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Nancy Nicol is a documentary filmmaker who has dedicated her career to tracing the history of the LGBTQ movements in Canada and around the world. She has worked as a professor in visual studies since 1989 at York University. However, her career as a filmmaker started in the 1970s with experimental films, but by the 1980s Nicol’s work focused on documentary film addressing political issues including pro-choice struggles for access to abortion, unions, and the working struggles of women and migrants. By the 2000s her films changed focus to the history of lesbian and gay rights from the 1970s to the 2010s.
The exhibit in particular showcases shorts and excerpts from the award-winning documentary series From Criminality to Equality which includes Stand Together (2002), The Queer Nineties(2009), Politics of the Heart(2005) and, The End of Second Class (2006). Director Nancy Nicol brings to life 40 years of lesbian and gay rights movement history in Canada, through the voices of activists, community leaders, and human rights lawyers, combined with a rich resource of rarely seen archival materials. The films trace the emergence of gay liberation, the struggles for human and civil rights, recognition of same-sex relationship and parenting rights and same sex marriage. The work provides an in-depth study of the complex relations between social movement activism, legal and political change, and the capacity of ordinary people to take up extraordinary challenges to overcome injustice. It is an extended case study on the history of a social movement, a movement that emerged out of conditions of criminality and profound social exclusion.
In addition to the series From Criminality to Equality are shorts and excerpts from Nicol’s other films including Proud Lives: Chris Bearchell (2007), Proud Lives: George Hislop (2005), Gay Pride and Prejudice (1994), Making the Political Appear, Black Queer Histories of Organizing (2006), From Russia, in Love (2009), and Pride and Resistance (2007).
Oral histories have been a popular way to preserve the lives and testimonies of marginalized subjects who have often been denied access to the historical record. This exhibit is a small selection of the CLGA's collection of oral histories and audiovisual materials relating to LGBT lives in Canada.
Some of these histories have been collected as part of formal oral history projects, while others have resulted from interviews for news articles or other projects. Together they provide a rich picture of life in Canada for LGBT people from the 1950s to the 1970s, covering topics such as interviewees' early lives and coming out, bar culture, social services, activism, municipal and national politics, HIV/AIDS, and intra-community tensions.
These cassette tapes have been digitized by the LGBTQ+ Oral History Digital Collaboratory in order to preserve them and make them available online.