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Critical Engagements with 2SLGBTQ+ Archives

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Archiving Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQ+ Histories

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“No archive arises out of thin air. Each archives has a ‘pre-history’, in the sense of prior conditions of existence. Constituting an archive represents a significant moment, on which we need to reflect with care.”
Stuart Hall, “Constituting an Archive,” Third Text 15(54), 2001: 89.
Cited in Rebecka Sheffield, Documenting Rebellions: A Study of Four Lesbian and Gay Archives in Queer Times.

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, Hamilton Public Library accepted a founding donation for the 2SLGBTQ+ Community Archive from the estate of Michael Johnstone, who had, according to the HPL website, “captured more than 50 years of Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQ+ history – serving as a self-appointed archivist for a segment of the population that has long been marginalized.” Johnstone’s papers include a range of materials: “news clippings, photos, meeting minutes, newsletters and more,” and they are currently being preserved and catalogued by HPL with plans to use them as the basis from which to build the Hamilton 2SLGBTQ+ Community Archive.

A photo of Michael Johnstone beside the HPL archives' logo
Hamilton Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) at Pride Parade, 1991. Image courtesy of Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, Michael Johnstone Collection.


However, while we recognize the crucial importance of archiving the histories of 2SLGBTQ+ communities, we also recognize that gay and lesbian archiving has been a site of struggle, too. There has been much critique over the years for a tendency to archive histories and materials relevant to predominantly white gay (and to a lesser extent lesbian) lives, and for a subsequent lack of representation of more marginalized members of 2SLGBTQ+, including Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) 2SLGBTQ+, trans and gender non-conforming/non-binary community members, members who identify as mad or disabled, or those more recently added to the longer version of the LGBTQ+ acronym including intersex, two-spirit, and asexual community members.

At this founding moment for the Hamilton 2SLGBTQ+ Community Archive, what can be learned from the history of gay and lesbian archiving, and from the critical engagements and counter-archives generated by those whose lives have not been centrally represented in 2SLGBTQ+ histories? These two virtual roundtables aim to spark critical conversations toward building and sustaining a Hamilton 2SLGBTQ+ Community Archive that is as diverse as possible, and ultimately an archive that can sustain and nurture its radical (grass)roots and support community counter-archives alongside its more traditional collection.

Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) at Pride Parade, 1992. Image courtesy of Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, Michael Johnstone Collection.
“I also use the word [promiscuous archiving] as we have lost many sites of memories (like cruising grounds). I think a lot of Black queer histories are transient and very fleeting. The term speaks to that. I use the word to move outside staid notions of archives, visibility, representation. A move to the promiscuous brings in the archive’s sensuousness, its dirt, its grit.”
Cited in Ajamu, Courtnay McFarlane, and Ronald Cummings, “Promiscuous Archiving: Notes on the Joys of Curating Black Queer Legacies,” Journal of Canadian Studies 54(2-3), 2020: 587.

Event Sponsors

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Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
John Douglas Taylor Conference Fund

Hamilton LGBT2SQ+ Community Archive

Critical Engagements with 2SLGBTQ+ Archives

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, via Zoom

Syrus Marcus Ware

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Arts, McMaster University. Syrus uses drawing, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and black activist culture. He is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter-Toronto and a member of the Marvellous Grounds collective, a book and web-based project that seeks to document and create space to vision the ways that QTBIPOC (queer and trans Black, Indigenous and people of colour) create communities, innovate projects and foster connections within Toronto/Three Fires Territories and beyond.

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Pamila Matharu

Pamila Matharu is a settler of north-west Panjabi, Indian descent, born in Birmingham, England, based in Tkarón:to (Toronto). A graduate of the Visual Arts and Fine Arts BEd programs from York University, she works primarily in visual arts, alternative education and cultural production. A recipient of the Toronto, Ontario and Canada Art Councils creation/production grants, she has screened and exhibited her work locally, regionally, nationally. Her art practice is often focused on archives, beginning with the basic premise that archives are manifested in living bodies, in repeated stories, in unfinished conversations, sparked by events of the past that persist into the present, and, importantly, in the healing practices of connectivity.

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Sheri Osden Nault

Sheri Osden Nault is a Michif, Nehiyaw, and mixed-European visual artist, community activist, and educator. They work across mediums including sculpture, beadwork, basket weaving, traditional tattooing, performance, and video. Their practice is shaped by tactile ways of learning and sharing knowledges, while grounded in queer Indigenous life experiences, and a commitment to social and ecological justice.

Rebecka Sheffield

Rebecka Taves Sheffield is an information professional, archivist and recovering academic based in Hamilton, Ontario. She researches and advises on queer history, digital policy, recordkeeping and archives. Rebecka is the author of Documenting Rebellions: A Study of Four Lesbian and Gay Archives in Queer Times (Litwin, 2020) and was part of the award-winning editorial team that produced Any Other Way: How Toronto got Queer (Coach House, 2017). 

“[T]he archive (note the lack of ’s’) is not the same as the archives (note the presence of the ’s’). As a metaphorical construct, the archive has abstracted the work of archives to initiate meaningful and important conversations about the ways in which knowledge is constructed and used, but it has simultaneously overshadowed the practices that archivists undertake to collect, preserve, and make accessible records of enduring value.”
Rebecka Sheffield
Documenting Rebellions: A Study of Four Lesbian and Gay Archives in Queer Times, Litwin Books, 2020: 12-13.

Archiving Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQ+ Histories:
Critical Conversations

Thursday, October 21st, 2021, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, via Zoom

Richard Douglass-Chin

Richard Douglass-Chin is an associate professor of English/Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Windsor. He is a founding member of Researchers, Academics and Advocates of Color for Equity in Solidarity, and has appeared on CBC and CTV to speak about anti-racism and new ways of thinking about white supremacy. He has facilitated Walls to Bridges classes comprised of both incarcerated and non-incarcerated students within prison spaces. He is currently co-creating an online Anti-Racism Bystander Intervention course to be launched in 2022. He is also curating a new historical kiosk for Griffin House that will help highlight the rich Black history of Hamilton. 

NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun
(Lyndon George)

NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun – Longfeather (aka Lyndon George) is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nations. NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun’s father is from Aazhoodena (the Stony Point First Nation) and his mother is from Aamjiwnaang (the Chippewas of Sarnia First Nation). NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun is Anishnaabe Ojokwe = Anishnaabe/Indigenous one of many terms for members of the Two Spirit community. NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun has made presentations on Indigenous matters at local, provincial, national and international conferences. He is currently the Indigenous Justice Coordinator at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.

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Pauline Kajiura

Pauline Kajiura has a length of experience working toward racial and social equity in communities and workplaces, as an organizational leader, volunteer, activist, and musician.

Pauline is Manager, Community Initiatives at the City of Hamilton and leads the City’s Hate Prevention and Mitigation Initiative. As a partner of Intersecting, she provides anti-racism and anti-oppression education and training. Previously, she has worked as Executive Director of Information Hamilton and Financial Coordinator of SACHA, the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area.

Pauline’s intersecting social locations, as a lesbian, Black, and Asian woman bring relevant perspectives to her anti-racism, anti-oppression work. She holds a B.Sc. from McGill University and a GIS Specialist certificate from McMaster University and Mohawk College.

Cole Gately

Cole Gately (he/they) came out of the closet in 1991, the first year of Hamilton Pride. Since then he has been active in organizing within Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities. He spent the 1990s managing the Women’s Bookstop, Hamilton’s feminist bookstore, and moved into social services by providing outreach to men who have sex with men through Hamilton AIDS Network, as it was known then. In 2000 he started his career in street outreach, connecting people experiencing homelessness to housing, health care and social services. In 2008, while he was working on completing an MA in Adult Education, Cole, who was assigned female at birth, transitioned and lives full-time as a genderqueer man. He focuses much of his energy providing education to adults about trans inclusion and positive space. He has the privilege and responsibility of being one of two community stewards of the Michael Johnstone Collection, which was donated to HPL in 2018.

Community Guidelines

Participants in our roundtables can expect to be asked to follow these guidelines when posing questions of panelists or posting comments in the chat:
  1. We value respectful participation, and respectful ways of expressing both support and disagreement.
  2. We support criticism of ideas or positions, but not of people or their identities.
  3. We respect our differences, and agree to approach each other with generosity, kindness, and care.
  4. We share our own experiences, and agree to be mindful of how sharing traumatic experiences out of context might impact others.

open to all

Participate in this virtual conference from the comfort of your home or office.

Contribute to the Archive

More information on how to donate to the
Hamilton 2SLGBTQ+ Community Archive will be coming in 2022!

Our Commitments to Decolonization, Anti-Racism, and Anti-Oppression

We recognize that our work in Hamilton happens on the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas, on lands protected by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum agreement. We acknowledge that our shared work needs to deepen this recognition, committing us to decolonizing struggles. We are also committed to anti-racism and anti-oppression as core values for building the Hamilton 2SLGBTQ+ Community Archive, recognizing that mainstream gay and lesbian spaces are not always sufficiently attentive to the dynamics of racism, colonialism, imperialism, ableism, sexism, biphobia, and transphobia, among other forms of oppression.