Humans of Vic Park: Kevin Allen
I came out in 1990 when I was 19. I first realized I was gay when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t a safe place to come out back in the 80’s, so I waited until I was in university. Coming out was one of the hardest things to do in my life. I remember sobbing and my parents were crying because there was just so much social pressure and societal disapproval – particularly because of the AIDS crisis. People were scared and so were my parents. They thought I was signing up for a death sentence.
But coming out lifted this huge weight off my shoulders. It gave me this great sense of freedom. In university I was getting involved with gay publications, gay support groups, and I had this really strong sense of community – a community that was very tight back then.
I sadly remember the gay bashings that went on back in the 90’s, still spurred on by the AIDS crisis. Young men would drive up in their trucks looking for queers to beat up. I’ve been fortunate to have never been bashed but I did see some scary things while I was walking along 17th. There were also the police harassments that would go on where a cop would stop and pull aside suspected gay men for no reason. As they held and questioned you, you realized that the only reason this cop detained you is because they visibly identified you as gay or “walking swishy.”
I felt that the human rights struggle that we were in was extremely important and engaging. So, as much as my past seemed negative, it was also very rewarding because I was an activist. Throughout much of the 90’s I was volunteering at different queer organizations including in CommunityWise where the Gay & Lesbian Community Services Association was. Here, I was on the peer support phone lines – I would take calls from people struggling with their sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s really awe-inspiring to see how far we’ve come just in my lifetime. Looking back people were much more assertively homophobic. When I came out my mom didn’t even know what being gay really meant and there really wasn’t much education on gender and sexual orientation. Now, local companies, in the same street where much of the gay bashings in the city occurred, adorn pride flags, umbrellas, and merchandise.
I met my husband in 1999 at CommunityWise. The Gay & Lesbian Community Services Association were having an AGM and I got invited to sit on the board of directors and so did my future husband.
I remember him introducing himself to me. We were both new on the board, so I got to know him volunteering… and then we started dating.
And we’ve been married since 2006.
- Kevin Allen, Calgary Gay History