Before Grindr:

The Secret Social History of Gay & Lesbian PEI

Before Grindr: The Secret Social History of Gay & Lesbian PEI is intended as an overview of queer life in Prince Edward Island pre-Internet. At the time we conducted these interviews, there was no public archive of our history in the province, and so it had to start somewhere before it was lost.

As we started doing research for the project, we came to find that we could really only go as far back as the mid-1970’s*. You see, that’s how fragile our history is.

You can bet that there were queer people on Abegweit as far back as the early days of the Mi’kmaq, but because we were misunderstood and persecuted, at least in terms of our settler communities, our history has been a secret one, unrecorded and unpreserved.

It’s heartbreaking to review the history of our Island and the people who made it, and reflect on just how many people kept their true selves hidden, could not love whomever they loved, and felt no choice but to live a false life. Again, it’s a safe bet that some of our history-makers were queer, but hidden. In that sense, we’ll never know our true history.

At the core of this project is the understanding that representation matters. For young queer Islanders who may be stuck in a homelife or a school experience that in ways either intentionally or unintentionally sends them the message that they don’t have a place in this world, this archive is here to tell them that, not only do they absolutely have a place in this world, but they also have a history.

Thanks to everyone who made this project possible. Our interview subjects: James Culbert, Jan Devine, Julie Devon Dodd, Darrin Dunsford, Amber Flames/Danny Evans, Lee Fleming, and Jeffrey Haight. To the people and organizations behind the scenes: Kelly Caseley, Laura Chapin, Megan Dorrell, Brittany Jakubiec, John Kimmel, Ryan McCarvill, Tyler Murnaghan, PEERS Alliance, Randall Perry, Shannon Pratt, Pride PEI, Retrospective, Wade Shaw, Women’s Network PEI.

D.A. Stewart
November 2020

*The non-binary, bisexual, transgender and otherwise identifying members of our community are essential, equal members of our story. The focus on gay and lesbian Islanders in this interview series is solely a reflection of the era under discussion, and is in no way an attempt to erase you from our story. In fact, you are the people we’re relying upon to take us into the next chapter.