Before Grindr: The Secret Social History of Gay & Lesbian PEI, a six-part interview series, will launch online December 1. The series begins the process of documenting the lives of queer Islanders, a record, says Dave Stewart, the project’s creator, that hasn’t existed publicly until this point.
“Talking with some younger members of PEI’s queer community, I really got the sense that our history just wasn’t there,” says Stewart. “There are records of our legal battles, but because being gay and lesbian was so misunderstood and maligned in the past, our identities and our history were erased from the official record.”
Stewart hosts the series in which he talks with seven lesbian and gay Islanders ranging in age from their fifties to their seventies.
“When I started researching this project, I came to find that we could really only go as far back as the 1970s,” says Stewart. “And that’s why the focus of this series is on gay and lesbian Islanders. At that time, we didn’t understand the scope of the transgender community, and the concept of being non-binary was really yet to come into the conversation.”
Stewart co-produced Before Grindr with journalist Laura Chapin, relying on her production experience and knowledge. Pride PEI and PEERS Alliance also came onboard to present the series and to cover the costs of shooting the interviews.
“When I became aware that Dave and Laura were doing this, I brought it to the boards of Pride PEI and PEERS Alliance,” says Tyler Murnaghan, Treasurer and a Director of Pride PEI. “Both boards voted unanimously to help support the project, because it’s such an important part of what we’re doing, providing resources for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community here in PEI.”
“It is incredibly important to document the queer history of PEI and to have some of the history recorded for younger and future generations to learn from and appreciate,” says Brittany Jakubiec, the Executive Director of PEERS Alliance. “Not only does this interview series capture and showcase a part of our shared history, but it reinforces the message that queer visibility matters.”
“The magnitude of Before Grindr cannot be understated, both as an investigation of queer stories here on PEI and of the lived experiences of Islanders in a time before the liberation offered by the internet, when there was no ‘gay village’ to anchor identity and place,” adds Pride PEI Chair John Kimmel. “Understanding intergenerational queerness, and how the work of 2SLGBTQIA+ elders on PEI have paved the way for a younger, savvier, and more connected population, is key to understanding how queer communities evolved from the stories they tell.”
Ryan McCarvill of PEI’s Retrospective Pictures was behind the camera for the interviews. McCarvill will also perform editing duties along with Stewart and Chapin.
“We’re really just giving an overview here,” says Stewart. “It has to start somewhere, and this is it, the tip of the iceberg. And really, there are countless stories to be told, including those of our trans and non-binary peers.”
All six episodes will be available for viewing at rainbowhub.ca on December 1.