By Sean Meyer
Although many authors have written about London’s past over the years, there has been little attention paid to the city’s homosexual history.
Thanks to a grant from the London Heritage Council (LHC), Ben Benedict is now working to change that.
Benedict was one of over a dozen individuals, organizations and business to recently receive grant funding through the council’s 2011 Community Heritage Investment Program. Recipients, including Benedict, were given funding to help with projects that are designed to foster and grow culture and heritage within the city.
Benedict is using his $5,000 grant to begin researching a book he hopes will chronicle the history of London’s homosexual community. When completed, Benedict says the book will look at the city’s so-called gay history from aboriginal times, through the pioneer era to contemporary society.
The idea of the project is to tell the stories of London’s pioneers and current day citizens while also writing certain lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and two-spirited (LGBT2) individuals back into the region’s history.
“It isn’t so much about the gay component, it is about the history of London. This is a component of London’s history and I think anyone who is interested about that will read,” Benedict said. “I know it won’t be for everyone, but it’s a history book. The subject just happens to be people who were gay.”
Benedict said he is expecting it to take three years to do the kind of research he hopes will detail the complete history of the city’s homosexual community. To date, Benedict said he has made connections with several aboriginal communities and other research professionals. He is also working on the completion of a website designed to give a detailed background on not only the project and its goals, but his own history as well.
The website will also be used as a way for Benedict to collect contacts and hopefully lead him to the people he is hoping can help him with his research. Most importantly to the research he is looking to do, Benedict said he is looking for seniors in their 60s and 70s to hopefully share their insights into what the city was like during their youth.
“Those types of stories are really anecdotal and really hard to find. It’s exciting. The hardest part will be getting it all right and not missing those little nuances. Finding those personal stories will be tough, but really rewarding,” Benedict said. “I will be asking people some very intimate details of their lives. Asking them to share some very positive things, but also some very negative things as well. I hope by March of next year to have some notes for each of the components I am interested in.”
The grant money was for the research that Benedict will be doing over the next three years. He said he plans on reapplying next year for funding to be able to pull his research all together.
“I hope we end up with a book, a text that can be used in the school system. I want to speak to younger people so they know there is a strong history here,” Benedict said.
“We grow up in a very heterosexist world, everything around you is straight. When you are in your adolescence, coming to terms with your sexuality you often feel very alone. Hopefully this kind of book can help them on their journey, to tell them they are not alone.”
Anyone looking to help Benedict’s research can reach him through www.bcreative.ca.