Arts·Here & Queer

Connor Jessup and two gay dinosaurs are spreading queer joy all over the world

The Locke & Key star has teamed up with close friend Sebastian Croft to create Queer Was Always Here, an initiative aimed at helping LGBTQIA+ refugees and displaced people.

The Locke & Key star has teamed up with close friend Sebastian Croft to create Queer Was Always Here

Connor Jessup on the set of Here & Queer.
Connor Jessup on the set of Here & Queer. (CBC Arts)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists through unfiltered conversations.

They don't make them all like Connor Jessup, but we sure would be better off if they did. The actor, writer and filmmaker known for series like Locke & Key and American Crime has been doing his part to make the world a safer, kinder place for his fellow queers with the new initiative Queer Was Always Here.

Alongside his close friend and fellow actor Sebastian Croft (Heartstopper, Game and Thrones), Jessup co-created Queer Was Always Here as a way to help secure futures for LGBTQIA+ refugees and displaced people while at the same time creating a community dedicated to queer art, queer history and queer joy. And we had the queer joy of having him join us on the set of Here & Queer to talk about this mission, as well as how he's been navigating his own public queerness since coming out in 2019.

Watch the episode:

The origins of Queer Was Always Here all goes back to... two gay dinosaurs. Croft had been approached about creating a one-off charity t-shirt, and was trying to think of an image that really resonated for him.

"He remembered that when he was a little kid, his brother told him that some animals are gay too," Jessup explains. "And for little Sebastian, this had a big impact on him. Somehow it made him feel less alone. And he invented these two gay orange dinosaurs named Dylan and Derek, who were in love in a time before we had invented homophobia, because queerness long outdates bigotry."

People immediately connected with the prehistoric couple (even getting Dylan and Derek tattoos!), and this past summer Jessup and Croft were talking about how they could incorporate them into more of a long-term project.

"Both of us are actors," Jessup says. "We're both in the arts. We have a lot of friends in that world. We have a lot of queer friends in that world. And we were trying to think of something that we could build on that warm, inclusive, joyful space. So that's where sort of the organization of Queer Was Always Here started: with two gay dinosaurs."



Both Jessup and Croft are not just actors, but out queer actors with major careers in film and television — something that has finally started to become normalized in their industry.

"It gives me hope, how quickly things seem to be changing, at least in certain bubbles in certain places," he says. "It took me so long to arrive at a place both in my personal life and in my professional life where I could come out, where I could talk about it, where I could even consider putting a label on it. It was a really torturous process for me and which I think it is for a lot of people. But talking to younger queer artists, it just seems like the path is getting wider and the number of doors and windows that are open are increasing."

Jessup and Croft's openness, as well as their devotion to a project like Queer Was Always Here, surely gives a lot of people hope in itself. 

"If someone can look at us or look at the organization and feel some sense of of comfort or community, nothing could make either of us happier," Jessup says. 

Find out more about Queer Was Always Here by visiting its website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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