New Brunswickers Len and Cub kept their relationship a secret during a time when homosexuality was criminalized.
Now, their story has been picked up for a six-part television series by Page Boy Productions, a company owned by Canadian actor Elliot Page, and greenlit by Paramount Plus.
The series will be based on the book Len and Cub: A Queer History, written by the founder of the Queer Heritage Initiative of New Brunswick, Dusty Green, and current president Meredith Batt.
“It’s incredibly exciting to get this news,” said Batt, who is also a provincial archivist.
“The series isn’t in production yet. But I know that the production companies involved are interested in telling underrepresented stories, which we’re very lucky that that’s happened.”
The book has been optioned, said Batt, which refers to an agreement that sells the rights of a source material temporarily to a potential film producer.
The book, published by Goose Lane Editions in 2022, is based on two men, Leonard Olive Keith and Joseph Austin (Cub) Coates, from Havelock, about 50 kilometres west of Moncton.
Len was an amateur photographer and captured pictures of the two in “affectionate poses,” said Batt. Len’s camera documented their many private moments during the early 20th century — with the two appearing cradled around each other, sometimes holding hands, or one resting his head gently upon the other.
In 1892, Canada enacted gross indecency laws that made any act of attraction between men, including kissing and touching, a criminal offence. The law was extended to women in 1953. In 1988, the gross indecency offence was repealed.
Batt said the photos were found when their co-author Green was a summer student at the provincial archives and started asking around about anything related to queer history.
Green was introduced to the photos of Len and Cub donated by John Corey, a historian from Havelock who picked up the photo albums at an estate sale in 1984.
Batt said the book received an incredible response and people “have really taken heart” in Len and Cub’s story.
“It’s one of thousands of queer experiences across the province, but, you know, it’s very significant in the time … that their love took place,” they said.
Batt said as a trans-masculine, non-binary person, it has been overwhelming to see the support of activists, educators and allies in response to recent global threats to claw back LGBTQ rights.
And in New Brunswick, on June 7, the province introduced controversial changes to Policy 713, which sets out minimum standards for providing a safe learning environment for LGBTQ students.
Batt said the announcement about the Len and Cub production deal came at a really good time.
“One thing that Dusty and I have been really overwhelmed with is the glimmer of hope, or a ray of rainbow light, that this seems to be shedding across the province upon hearing this announcement,” they said.
“It seemed to give everybody kind of a renewed fervor.”
“It also kind of renews the fact … that our stories need to be told and queer histories really matter.”
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