Queer communities in Canada have made incredible progress in achieving equal rights, but one man’s story has rarely been acknowledged, despite its importance in Canadian queer history.
A new Alberta podcast is delving into the life of Everett Klippert, the last man to have been convicted for homosexuality in Canada and how the outrage over his conviction contributed to the repeal of anti-homosexual laws.
In Canada, before the legalizationof homosexual activity in 1969, thoes who identified as gay could be charged and sent to prison.
Klippert was a well-liked bus driver in Calgary. At age 34, he was sentenced to four years in prison after his partner’s father told police about their relationship.
A year after his release, police questioned him in another investigation and charged him for engaging in homosexeual behavior. They labeled him a dangerous sexual offender.
Klippert’s conviction triggered backlash from Canadian media outlets and in May of 1969, Pierre Trudeau announced bill C-150 which decriminalized gay sex for the first time in Canadian history.
However, Klippert was not released from prison until 1971 where police argued that his release was not retroactive.
Local playwright Natalie Meisner collaborated with Sage Theater and the Alberta Queer Calendar Project to create an audio theatre experience. The project offers a yearly series of podcasts that focus on Canadian queer history. The November episode is dedicated to sharing the details on the imprisonment of Klippert.
“There are so many queer elders whose stories merit our attention,” says Meisner. “But it was Mr. Kilppert’s who won my heart.”
The podcast episodes, Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story, uses Canadian actors to portray the emotion behind Klippert’s conviction.
They follow a young lesbian academic named Maxine, played by Kathy Zaborsky, as she interviews Klippert’s past lover, a character named Handsome.
The interviews between Maxine and Handsome shed light on untold elements of Klippert’s story and provides insight into Canada’s discriminatory laws.
In the audio play, Handsome described how gay men faced many hardships in the 1960s, such as police intrusion and fear of chemical castration. He said many would live their lives in constant fear.
“We were hounded off the streets, out of our jobs, tossed in jail, beaten black and blue and used for a goddamn tissue,” he said.
Actor Matt McKinney portrayed Klippert in his interactions with law enforcement.
“The law says so, the good book, too,” he said, referring to the Bible. “Doctors and lawyers and policeman, good men, whose job is to protect us, all agree a homosexual is the worst thing you can be.”
The podcast illustrated how no matter the adversities he faced, Klippert never lost his sense of self.
“He refused to be ashamed and kept on finding ways to be happy, no matter what they threw at him,” Maxine said.