Queer Peel Oral History Project!

oral history / public humanities / trans history
trans musician Rachel Mesic shared her story with Lucas Blower, interviewer (Feb 2020)

trans musician Rachel Mesic shared her story with Lucas Blower, interviewer (Feb 2020)

What’s it like to be LGBTQ2+ in Canadian suburbs and edge cities? We’ve next to no primary sources about queer and trans life in Canada’s ‘burbs and edge cities, so my students and I decided to create some.

This spring, students in my 3rd year history course at the University of Toronto, Mississauga conducted 25 oral histories with LGBTQ2+ activists, students, alums, and residents of the Peel region in the Greater Toronto Area. Our goal was to begin the process of documenting this history so that we can learn more about queer and trans history and place through an intersectional lens.

Student groups streamlined their research to cover five sub-groups: OUT @ UTM, Positive Space Committee, being queer on the web, being queer in Peel, and LGBTQ2+ alumni at UTM. As a part of their course work, each student interviewed a narrator, archived the interview they conducted, and curated an Omeka digital exhibition showcasing the interviews, relevant news articles, and other visuals to contextualize LGBTQ2+ lives in Peel Region. The Omeka exhibition is now live, and it is available here: https://omeka.utm.utoronto.ca/s/queerpeel/page/intro.

I had a lot of help making this class a success. Thank you especially to all the fabulous narrators, research assistants Mia Colavito and Luke Drummond; Dr. Joan Simalchik; librarians Yayo Umetsubo, Chris Young, and Simone Laughton; SRA Elizabeth Parke; and AV wizard Robert Martins. Blake Eligh wrote a wonderful article about the class as, “Queer in the Suburbs: Hidden Histories of Peel Region,” UTM News, March 9, 2020, which was republished in the Mississauga News and the Brampton Guardian (thank you!).

A special thanks is due to Anu Radha Verma, a community activist and artist, who helped guide students through the complexities and nuance of varied queer and QTBIPOC experiences in Peel Region.

All interviews and other materials from the project will be donated to The ArQuives (https://arquives.ca/), Canada’s largest LGBTQ2+ archives, as well as the UTM Archives.