New streetlight banners highlight Guelph's LGBTQ history

There are 30 new banners on Carden Street in downtown Guelph that highlight the history of LGBTQ issues in the city and across Canada. The banners also mark the 15th anniversary of Guelph Pride.

Banners mark 15th anniversary of Guelph Pride

New banners in part of downtown Guelph highlights LGBTQ history. The project marks the 15th anniversary of Guelph Pride. (Downtown Guelph Business Association)

A blood donation sticker that reads "I tried, have you?" is written over with a black marker so now it reads, "I tried, but I'm gay."

The image is on a new banner in downtown Guelph that is part of a project to mark 15 years of Guelph Pride and to highlight historic moments in LGBTQ history in the city and across Canada.

Gay and bisexual men continue to be told they cannot donate blood in Canada, although there is a new petition before the House of Commons calling on the federal Liberals to make good on a campaign promise to change things.

But that's just one moment local historian Tony Berto felt needed to be highlighted in the banner project.

"There's ample evidence that the blood supply is very, very safe. There's a variety of measures that can be brought in so there's no way that there's anything that could possibly taint the blood supply, and yet gay men are singled out as being ones that aren't allowed to donate as regular citizens," Berto said. "We're being made separate and pariahs to a degree."

'We've come so far'

Berto curated the 30-banner project, an initiative of the Downtown Guelph Business Association. The banners hang on streetlights along Carden Street.

In a release about the project, Guelph Pride member Jasper Smith said the banners highlight "both the forgotten and the continuing narratives of the LGBTQ2+ history in Guelph.

"We've come so far as a community in recent decades and though some of it has remained hidden out of safety or fear, there's a distinct shift happening," he added.

Berto, who studied LGBTQ history for his PhD thesis, admitted it was difficult to do just 30 banners.

He said he hopes people learn something new.

"There's so many people out there that don't really know the history of what Canada has done and what colonial and various other governments over the years have done to marginalize and punish people for being basically who they are, so I think the educational aspect that comes out of this project is really a good thing," he said.

Banners showing moments in LGBTQ history have gone up on streetlight post on Carden Street in downtown Guelph. The banner project marks the 15th anniversary of Guelph Pride. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)