On Jan. 18, 2023, at the Central Branch of the Kitchener Public Library, community members gathered to celebrate the launch of the Ron Welker 2SLGBTQ+ Collection.
Rai Scodras, the 2SLGBTQ+ Project Archivist at the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, led a room of rapt queers and enthusiastic allies through the Collection’s launch.
Scodras presented digitalized posters; publications; and photos of events, organizing committees and party-goers to a room of people who nodded and laughed as distant memories resurfaced.
The collection, made up of materials donated by Ron Welker, adds to those collected by the archives since 2007 and will be housed largely online.
Welker was born in 1952 and attended the University of Waterloo, where he came out in 1973.
The collection of photos, posters and other memorabilia presented speak to his work as a community builder.
This included posters and photos from the Pride Slide at Mount Trashmore, the local Pride Council, and the Rainbow Reels Film Festival, along with stories from the Bridgeport Community Centre dances and pride proms.
But through the validation and chuckling at memories, a pressing concern was voiced.
“We have got a gap in our history,” Jim Parrott, the editor of the Grand River Rainbow Historical Project, said.
“[From] 2003, when the Voice ended, to 2012 when Spectrum started up the Rainbow Community Calendar, trying to fill in the events of those years is really, really hard.”
Queer history, like most, is hidden in the cautionary communication of a group that faced oppression as they sought equality in Waterloo Region.
Attendees asked about the inclusion of more diverse voices and perspectives in the
“We are working to really reflect who is here,” Karen Ball-Pyatt, manager of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, said.
“We are, however, always open to donations,” she said.
Volunteers in the crowd emerged, offering skills and resources.
In Waterloo Region, the history of queer people lies in the buildings that were once the only safe gathering spaces for self-expression but have since become tech-hubs. The rainbow flag Kitchener City Council once refused to hang outside is now a cross walk leading into Willow River Park, and queer history, which was (some might argue, always) the region’s history, is layered in with the labour outputs that defined Berlin, leaving queer people, largely, without a distinguishable footprint.
Racheal Walser is a local literary short fiction author and poet working in feminist non-profit. She lives on a ranch for retired house hippos along with her great white carpet, er, dog, Anthem and her not so squish, Squish cat who meows maliciously at feeding time. Her work has appeared in publications by Mensa, Fast Forward Press, After the Pause, Canadian Stories and many more.