artists to share their personal stories about coming to terms with their sexualities and identities. Demers hopes for this will remain the case in the future.
“The monologues are a really successful opportunity for people to do storytelling in their community,” says Demers. “It’s been a really productive annual event to have in Calgary, so we want to keep it steady and growing and be a space where people can come and tell their story. Our logline for the program is: ‘If you’ve got a story then we’ve got a stage’, I’d like to see it very much as a program that serves the development of artists”.
The growth of the monologues also reflects the change in Calgary in the past decade as the city has begun to move away from its conservative reputation.
“We are telling these stories in a different city than we were 10 years ago. The city has changed a lot, things like Nenshi getting into power have happened in the last 10 years and the NDP getting into power has happened in the last four. These things have had an effect on the social climate,” Demers explains. “We’ve also seen Pride explode from an event with 2,500 people to 80,000 people last year. The monologues have been on that ride. We’re seeing a society that is more open to having conversations about the dignity of queer people and this is a great program to highlight them. But we’re also seeing apathy as we get more comfortable and I think this election is really going to give us the opportunity to come together.”
As with every year, there will be special guests on hand, including musicians and MCs from across the country that will contribute to the event.
“Our musician-in-residence this year is this really wonderful non-binary person named Damase Ellis,” says Demers. “We’re as well bringing in some really incredible MCs like Master Cameron Leon from Ottawa and Beau Creep from Edmonton. We’ll have a different MC and musical guest every single night.”
A new aspect that is being added to the monologues this year is the Newcomer stories, where LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees to Canada tell their stories. These stories are meant to meditate on the intersection of LGBTQ+ and ethnic identities within immigrant and refugee communities.
“For LGBTQ immigrants, coming to Canada can be a bit of a complicated endeavour. If you are from Jamaica — for example — where being gay is criminalized and you immigrate to Canada you will be encouraged to meet up with the Jamaican community in Canada to help you settle,” says Demers. “Leaving your country due to cultural homophobia then being encouraged to return to that atmosphere in Canada is sort of complex. Newcomers are often in this situation where they have to be in touch with people from their home country in order to successfully immigrate, but it means they have to remain somewhat closeted within that community. Telling newcomer stories is important because the context in which newcomers access the community is very specific and it’s really good to tell this to a broader audience who don’t understand what the pressures of immigating as an LGBTQ person mean in a global context.”
The Coming Out Monologues, YYC takes place at the Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall at the Central Public Library from March 20–23 at 6:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $12 for a single night and $40 for a four-day pass. Tickets and more information about the event can be found on the Queer Arts Society website.