Kory deGroot asks where we can learn about queer history in Edmonton. Answering that takes us through old love letters at the U of A Archives, a sneak peek at some research Fort Ed is doing, and hearing a story about coming out late in life.
Our first stop was at the University of Alberta Archives. Local author Laurel Deedrick-Mayne led us to a fascinating box of letters she found left behind by the late U of A English professor J T Jones.
John Thomas Jones left behind many personal documents, including letters from a Winnipeg-based dancer and ballet reviewer named Casimir Carter. The language is sometimes coded, but the letters follow a romance between the two men in the 1950s.
We dug through the letters to try to find out how they met. These letters were found in Accession No. 82-182, Box 1.
Our next stop was to meet Fort Edmonton Park’s Tom Long. Tom shared some of the research that Fort Ed has been doing into queer history in Edmonton and the West.
One of the stories that their team has dug up was that of Corinne/Jack Laboucane, who was arrested for vagrancy in 1935. An old Edmonton Journal article details how Corinne dressed in men’s clothing and worked as a labourer under the name Jack for about five years. Corinne was arrested by police when the secret came out, pled guilty, and was sent home with some “fatherly advice” from the magistrate.
Our final stop was to meet Carmen-Lida Ordoñez in her home to hear her story of immigrating from Ecuador in the 1970s and eventually coming out to her husband and children.
Lida showed us some of her paintings, including many based on the work of Ecuadorian artists Guayasamín and Eduardo Kingman.