“If I did not define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies of me and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde
Lorde’s words speak to the idea behind The Queer Ink Project, an all ages, all abilities, LGBTQ and questioning writing group to be put on by the Peterborough AIDS Resource Network (PARN).
The group will meet every Wednesday in February from 10am to 12pm at Sadleir House in the Hobbs Memorial Library and is free to attend. PARN encourages participation from writers regardless of previous experience, and hopes that the group will be a great way for people to get writing for the first time as well.
Prevention Education Worker and Facilitator of the Rainbow Youth Program, anya gwynne will be leading the project and sees it as a great opportunity for LGBTQ and questioning youth to tell their stories:
“It is important for everyone to have opportunity to share stories—only you can tell your story! But it is especially important if you are part of a marginalized community because there are fewer similar experiences reflected back at you.”
Hub member of the Trent Queer Collective (TQC) Kate Ross agrees with gwynne, and also points out how storytelling can also be a tool to raise awareness. “A lot of people are unaware of the struggles LGBTQ people have to go through … writing can show a very in depth, romantic, and also real side of their experiences.”
However, “it is not a prerequisite to write about being gay,” gwynne tells Arthur. The aim “is to allow for people to feel confident and assured that the environment will be inclusive and safe to share their stories, regardless of what they write about.”
Another major aim of the group is to foster and sustain strong links between members of the queer community in Peterborough, including Trent’s queer community.
“There is queer culture at Trent and queer culture in Peterborough. It would be great to have more opportunities for these to overlap and create a stronger community together,” gwynne tells Arthur.
Ross also emphasizes the importance of linking Trent’s queer community with the broader Peterborough queer community: “They are seriously interlinked … and because there’s such an amazing [queer] community in Peterborough we want to make sure that we have that bond and that everyone feels like a community member.”
Ross indicates that the TQC has been and will continue to be involved in the Peterborough community and is interested in opportunities for integration. She calls the writing group “a great idea” and encourages students to participate.
The event also serves preventative ends with respect to HIV/AIDS, as per PARN’s mandate. “When we look at what socially determines health outcomes, isolation and being marginalized are key factors in risk behaviour. It makes sense to find ways of connecting with communities where this may be more prevalent and create programming that addresses these factors,” says gwynne.
The intergenerational nature of the event is meant to help facilitate this, as well as to encourage a sense of mentorship between older and younger participants.
It is an opportunity to “look at common themes regardless of age, and to create an environment where stories past, present and future are valued,” says gwynne. Through storytelling, young community members can gain a sense of the queer community’s history in Peterborough.
While the Queer Ink Project is currently only scheduled for the month of February, both gwynne and Ross emphasize that LGBTQ writing will always be a vibrant area of artistic expression in Peterborough.
Ross indicates that “as an LGBTQ community we are very expressive in the arts, especially writing. We’ve got amazing poetry.”
As for the future of the event, gwynne tells Arthur “we would like to run a series like this a couple of times throughout the year, taking in to account feedback and community response.”
Looking even further into the future, gwynne says, “Ideally we could create an anthology, collaborate with artists in the community, or [create] an opportunity for a public reading.”