A poster created by Claridge Homes celebrates the planned creation of a museum dedicated to gender and sexual diversity. (Claridge Homes)

LGBTQ2+ museum to be created in Ottawa

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A Canadian advocacy group is raising funds to create the country’s first museum presenting historical and current stories of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or of other gender or sexual minorities. The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity will spend a year consulting museums, archives and communities across the country to figure out what the museum will present.

Jeremy Dias says the museum will be an educational hub of culture and community.

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‘I want to hear the stories’

“For me personally, I want to hear the stories of LGBTQ people from coast to coast to coast,” says Jeremy Dias, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. “When you find out that you’re LGBTQ identified, when you realize who you really are, it can feel kind of lonely. So, we want to crack those barriers and open up those stories.”

The Ottawa developer, Claridge Homes is donating  a space measuring 1,400 square metres in a new housing development near downtown Ottawa.  It says the space is worth seven million dollars. The centre wants to raise $10 million for construction and furnishings.

‘Excited by people’s enthusiasm…passion’

It’s early days, but the response so far has been enthusiastic. “We’ve been incredibly lucky,” says Dias. “As an organization we’ve saved up some money, so we’re ready to take on the project.

“But we haven’t even launched the project and in about half an hour there are two high schools…announcing that they’re donating the first thousand dollars each to the project…

“We’re excited by people’s enthusiasm and by people’s passion… We were talking about the project in Windsor yesterday, and kids literally took change out of their pockets and said, ‘here, take this. I want to know who invented the rainbow flag. I want to know what happened during the years of decriminalization. I want to know about the bathhouse raids…’”

Drawing of building, second drawing with circle around windows of the future museum.

Artist’s conception of new housing development with the LGBTQ2+ museum highlighted on the ground floor. (Claridge Homes)

Straight support is strong

Dias emphasizes the importance of the support from straight people. “What’s most amazing is the allies, the straight people, who are getting behind the project. It’s really them who are saying, ‘Hey listen, I want to donate because my kids are LGBTQ identified, because I have friends who are LGBTQ identified’ and because they want to learn.

“For me that’s how you change the world. LGBTQ people are not going to stop homophobia, transphobia. It’s going to be straight people. And so their support is incredibly valuable to the project.”

A museum, art gallery, theatre, educational hub

Dias hopes the space will serve many needs. “This museum, this art gallery, this theatre, educational hub of culture and community…It’s going to do a lot of things for a lot of people. And I think that’s going to be the most powerful thing about the space.”

Construction is set to start in a few months and the hope is to open the museum in 2021.

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a world free of stigma, persecution, and discrimination

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