Skip to main content

Storytelling: Coming Out During the AIDS Crisis in Canada

Are you interested in telling your story about coming out/living out as LGBTQ2S+ during the AIDS crisis in Canada (1981-1994)? We would love to hear from you!

Queer researchers from Dalhousie and York University and an independent scholar and artist are gathering oral histories across Canada for donation to queer archives, and as part of a research project on LGBTQ2S experiences. All transcribed oral histories will be donated to the national queer ArQuives in Toronto, and if relevant, the Two Spirit archives at the Oral History Centre, University of Manitoba.

This project takes up the call made by Canadian writer R.M Vaughan to document and advance public understanding of the unique historical experience of living through the “gay plague” while coming out. As Vaughan explained about coming out gay in Canada in the 1980s:

“We were just young men waiting to die, just dirty fags, unless we were ‘good gays’ and only had protected sex with a single partner to whom we were life-committed. Or unless we had no sex at all, and certainly no public gay life or culture” (2019).

While the crisis, and the initial inaction of the government, have been well chronicled and analyzed, personal accounts of the experience remain undocumented as a collective experience in Canadian queer archives, with some exceptions. We hope to include those experiences that have often been left out of histories of the AIDS crisis and are recruiting participants from a range of backgrounds, prioritizing the voices of queer people of colour, women, trans, Two Spirit, and rural queers.

To share your story or for more information, please email

The researchers: Liz Fitting Professor, Sociology & Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University; Margaret Robinson, Canada Research Chair in Reconciliation, Gender, & Identity; Schem Rogerson, Independent scholar and artist; Nick J. Mulé Professor and Coordinator, Sexuality Studies Program, York University; and Joseph Lahey (he/him), MA student, Dalhousie University.