With the seemingly endless options for blogging, vlogging and podcasting, there are more ways than ever for queer people to share their stories. Despite this, some folks prefer the world’s oldest tradition for passing on their experiences: one that predates even the written word.
“There is something special about actually listening to a story live,” Jeffrey Canton says. “Sure you can YouTube stories or listen to them in podcasts. But there’s something unique about knowing that the storyteller isn’t just telling for anyone. They’re telling for you and there’s a unique sharing of connection between you as listener and the teller.”
Canton is part of Queers in Your Ears, a collective dedicated to live queer storytelling, which also includes Clare Nobbs, Rico Rodriguez and Patty Barclay. Running for nearly 20 years, the team creates events that offer queer people the chance to share narratives that form our collective identities.
As part of the Toronto Storytelling Festival, they’re presenting Queerin’ What You’re Hearin’. The two-day event takes a self-reflexive bent, focusing in part on the history of the collective, including a greatest hits package from previous editions. Rodriguez shares a tale about his mother learning of his dalliances with drag. Nobbs offers up her experiences of losing her virginity, twice. And Canton will perform a piece by the late Peter McGehee, about meeting his true love.
They’ve been in operation since long before the average person even had email. But the advent of digital technologies hasn’t softened the group’s interest in offering a live platform for the exchange of narratives.
“Storytelling is now all over the place and young people have access to it through any number of venues, both live and online,” Canton says. “We want young queers to know something about our history. As queer storytellers and as queer people we want them to remember that history is important, both social history and personal histories. Even though we’ve been at it for this long, there are so many more stories we still have to share. Twenty years is just the beginning!”