Ten Resources to Learn About Queer and Trans History in Canada

pride coloured lego figures and rainbow on a table

Photo by James A. Molnar on Unsplash

Krista McCracken

It’s nearing the end of Pride Month. As a non-binary, queer scholar who offers workshops on gender and queer identities, June is a busy month.  Throughout the month I’ve received a number of requests for reading recommendations about teaching about gender, history, and pride in Canada.  In light of those requests I’ve created a list of ten books, articles, and resources that contexualize and speak about the history of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community in Canada. 

This list is merely a starting point and is focused on queer and trans history in Canada. There are lots of resources I wanted to include but couldn’t because of length.  Likewise, there are many other sources where students and scholars can learn more generally about trans and queer identities. In all cases I would suggest that listening to the voices of queer and trans communities is a crucial part of learning about this history, community, and lived realities. 

Books, Articles and Resources

The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Queer Canadian History Timeline – Pre-Colonization to Present. 2018.
This concise resource produced by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) is a great overview for anyone interested in learning about queer history in Canada. It provides a solid summary of key events, dates, and people. I often recommend this resource as a starting point for people who are looking to gain context to pride celebrations and the history of 2SLGBTQQIA+ people in Canada. 

Valerie J. Korinek, Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985, University of Toronto Press, 2018.
This book is a significant contribution to understanding queer history Canada. Focused primarily on five urban centers of the prairies – Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary – Korinek uses oral histories and archival sources to describe and illuminate the history of prairie queer communities from 1930 to 1985.

Patrizia Gentile,  Gary Kinsman, and L. Pauline Rankin, eds. We still demand!: Redefining resistance in sex and gender struggles. UBC Press, 2017.
Published in 2017, this collection of 13 pieces remembers and documents sex and gender activism. Divided into two sections – Histories of Resistance and Activism and The Politics and Power of Resistance – this book links historical activism to contemporary remembering and scholarship. The collection does a great job of highlighting the need for sex and gender specific narratives, in the face of dominant narratives which often leave out grassroots movements and action.

Tom Hooper, “Queering’69: The recriminalization of homosexuality in Canada,” Canadian Historical Review 100, no. 2 (2019): 257-273. 

This article by Tom Hooper challenges the myth that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and reframes the 1969 omnibus bill as a recriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. Hooper notes, “Recriminalization is not simply found in a rejection of the myth of reform in 1969. It also refers to the mass mobilization in the policing of queer sexualities in the decades following the passage of the omnibus bill.” This article does an excellent job of contextualising decriminalization, policing, assimilation, and the intersection of queer theory and Indigenous studies. I recommend this article to anyone looking to teach about the legal status of queer folks in Canada.

El Chenier, “Love-politics: Lesbian wedding practices in Canada and the United States from the 1920s to the 1970s,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 27, no. 2 (2018): 294-321.
In this article Chenier argues that the wedding practices by same-sex couples is love-politics in action. Chenier examines weddings as a means of resisting the criminalization of same-sex relationships and the connection of weddings to gender roles. Personally, I enjoyed this article for its cross-border analysis and rich selection of archival examples. 

Ma-Nee Chacaby and Mary Louisa Plummer,  A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder. University of Manitoba Press, 2016.
Though not strictly an academic text, I wanted to include this book as it provides an important contribution to understanding queer history from an Indigenous perspective. This autobiographical book provides readers with a personal story of gender and sexuality through the lens of Ma-Nee Chacaby’s experiences as a two-spirit person. Content warnings for violence, abuse, and addition. 

The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Queer History Colouring Book. 2020.
It’s history and it’s colouring! With text by Tom Hooper and art and design by Mickayla Jia and Julie Bica, this colouring book does an excellent job of introducing audiences to queer history. Each page also contains a read more section where folks can engage in deeper learning. Plus, did I mention colouring? 

Queer and Trans Archives

The ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives.
The ArQuives is an archives dedicated to preserving and sharing LGBTQ2+ histories and narratives.  In addition to their online collections, I recommend checking out the 26 virtual exhibits. The exhibits include a number of historical topics including 25 Years of Youthline, Trans Health Care Activism in Ontario, 1998-2008, Mapping Foolscap: Gay Oral Histories, 1981-1987 and Lesbians Making History: Oral History Project

University of Victoria – Transgender Archives
The University of Victoria Libraries is home to the largest transgender archives in the world. The Transgender Archives preserves the history of people and organizations associated with trans and gender diverse communities and activism. See more information about their collections.

Two-Spirit Archives
The Two-Spirit Archives contains materials which document the Indigenous Two-Spirit movement in Manitoba and throughout North America. It is the most comprehensive collection of material relating to Two-Spirit people in Canada. See their digital collections

Krista McCracken (they/them) is a Researcher/Curator at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University. They are a co-editor of ActiveHistory.ca 

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