Steven Maynard book

Meet Jim Egan was published during Pride Month 2024 as part of the Scholastic Canada Biography series.

Queen's historian consults on a new book about early public gay activist

Pride Month is winding down, but a Queen’s history professor is making a contribution to the Canadian 2SLGBTQ+ community that will resonate long past the end of June. Steven Maynard recently served as the historical consultant on a new children’s book being published about Jim Egan, one of Canada’s first public gay activists, whose advocacy work began in the 1940s. Meet Jim Egan was published this month by Scholastic Canada.

“As a historian of sexuality in Canada I most often teach queer history to university students, so I was really pleased when the editor at Scholastic Canada asked me to be involved in a queer history book for young people,” says Dr. Maynard, adjunct associate professor in the Department of History. “It’s vital, especially for young queer and trans kids, to know that they have a history, including individuals like Egan, who campaigned against discrimination and for LGBTQ rights many decades ago.”

The book is written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas. It is intended for readers aged six to nine, and it is part of the Scholastic Canada Biography series, which also includes books on other notable figures in Canadian history, such as Viola Desmond, Mary Ann Shadd, and Tom Longboat. Meet Jim Egan is featured in Scholastic Canada's Read with Pride, which highlights books with 2SLGBTQ+ themes.

In addition to checking the text for historical accuracy, Dr. Maynard helped clarify the finer points of Canadian law in relation to the queer past, and he provided input on how to think about Egan's story in conjunction with those more marginalized within the 2SLGBTQ+ community, such as transgender and Indigenous Two-Spirit people.

“A book on Canada’s queer history geared to young people is particularly pertinent in our current political climate, in which drag queens reading stories to kids in a public library is enough to create a cultural backlash,” says Dr. Maynard. “I’m also really interested in the pedagogical potential of Meet Jim Egan. A good number of students in my courses at Queen’s are aiming to be public school teachers. I’m eager to discuss with students how the book might be used to create lesson plans on LBGTQ history and the themes of diversity and inclusion.”

Maynard previously helped Canadians learn about Egan in 2018 by serving as historical consultant for the first-ever Historica Canada Heritage Minute devoted to 2SLGBTQ+ issues. The segment focused on Egan’s fight for the legal rights of same-sex couples, a struggle that ultimately resulted in sexual orientation being included as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The lesson of Jim Egan’s story, a lesson about equality and dignity for LGBTQ people, is needed now as much as it was back in the 1950s and ‘60s when Egan tirelessly countered all the negative messages about LGBTQ people in the media at that time,” says Dr. Maynard.

Learn more about Meet Jim Egan on the Scholastic Canada website. And find out how to connect with campus resources for 2SLGBTQ+ community on the Inclusive Queen’s website.

This story was originally published in The Gazette.