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Sidney Museum exhibit looks at queer history on the Peninsula

The display includes records from local publications such as The Review and items from the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria

The letter to the Capital Regional District appeared in The Sidney and Saanich Peninsula Review in March 1987.

The writer had written to the CRD worried that mosquitoes at Island View Beach could be spreading HIV/AIDS.

She complained that the park was “a meeting place for nudist gays” who would sunbathe naked on the beach, which was in an area that had a long history as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

She said she had read “reliable reports” that indicated HIV/AIDS could “most likely” be spread by mosquitoes.

At the time, scientists had determined that the disease, which was first observed in gay men, was spread through bodily fluids — including blood. The Canadian Red Cross had responded two years earlier by testing all its blood products for the virus.

The letter, which came a month after flamboyant entertainer Liberace had succumbed to AIDS, is one of a number of archival pieces that make up Reading Between the Lines for Local Queer History, a new exhibit with a focus on LGBTQ history on the Saanich Peninsula, unveiled at the Sidney Museum for Pride Month.

“It was pure fearmongering and speaks of the homophobic views that queer people faced not so long ago,” said Michael Goodchild, executive director of the Sidney Museum.

The display includes records from local publications such as The Review and items from the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria.

“The history of the local queer community is underrepresented because there is a gap in the institutional knowledge we possess,” said Goodchild. “Too often, queer narratives are excluded from traditional museum spaces and public knowledge.”

The museum hired Trinity Blacklock, a fourth-year history student at the University of Victoria, to conduct the majority of the research and to curate the display.

Another item she highlighted in the exhibit was a front-page story in the Sept. 16, 1964 edition of the Review about parents who were angry that their children had been transferred to another school.

In the article, a man who represented the concerned parents, told the school board that “the children affected by the move could either risk annihilation beneath the wheels of a gravel truck on Cordova Bay Road or the threat of homo-sexuals who haunt Lochside Drive. Is molestation worth this change?”

The display is intended to inspire conversation — and hopefully local residents willing to tell their stories, said Goodchild.

“We are hoping that local gay couples would come forward to share their stories with the museum so that we can present the history of the region from as many perspectives as ­possible,” he said.

For Blacklock, who grew up queer in a small town, the project to uncover queer history made her feel proud. “I know that it would have made a difference if I saw this [display] in a museum growing up,” said the 20-year-old.

After the museum returns the borrowed items from the university in July, the remainder of the display will become part of its permanent upstairs gallery.

It will create a pop-up version of the exhibit for the museum’s booth at the Sidney Pride Festival on Saturday.

At the booth, people can make buttons or “blackout” poetry, where they take archival homophobic and other problematic articles and “reclaim” them through poetry.

Saturday’s Sidney Pride Festival features drag performances, music and dancing. The Kid Zone offers face painting, colouring and crafts and drag story times.

The festival runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Beacon Park in Sidney, followed by the adult-only Cheers for Queers after-party from 7 to 10 p.m. at Small Gods Brewery, 9835 Third St. Proceeds will go toward the Saanich Peninsula Youth Clinic.

A Pride flag-raising will be held at Central Saanich municipal hall at 1903 Mount Newton Cross Rd. at 11 a.m. on June 24.

For more information on the museum, go to

For more information about the Sidney Pride Festival, go to

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