During Pride, reflecting on ASK

Content warning: The following blog post includes mention of suicide and refers to homophobic and transphobic policies and laws in a historical context.

Many thanks to guest blogger Atreya Madrone for contributing the below post! Atreya is a graduate student at the UBC School of Information and is completing a professional experience with RBSC this summer working with vertical files, which are individual or small groups of archival materials.

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts that gives students and RBSC team members a chance to show off some of the intriguing materials they encounter serendipitously through their work at RBSC.

This summer at RBSC I am working with the vertical files for a professional experience project and I have found some extremely interesting materials. At the end of Pride month, I came across a submission to the Canadian Royal Commission on Security from the Association of Social Knowledge (ASK), the first gay rights group in Canada.

Within the file is a study conducted by the group where they sent out letters to government organizations with a brief questionnaire regarding the hiring of queer employees and the responses received from all across the country. Also included in the file is a detailed list of court cases against queer and trans people in Canada. One such court case occurred in Vancouver where police trapped 5 people in a bathroom in Stanley Park and ASK states that “there were suicides as a result of this police surveillance.” These court cases occurred in July 1963, 60 years ago almost exactly. The materials in this vertical file gives us primary source material on anti-queer and trans sentiments within Canada and reminds us that Pride is about protecting queer and trans people and fighting systemic queer and transphobia.