Browse Exhibits (3 total)
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.
The Foolscap Oral History Project, also known as the Toronto Gay History Project, was undertaken by John Grube and Lionel Collier in order to collect and preserve histories of everyday gay life and social culture in pre-Stonewall Toronto. The project material from John Grube, recently donated to CLGA by James Dubro, includes 42 interviews on 52 cassette tapes that provide a rich picture of the lives and histories of men in their circle.
Interviews took place from 1981-1987, and cover gay life in Toronto from the 1940s until that time. Topics include the men's early life, coming out, relationships, friendships, sex lives, careers, military service, community organizing, political actions, religion, bar culture, and experiences with psychiatry.
The tapes and transcripts comprising the Foolscap Project were donated to the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in 2016, and are currently being processed by the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory (Prof. Elspeth Brown, University of Toronto, PI).
The Lesbians Making History (LMH) collective came together in the mid-1980s and was inspired by oral history projects of gay lives coming out of Buffalo, Boston and San Francisco. The collective interviewed 9 women about their experiences as ‘out’ lesbians in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
Collective members included:
Rachel Epstein, Maureen FitzGerald, Amy Gottlieb, Didi Khayatt, Mary Louise Noble, and Lorie Rotenberg
Some of the women interviewed by the collective also appeared in Aerlyn Weissman and Lynne Fernie’s NFB-funded documentary Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives. The 1992 film was out of print for many years until 2014, when the National Film Board released it in digital format.
Although the organizers of Lesbians Making History were committed to keeping the project a community-based initiative, and not one rooted in academic pursuit, they allowed Elise Chenier, now a professor at Simon Fraser University, to use the transcripts of the interviews for her MA thesis. Chenier’s work on lesbian bar culture in the 1950s and 60s is widely taught in Canadian universities. Interview material was also used by Cameron Duder and by Gary Kinsman and Patrizia Gentile.
In 2014 the original audio tapes were given to the CLGA via the LGBTQ Digital Oral History Collaboratory, a multi-institutional research project led by University of Toronto professor Elspeth Brown and funded by a 5-year SSRHC Insight grant.
Embedded at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA), Collaboratory members digitized LMH materials and created new verbatim transcriptions. Original LHM collective members assisted with editing transcripts, identifying key words and writing abstracts for each oral history interview.