I was strolling along Jasper Avenue on a warm summer's Saturday afternoon with the sidewalks packed with shoppers. Those were the days in Edmonton when hundreds of independent businesses lined both sides of Jasper Avenue along with the side streets. The working crowd would take a lunch break in the tree-covered park in front of city hall or any number of quiet places downtown.
Downtown was alive and included Alice the quarter-quarter bag lady. Between 103 and 104 streets, the Bay store took up an entire block on the north side of Jasper with a cinema across the street surrounded by a variety of shops. It was the mid to late 1970s when transit buses ran on a regular schedule. Street parking was available everywhere, making it easy for anyone to drive downtown day and night. The atmosphere of friendliness filled the summer air on this particular Saturday.
As I crossed 103 Street, the sweetest voice asked if I would mind giving a lady a hand. I happily put my arm under hers and glanced at a lovely face decked out in an amazing dress and hat.
"Do those boots of yours click?" she asked. I clicked the heels for her. "Your jeans are a tight fit for this weather." to her I replied "The dress you are wearing is more fit for a ball."
We were cruising along in front of The Bay store where crowds were loading on and off the buses. The sidewalk was very crowded so I moved this lovely lady closer to me.
I asked "What name shall I address you?"
"Millie Empress I when I'm in Drag and you may call me Paul when I am not doing a Drag Show. Will you come to see me?" she said.
"Empress 1makes an activist and here we are walking along Jasper Avenue with you in full Drag. I love it." replied I.
Millie posed a powerful question to me. "What will you do to make equality for gay men and women, homosexuals, something we can be proud of in Canada?"
"Will you give me a few minutes to understand what must be done?" was my simple reply.
"You can count on Millie Empress 1 for advice at any time. What name shall I call you?"
"Dennis, as in Dennis the menace the cartoon figure." as I grinned at Millie
We parted company on 105 Street with grand fanfare and adieu.
I did on many occasions ask for advice from our Millie Empress 1.
I remember Millie for helping to deal with my sexuality. As a recovering Catholic, the doctrine I was taught made me believe that god created junk. I knew better and did learn it was far from the truth. Everyone is born with the ability to love whoever they wish to love.
People should not fear the government, a landlord, a business or healthcare workers who will not let you visit the one you love.
It took decades to get any government to listen. One did finally make changes to laws preventing discrimination against homosexual men and women in Canada. It was the beginning of further changes, including people of any gender they wished to be called.
Canada rolled along as a recognized member of the best world economies. Making a modern decision to embrace everyone did not lead to a disaster that some said would happen.
This is one of the only remaining photos of Millie Empress 1. Love you Paul for starting a tradition carried on to this day.
The Koan describes three monks watching a banner flutter in the breeze. One monk observes, "The banner is moving," but the second insists, "The wind is moving." Finally, the third monk says, "You are both wrong. It is your mind that is moving." Zen Buddhism
Dennis A. Cambly
Play-writer Darrin Hagen about Millie https://wp.me/pWjRa-2Ee
Members of The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose https://iscwryeg.ca/?p=1900