I met Dave Stewart for a midday coffee and as soon as he walked in the room, he was greeted by old friends and others who wanted to talk to him about the upcoming Pride events in July.
The day we met was the same day that many Islanders in the 2SLGBTQ+ community rallied outside a school in Cornwall to show support for students who were experiencing homophobic actions from their peers. Though it’s a hard subject for those of us in the queer community to talk about, it is essential that we keep talking and making appropriate actions.
As a Director with Pride PEI and a member of the gay community, Dave also attended to show his support.
He says, “I am visible in the gay community now because I couldn’t be when I was younger.”
We talked about how these current events in schools can bring us individually back decades to the feelings we’ve had when experiencing those same kinds of behaviors when we were that age. Dave articulates an experience that many of us in the queer community can relate to, “I tried to disappear while I was in high school and I was in the creative and sexuality closet.”
Despite this, Dave was always a curious thinker and learner. We quickly bonded over the fact that we both approached learning above and beyond our ‘level’ when we were kids. We agreed that this is where there is profound growth and learning. It turns out Dave is still this way, decades after high school.
He went to Toronto to attend the Film and TV program at Humber College and he has dabbled in so many creative pursuits over the years that there isn’t space in this article to get into them. He calls himself a DIY filmmaker and musician and has been a contributor to The Buzz, Arts Decades, and Studio CX, among many others. Two of is cartoons for The Buzz were also adapted for the CBC-TV show ZeD. He’s a copy editor with Graphcom but it was clear in our conversation that Dave is an idea-person who is at the ready for interesting conversations and potential collaborations with other creatives.
Dave comes by his creativity and curiosity honestly. He recalls growing up with a house full of books, art, and music. His dad was a visual artist and his mom was a businessperson so he was getting lots of valuable life lessons without even knowing it at the time.
“It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how great of an influence that was on me.”
It was through Dave’s curiosity and creativity that has curated and produced so many incredible pieces of work. It always just starts with an idea.
“Put the idea out there and you never know who or what may grab onto it.”
And that’s just what happened with Dave’s idea to document some of PEI’s history in the gay community. Dave was the creative mind behind the web series, Before Grindr, which is a conversational series with queer Islanders.
“It’s not a film; it’s people having conversations.”
Supported by Pride PEI and PEERS Alliance, the videos can be seen on PEERS Alliance Rainbow Hub website.
Given his diverse artistic background, I was curious what drew him to writing in particular.
“Writing found me,” he says nonchalantly. “It’s about noticing the things you find yourself doing over and over again and doing more of that.”
Dave is a self-published author with two books to his credit: Fear from a Small Place: Writers from Canada’s Smallest Province Unleash Their Greatest Fears and Monster Man: Tales of the Uncanny. The former is a curated collection of 20 writers with connections to PEI and the latter is a personal collection whose title is derived from a nickname that an adult in Dave’s life gave him when he was a child. This act of reclamation inspired me to think about the ways we can all make these shifts in our consciousness by embracing our full selves.
Rather than feeling we have to hide ourselves in a creative, sexuality, or any other kind of closet, Dave enthusiastically and affirmingly says, “Imagine if we had the confidence to want to be noticed.”