Queer Beyond London will highlight exciting research and projects exploring queer local histories that will be featured in our upcoming Queer Localities international conference from 30 November – 1 December 2017. We are delighted that Professor Valerie J. Korinek will be delivering the conference keynote. 


Valerie J. Korinek

In 1977 when Winnipeg, Manitoba’s After Stonewall: A Critical Journal of Prairie Gay Liberation announced that that queer residents of major western Canadian cities were “coming out strong” the prairies already had nearly a decade of organized gay and lesbian social and political activities to highlight. Sadly, such histories were, with a few notable exceptions, ignored by prairie historians and even by historians of sexuality.

This paper draws upon a wealth of oral, archival and cultural histories to recover the histories of queer urban and rural people in the prairies. Focusing on the experiences in the five major urban centres: Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton, this paper explores the regional experiences of queer men and lesbians as explicitly gay and lesbian social and political spaces were created started in 1969.

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It will argue that prairie activists and actors were interested in creating spaces for socializing, politicizing and organizing other queer people, both in the cities and the small towns/rural areas. Resolutely and proudly “western” these groups were also connected to national and international developments. Far from the stereotypes of the isolated, insular Canadian prairies of small towns and farming communities populated by faithful farm families and conservative social values in the post World War II era, the prairies were transformed into predominantly urban, more diverse, places. In the five major western Canadian cities one could and did find gay, lesbian and queer spaces – community centres, membership clubs, and political organizations which organized a raft of social, cultural, sports and political activities.

This paper offers an overview of these worlds, provides a comparative analysis of the similarities and differences amongst the cities/provinces as well as the opposition and homophobia they faced. Above all it will demonstrate that prairie women and men were indeed “coming out strong.” My research draws upon the current turn within queer historiography towards challenging the “metronormativity” of queer history and of engaging with histories of rural, small town “queer folks.” Work such as this challenges the preconceived narratives of queer history, of the connections between the local, the national and the international, and demonstrates how more nuanced, urban and regional studies can enrich our histories of what liberation looked like, not only beyond London, but beyond New York, San Francisco and Toronto.


FullSizeRenderDr. Valerie J. Korinek is Professor of Modern Canadian History at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. She is the author of Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985 which is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press in Spring/Summer 2018.  An expert in sexualities histories, gender and culture, she publishes in the areas of feminist publishing and periodicals, food studies, sexuality, and western Canada.


Queer Localities: a two-day international conference
Birkbeck, University of London
30 November – 1 December 2017

Free and open to all, but please REGISTER your place here

Click here to view the Conference Programme.

“The Prairies–Coming Out Strong”: Western Canadian Queer Communities, 1969-1985
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