The Queer Peel Oral History Project: Queer Histories from Edge Cities

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Meet our new undergraduate research assistant, Luke Drummond (he/him or they/them), as he introduces you to The Peel Oral History Project! Luke is a fourth year English undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, and is currently working as Dr. Elspeth Brown’s research assistant, helping develop her course on queer oral histories of Peel. Fun fact: Luke is fluent in American Sign Language!

The Queer Peel Oral History Project, conducted by Dr. Elspeth Brown for her 3rd year history Special Topics course at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, will document the histories of LGBTQ+ individuals in the Peel region (comprised of Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon). Documenting the histories of queer, trans, non-binary and other LGBTQ2S+ people in the Peel area is important because Peel is both an edge city and a suburb. Queer oral histories from both suburbia and edge cities are noticeably absent in both queer archives and in academic histories and documentation. This absence is particularly true of queer folks in a Canadian context, where documentation of queer histories and experiences are usually centered around the larger cities of Vancouver and Toronto. While the city of Toronto, about an hour from the Peel region, has a well-documented queer history and culture, the queer histories and present-day experiences of queer people in the surrounding edge cities have yet to be documented and archived. The Queer Peel Oral History Project will seek to address this gap.

Gathering these narrators’ histories allows us to explore and document the ways in which the experiences of queer folks in edge cities differ from those in larger cities, particularly those with established queer communities. Specifically, the Peel Oral History Project asks, how do queer folk find each other, spread information, and collectivize when queer culture is not established or centralized in the same way it is in large cities?

Through interviews conducted by Dr. Brown’s students as part of their coursework, this project will ask Peel queers (and other LGBT2S+ people) to recount their histories of finding queer people, places, and things in their area. Interviews with our narrators will take place between January and late March, 2020, and will be archived afterwards at The ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ Archives, the largest and oldest community-based queer archive in the world. If you are someone who has lived in Peel for at least 1 year, are over age 18, identify as LGBTQ2s+, and are interested in contributing your story, please contact elspeth.brown@utoronto.ca.