National Queer and Trans Community History Conference


May 3-4, 2024 at MacEwan University, Edmonton

Earlier this month, I travelled to Edmonton to attend the National Queer and Trans+ Community History Conference, hosted by MacEwan University. This 2-day meeting brought together more than 150 community members, heritage professionals, academics, historians, emerging scholars, and non-profit organizers who have an interest in documenting, preserving, and celebrating diverse and intersectional queer and trans+ histories in Canada.

A highlight of the conference was a welcome session with Albert McLeod, a respected knowledge keeper with ancestry from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Métis communities of Cross Lake and Norway House in northern Manitoba. Albert was the first to speak publicly about the importance of Elder Myra Laramee’s vision of Two-Spirit at a 1990 gathering in Beausejour, Manitoba. Since then, he has worked tirelessly with LGBTQ Indigenous people across the continent to organize under the name “Two-Spirit” to remember and honour the roles of non-binary people and the important spiritual role that they played in their communities. He is the founder of the Two-Spirit Archives, which is housed at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

I also had the opportunity to hear from Marina Bokovay and Kristen Mercier, who have been working to enliven the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives at the University of Ottawa with a new emphasis on digitization of vulnerable collections of magnetic tape. It was interesting to learn how they are making decisions about providing ethical access to records documenting contentious moments in the history of lesbian activism. Candace Klein and Lindsay Stokalko provided a status update on the processing of the Neil Richards Collection of Gender and Sexual Diversity at the University of Saskatchewan. This collection documents the history of the 2SLGBTQ+ movement in Canada, with an emphasis on Prairie experiences. Chloë Brushwood Rose and Andi Schwartz discussed the challenges of capturing the histories of femme queers in Toronto using a combination of photography, oral histories, and textual records. 

Another highlight of the conference was a 2-hour walking tour led by two members of the Edmonton Queer History Project. Like many urban centres in the Prairies, Edmonton was a destination for many queer and trans people seeking safety in community as they explored their own gender and sexual diversity. Walking tours are my favourite way to talk about the intersection of communities and place – and this tour did not disappoint! We visited the site of the 1981 Pisces Bathhouse Raid and made a stop at the former home of Edmonton’s long-serving bar, The Roost. We also visited a new mural installed at Michael Phair Park, named for Alberta’s first openly gay elected politician – Michael was also in attendance to help lead the tour! The walk ended back at MacEwan campus with a mix and mingle poster session where participants could enjoy the Len & Cub: A Queer History" photo exhibition, curated by Dusty Green & Meredith J. Batt, Queer Heritage Initiative of New Brunswick.

The conference has given me a good sense of how archives across Canada are stewarding 2SLGBTQ+ histories and engaging local, national, and international audiences in the work that they do. 

I’m also looking forward to next month, when the SCA team will celebrate Pride, highlighting our own 2SLGBTQ+ collections with a series of blog posts featuring some of our latest acquisitions and a virtual workshop that will invite participants to bring their own histories together to help us document the lived experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ Waterloo.  

Streetscape with many colourful signs on the left side of the street, and a large building in the distance with the partically obscured word "Rogers" in red.

Walking through Edmonton's Neon Sign Museum (left) with Rogers Place in the distance

inside of a room with white walls and couches along the wall in various black and white patterns, with colourful shapes on the walls.

MacEwan University's Centre for Sexual & Gender Diversity

A column of ballons, clusters of ballons forming stripes rising from the ground of green, red, orange, yellow, blue, and pink, with a large white balloon on top branded with the conference logo.

Balloons welcoming guests to opening reception


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