If I ever do get a chance to create that exhibit, Kit Heyam’s recent book Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender will most certainly be the first I reach for.
I grew up in Etobicoke, in the West End of Toronto. Toronto has been called a queer city, but Etobicoke is a desert. Growing up, and still today in some respects, queerness was not spoken about very often. Not in positive terms, at least. As a queer kid, it meant a lot of hiding, being careful about what I said, else the Pandora’s box would be opened. It was not until university that I was able to start exploring my identity and face my queerness. Those old haunts have imprinted on me, helped to form my queer life. Crossdressing in lectures at Convocation Hall, only to walk home along St. George and pass impassioned protesters in front of Sid Smith for or against the latest thing Jordan Peterson has said. I would not be the person I am today if I had not walked these streets.
There is something magical about local history, where the places and spaces feel familiar. When you recognize the streets mentioned and can place them in your head. This is what I feel when I read Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer. There’s a queer history to this city, one that flows under the official stories the city likes to tell. Learning these stories and seeing the locations mentioned makes me feel more connected to them.
Trying to bridge the gap between transgender studies and museum studies.