QTBIPOC History

We’re pleased to share with you a new resource, our QTBIPOC History Reference, developed by our research assistant, Emma Awe. Check out Emma’s reflection on her research below.

Hello! My name is Emma N. Awe and I’m currently working as a research assistant for the CCGSD as part of the Young Canada Works Program and as a complement to my ongoing Master’s degree in Public History at Carleton University. I’ve been creating educational materials that highlight pieces of Canada’s 2SLGBTQIA+ history. Read more about the reference document about Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour’s history in Canada that I’ve made below and stay tuned for my next project that focuses on Black folks’ historic experiences, art, and activism within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Toronto!

Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) are largely invisible in Canadian history. The difficult, violent, and racist histories of these communities are often left out of history curricula in favour of patriotic and national narratives. Even within the rainbow community, history and progress is often measured by the work of white-led organizations, political campaigns, and legal victories, while the intersectional, grassroots community activism of QTBIPOC is comparatively erased. This invisibility is also cyclical and pervasive. I have often heard the excuse that because history resources do not showcase QTBIPOC experiences and voices, that “QTBIPOC must not have been around at that time.” Yet, this assumption that QTBIPOC were not present for the moments that we uphold as pivotal queer Canadian milestones, perpetuates their erasure. 

Are QTBIPOC harder to locate in the historical record? Yes, evidence of their existence such as photos, letters, books, articles, art, and music, have been systematically overlooked, undervalued, judged, and destroyed by the white gatekeepers of history. QTBIPOC were there. They have always been there. They paved the way for QTBIPOC today. Even just by adopting this frame of mind, QTBIPOC become easier to find throughout history. Prioritizing their stories, experiences, voices, and work is the important next step to assuring that QTBIPOC history is common knowledge, and so too the intersectional forces of racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia that have silenced them.

The document I’ve put together about QTBIPOC history in Canada serves as just a small glimpse of the many years of activism, community-building, and changemaking. The first page presents the term ‘QTBIPOC’ and the diversity of peoples represented by this label, as well as addresses some questions that I often encounter about QTBIPOC history. The second page has an introductory list of some of the historic organizations that fought for QTBIPOC in Canada and a timeline of activism designed to challenge the often whitewashed timelines of the Liberation era. I urge readers to use this document as a starting point to reconsider dominant narratives and assumptions about queer and trans history in Canada, but also to recognize that there are many more moments, organizations, and activists than those represented here. Many of the QTBIPOC organizations discussed are based in more populated urban centres such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa. Rural QTBIPOC are out there too, and they are even harder to find! While this document mentions a couple of the more rural organizations—such as the Nichiwakan Native Gay and Lesbian Society and Diversity, that operated in and around Winnipeg— we are committed to finding more and continuing to grow our information base about QTBIPOC all across Canada.

It is my hope that this document propels forward the work of other researchers, students, teachers, and community-builders working to diversify queer and trans history in Canada, and that future generations won’t have to search as hard to find QTBIPOC and their stories.