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2SLGBTQIA+ History and Archives

Introduction

Welcome!

Photo from the 2016 Queer Arts Festival "Stonewall was a Riot"

From the Queer Arts Festival fonds 2016 program "Stonewall was a Riot"

Located in RBSC-ARC-1833-02-04

This research guide highlights local fonds and collections created by members of 2SLGBTQIA+ community and organizations, as well as the rare and historical 2SLGBTQIA+ material available at UBC. It also points to related regional, national, and international resources and archives. This guide highlights both print and archival materials, including historical and rare books; ephemera; letters, diaries, and other records; as well as artworks. This guide acknowledges the systemic biases and discrimination that 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and organizations have endured, which has historically led to the erasure of their stories from main stream narratives. Collaborating with other UBC libraries and research centres, Rare Books and Special Collections is committed to developing the 2SLGBTQIA+ collections in order to restore some of that history. If you have materials you would like us to consider for the development of this area, please get in touch with us via this form or by emailing Krisztina Laszlo, RBSC Archivist, at krisztina.laszlo@ubc.ca.

2SLGBTQIA+ Archival Materials

Systemic Biases and Prejudice 

The library and archival materials at Rare Books and Special Collections reflect the history of British Columbia, including its history of colonization, patriarchy, homophobia, heteronormativity, and racism. The stories and materials that are considered for collection and preservation are shaped by the missions and values of the collecting institutions, which often mirror the missions and values of society at large at any given time. As a result, archives are subject to the same historical biases and omissions that have led to the marginalization of certain races, ethnicities, gender identities, religions, socio-economic statuses, and sexual orientations throughout time. Selecting, arranging, describing, and providing access to archival records is a substantial responsibility because it helps shape public memory based on what is chosen to be preserved and highlighted.

Here at RBSC, we recognize that such power must be wielded in an actively inclusive, feminist, queered, anti-racist, and de-colonial way in order to cease perpetuating systemic injustices. We are currently working toward the goal of increasing representation and balance in our collections so that our holdings will reflect the richness and truth of the human experience, free from the harmful limitations of prejudice.  

 

Challenges of Identifying Relevant Fonds and Collections 

British Columbia decriminalized same-sex relationships and activities on June 27, 1969; however, discrimination based on sexual orientation did not become illegal until 1992, and it was not until 2016 that BC Legislature passed a bill adding gender identity to protected class in the BC Human Rights Code. Given this history, it is not surprising that many of the creators of individual fonds' did not self-identify as a member of 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Most of what we've highlighted here are archival materials that have been self-identified as an 2SLGBTQIA+ organization or individual. However, we acknowledge that many more collections and fonds could potentially be related and relevant to the lives and experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. A famous example of this is A. Alexis Alvey, whose sexuality has been discussed in academia in works such as Cameron Duder's Awfully devoted women : lesbian lives in Canada and 

Program guide from the 2017 Queer Arts Festival program "Unsettled" featuring Two-Spirit artsists

From the Queer Arts Festival fonds 2017 program "UnSettled"

Located in RBSC-ARC-1833-02-05

Assembling a life: The (auto) biography of Alexis Amelia Alvey

 

Intersectionality and Inclusivity in Archives

Intersectionality refers to a framework for understanding how different aspects of a person's social and political identity might lead to different experiences of oppression. White privilege means more visibility which leads to the false perception of whiteness as normative and central to queer experience. Male privilege and patriarchy in our society brings more spotlight for the gay male experience over those of women. Until very recently, the array of other queer experiences besides being gay and/or lesbian have often been overshadowed and even erased. Concepts such as bisexual erasure, for example, have just barely started to be discussed outside of bi+ and pansexual communities. These privileges among the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, individuals, and organizations often dictate whose stories receive the most visibility, which is evident in archival holdings. At RBSC we acknowledge these gaps in our collections and are committed to work towards creating a more inclusive space in which all members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community can be represented. 

This guide and the materials in our collections are growing and changing; if you have feedback or comments for us please get in touch with us via this form or by emailing Krisztina Laszlo, RBSC Archivist, at krisztina.laszlo@ubc.ca.

Note on Terminology

Importance of Terminology

Words are not just simply words; they hold power and can have a lasting impact. The terminology used in the past to describe the 2SLGBTQIA+ community were inappropriate, exclusionary, and hurtful; unfortunately, as an archive that holds relics of the past, outdated terminology from previous generations may be present in the records. Oftentimes, archives will also use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), which is a controlled vocabulary thesaurus that describes the primary subject matter of the literary work. LCSH is slow to update terminology in comparison with how quickly society changes, therefore some terms that would not be acceptable in today's language are still present as subject headings, but do not represent how UBC or RBSC view the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community itself has created new terms that are more appropriate to describe and accurately represent the diversity of sexual and gender identities. Erin Baucom, from their article, “An Exploration into Archival Descriptions of LGBTQ Materials” (2018), notes that: 

Queer words "belong to something"
From the Queer Arts Festival fonds 

2016 program "Stonewall was a Riot"

Located in RBSC-ARC-1833-02-04

“Terminology is a crucial aspect of identity formation and affirmation. The language chosen by society to categorize parts of identity, positive and negative, have an impact on how individuals construct and internalize their own identities. In the past, the number of terms for sexual and gender identities were limited, and only a small percentage were socially acceptable. All of these socially acceptable terms describe the sexuality and genders with which a majority of society identified: heterosexual, male, and female. […] The more diverse and accepted language available to individuals when they are constructing their identities, the more likely they will accept their gender and sexual identities in a positive manner. It is crucial to the continued wellbeing of individuals to be able to see the social majority use and accept these identifiers. […] Archives play a role in this continual process of identity formation and acceptance because archives hold and preserve some of the primary source materials that help elucidate the history of the LGBTQ community. Being able to access this history helps combat feelings of isolation and contests negative perceptions and misrepresentations of the LGBTQ community,” (p. 66).

At RBSC, we actively weigh whether the efficiency or preservation of context from re-using or not remediating problematic and potentially offensive description is worth the impact it may have on users encountering that description. When processing new collections, we will occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former owners of the collection, either because it provides important context about the materials or because it is a way to make the collections available for research use more quickly. We also clearly indicate (through use of quotation marks, notes, or other explanation) what language comes from an external source or is legacy/older description, and which was written by RBSC staff. When written by us, in most cases, we use positive space terminology recommended by the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office. 

 

Additional Resources for 2SLGBTQIA+ Terminology and Vocabulary


Homosaurus

The Homosaurus is an international linked data vocabulary of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) terms. This vocabulary is intended to function as a companion to broad subject term vocabularies, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions are encouraged to use the Homosaurus to support LGBTQ research by enhancing the discoverability of their LGBTQ resources.

 

GLBT Controlled Vocabularies and Classification Schemes

The Rainbow Round Table (RRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) is committed to serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, genderqueer, queer, intersex, agender, asexual, and ally (LGBTQIA+) professional communities and population at large. The RRT provides its members, other ALA divisions, affiliates, round tables, offices, committees, and the library and information science field as a whole with a forum for discussion and an environment for education and learning about the needs of the LGBTQIA+ professional communities and population at large.

Further Discutions on Archival Practices Regarding to LGBTQIA2S+ Collections

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Organizing Ideas Podcast | Allison Jones & Karen Ng

A podcast hosted by two UBC iSchool grads, Allison Jones and former RBSC student librarian Karen Ng, where they take a closer look at the relationships between organizing information and community organizing. They talk to information professionals, activists, and other insightful folks who have thoughts about what we mean when we say, “knowledge is power.” Because libraries and archives are never neutral.

--Ep 8 – Queer and Radical Knowledge Organization with Avi Grundner: a talk about queer and radical knowledge organization and the power of seeing yourself represented in these systems.

--Ep 11 – Trans Inclusivity in Libraries and Research with Shelby Miller: a conversation about working at VPL as a non-binary trans employee, what’s wrong with the liberal utopian idea of intellectual freedom, and her thesis project on the information seeking habits of transgender individuals.

--Ep 31 – Library Power Structures with Baharak Yousefi about power, intersectionality, and anti-oppression stance in libraries. 
 

Explore

Two-Spirit Archives: Conversation with Albert McLeod

Albert McLeod speaks to a group of visitors at the Two-Spirit Archives. Photo credit: Lauren Bosc

Two-Spirited People of Manitoba Inc.

The Two-Spirited People of Manitoba began in 1986 in Winnipeg. A group of concerned community members came together to support each other and plan community events. The became a non-profit organization in September 2007. As a community-based organization, they focused on helping Indigenous LGBTQ/Two-Spirit people improve their lives. They provide awareness workshops, advocate to prevent homophobia and transphobia, and organize community events.