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“A Handful of Precious Rebels”: Queer Organizing in 20th Century Newfoundland and Labrador

Rhea Rollman

Screenshot 2024-02-21 201820

Newfoundland and Labrador has a rich history of queer community-building and activism. Organizing kicked into high-gear 50 years ago with the establishment of the Community Homophile Association of Newfoundland (CHAN), the province’s first formally organized queer activist group. In the ensuing two decades a succession of community groups would form to carry on a bold, vibrant struggle for rights, winning legislated human rights protections for the grounds of sexual orientation in 1997.

This talk provides an overview of queer activism and community organizing in 20th century Newfoundland and Labrador, paying particular attention to the complicated relationship between NL and mainland Canadian activism. This relationship was a complex one. Homophobic institutions and actors sought to tar home-grown activism with the taint of mainland influence, generating a self-consciousness that sometimes led mainland activists to censor themselves. At the same time, NL-based as well as diasporic queer NL activists played an important role in shaping Canadian activism at the national level. This talk will explore these historical dynamics, which have remained relevant in shaping rights struggles into the present-day.

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