N.L. now has its very own queer history archive
Collection of documents and photos the first of its kind in the province
The N.L. Queer Research Initiative just launched a collection of rare documents and photographs detailing the province's LGBTQ past, and it's the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sarah Worthman, the non-profit's executive director, says the new archive tells the hidden stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender-diverse Newfoundlanders and Labradorians throughout history.
"I came up with the idea because we were the only province in Canada to not have a queer history archive," said Worthman, adding she kickstarted the project after her research into the queer history of the First World War revealed this province lacked a collection of LGBTQ material.
"With such a diverse queer history and culture in this province, I just thought it was so important to do whatever I can to help create that," Worthman said. "My dream of this organization is for kids in the province to grow up and know that their community is a part of our history."
The group reached that goal this week with the launch of an archive compiling decades of queer stories and artifacts. The N.L. Queer Archive already contains rare documents and photographs, and will continue to grow thanks to the work of volunteers and public submissions.
"The goal is really for this archive to be for anyone who wants to look it up, and you don't have to have ... a history degree or anything like that," said Worthman.
Current collections include documents from The Body Politic, a queer, activist-based Canadian publication that published from 1971 to 1987, behind the scenes images from the iconic CODCO television series and some never-before-seen photos of Tommy Sexton.
It's much harder to hate on someone that you know as opposed to someone that you don't.
Curating the materials for the archives was an arduous task, but Worthman knows it was valuable work.
"It's really important to have access to this type of records because of the amazing power it has to really empower and be a source of pride for the community," said Worthman. "To know that queer people are not only here today but we have always been here throughout Newfoundland and Labrador's history."
Worthman says one of the standout collections for her is entitled The 2SLGBTQIA+ Purge in Newfoundland and Labrador. That material details the expulsion of nine women from the Canadian Armed Forces due to their involvement in a same-sex marriage in Argentia in 1977.
The N.L. Queer Research Initiative now has a full board of directors and dozens of volunteers nationwide. The group is actively working on other research-based projects, including the identification of queer stories and storytellers and the Inuit Queer History Project, aimed at investigating the precolonial and ongoing history of queerness in Labrador.
Worthman says she's proud of the work the group has done so far but knows that more understanding and exposure of queer stories and history is needed.
"Canada is facing this kind of tidal wave of anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate," said Worthman. "So it's important to have people learn about our community, because it's much harder to hate on someone that you know as opposed to someone that you don't."