Finding Ourselves in History: Queer Chronicles with Wilbur Turner

Written on 04/11/2021
Wilbur Turner

With age comes reflection. As I get older, I find myself looking back on pivotal life events and experiences. As someone who identifies as gay, emotive memories that stand out often involve times when I can locate myself in gay history, with its struggles and victories.

I have been invited to host a live stream series delving into some of this history and will be chatting with guests from across Canada as we bring these stories to life. The intention of the series is to link past victories to current challenges, creating optimism and hope for the future.

Some of our history has been depicted on screen through movies, documentaries, and docudramas. My first exposure to this was with the 1993 movie Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. I was not out at the time. I remember watching it with my wife and two gay friends and being horrified at the devastating effects of AIDS and the impact of homophobia. Even today, I cannot hear the song from that movie Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen without feeling the familiar emotions that we experienced during the height of the AIDS crisis as we saw people we knew suffer and die.

Brokeback Mountain was the first gay romantic movie I watched. In 2005 it was a big deal to have such a movie play on a big screen in my home city of Calgary, although it wasnt in the mainstream theatres. I could see myself in this movie, having been in a heterosexual marriage. It brought up the feelings of romantic longing, the guilt, and how this affected my life and relationships. It was sad and beautiful.

I recently watched the series Its a Sin depicting a ten-year span from 1981 to 1991 in London, chronicling the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the reaction of the government, medical practitioners, and victims families. While the homophobia was horrific, those who fought back and took a stand against the prejudice and hate demonstrated there are those who care and make a difference. Although I was on the fringes of this scene at that time as I was married, the stories are impactful, and watching this series was incredibly emotional. As the title suggests, the sin of being gay was considered by many to be deserving of punishment, the impact of which many of us still experience today.

As a Canadian queer community, we share many stories in our efforts for an equitable space in society. Im looking forward to sharing these with you in Queer Chronicles with Wilbur Turner as we use storytelling as a powerful tool to link our past, present, and future. 

If you are interested in being a guest and sharing your story of queer history, please click here to submit an expression of interest. The live stream will be broadcast on Unicorns Live.

Wilbur Turner, who identifies as gay and queer, is a Kelowna-based writer and advocate who has contributed on many levels to LGBTQ rights, both locally and internationally.

(Image Credit: Toronto Star)