Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hello, Hamilton!

On Friday, May 22nd Dennis and I travelled to Hamilton to take part in Westmount Secondary School's "Day of Difference" conference. After a few wrong turns, I'm happy to report that we made it to the school with a whole 15 minutes to spare! The event began with a school-wide assembly, followed by 15 workshops facilitated by local community organizations. Dennis and I spoke about Canadian LGBT history and the work that we do at the CLGA, and the discussion that followed was informative for students, teachers and presenters alike. I was particularly impressed by the candor and sophistication of the students, and it was great to hear about the anti-homophobia work that they're doing in their schools. Some of the students described appalling instances of homophobic violence, but it also seems that progress is being made in certain areas (particularly at Westmount, the school that hosted the conference).

After the presentation, we attended a school-sponsored lunch with the other presenters and the conference organizers. I must admit to being a little Toronto-centric, so it was cool to chat with people from Hamilton's LGBT community and to learn about what goes on there. Here's a link to their Pride calendar:

Big thanks to the Westmount conference organizers, and hopefully we'll see some of ya'll at the CLGA's open house on Pride weekend!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

1200 visitors in 6 hours!

I'm officially declaring Doors Open a resounding success! More than 1200 curious Torontonians paid a visit to the City Archives today for the open house and most of these folks stopped by the CLGA booth (or at the very least passed by). Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and the snaps below were taken on my iPhone. Not the best of quality.

We also received a warm welcome from the Toronto Area Archivists Group (TAAG) and the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA). It was great to feel like a part of the archives community.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

CLGA at the City of Toronto Archives for Doors Open

Above: Foot of Church Street. December 18, 1912.
(Fonds 200; Former City of Toronto fonds, Subseries 100, Item 42)

This weekend is Doors Open, an annual event in Toronto during which 175 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and/or social significance open their doors to the public. This year, the CLGA has been invited to take part in the “Step Into Your Archives” pavilion at the City of Toronto Archives. We will have a booth set up in the foyer of the Archives, so stop by and visit us!

The City of Toronto Archives was formally opened on January 22, 1992. It was designed by Zeidler Roberts Partnership to be a safe, secure and efficient archival repository, as well as an inviting research facility and a complement to its historic surroundings. Architectural highlights include: an ultra-modern, climate controlled storage area to accommodate 123,000 boxes; a sky lit central atrium and exhibition area; pink terrazzo staircase; 60-seat theatre; and a two-storey, sky lit Research Hall where researchers can access City records, photographs and maps.

The Archives is located at 255 Spadina Road, just north of the Dupont Subway Station (on the University line). It’s also just south of the fabulous Spadina Museum and Casa Loma, so why not visit all three?! Check out the Doors Open website for details on events taking place at these two historical sites and in the surrounding neighborhood

For more information about the special events that will take place at the Archives, please visit its official City of Toronto website. Also, please note that the Archives will only be open on Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Presentation at Jarvis Collegiate

May 14, 2009 CLGA Engagement Committee members Dennis, Rachel and Elizabeth were invited to participate in Jarvis Collegiate’s anti-homophobia week.  The week had apparently begun with an all-school assembly at which the members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance gave a very impressive sounding presentation.  We were so intrigued that Dennis asked the student who created it to consider donating it to the archive.

For our part, we presented an overview of Queer History in Canada, including some more recent trans-history in Toronto, to a small but enthusiastic group of students.  A few highlights of the presentation include: Bill C-150 and Trudeau’s famous line “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”; the organising rally held in Jarvis Collegiate’s auditorium following the Toronto Bath House Raids; the complicated position of the trans-movement within the Queer community.

  We finished off with more personal stories about how homophobia and becoming aware of sexuality has shaped our lives and this started some great conversations with the students.

We were also honored with these two cards (images left).

It was a great way to spend the afternoon with a lovely group of young activists.  I look forward to 

chatting with them again.

This is the colouring sheet/handout that Rachel made (below).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jane's Walks: Yonge Street is Flaming

Yonge Street is Flaming.

This walk was my first Jane’s Walk, and it was great!

Lots of good anecdotes and first-hand accounts from guest guide Marcia McVea, but also great stories from guides Jane Farrow and Gerald Hannon as well as time given at each stop for stories and memories from amongst the participants.

It was very informative and fun way to engage with the city’s history and well worth the strain to hear the speakers who were often overpowered by Yonge Street traffic during the first stops.

Click here for more details on this walk and Jane’s Walks throughout the country:

Queer history moves up Yonge Street, from the smokey anonymity of swanky hotel piano bars of the 1950's to the grotty backrooms of the 70's and the revolutionary parades and marches of the 1980's. Join in a conversational Sunday stroll through the history of the bars, beverage rooms and clubs frequented by gays and lesbians on the Yonge Street strip from King to Wellesley Streets.

519 Seniors Drop In - CLGA History Presentation April 27th

The 519 Church Street Community Centre has always been considered the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre. It has hosted more Queer Community meetings than any other building in the city over its life span. Located, just north of Wellesley on Church Street in the heart of the Gay Community, this centre was indeed providing services to its community. So when the Community Engagement Committee of CLGA was approached about making a presentation on our history, I jumped at the chance. It would be like going back home. I had spent many an evening attending meetings in that building.

The 519 has a Seniors Drop-In once a week and a good number of the seniors who drop by are in fact Gay or Lesbian. So I was also a bit intimidated since most of these people would have lived through the very history that I would be talking about.

I was warmly welcomed by Dick Moore who introduced me to the approximately 20 people in the room. There was a nice mix of men and women, with the usual larger representation of men. A couple of the men I recognized from my past years of activism. It was a very casual atmosphere of sitting around tables, sipping tea and nibbling freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

I was using Lesbian and Gay Liberation In Canada, a selected Annotated Chronology, 1964 - 1975, by Donald W. McLeod as my base reference source. It is a chronology of major events outlining Canadian lesbian and gay history for the period indicated, combined with a brief selected bibliography of sources of each event. The depth of material in that book is overwhelming, but proved to be the perfect tool for me to be able to pick out some of the trends, patterns and progress of gay rights in Canada, while occasionally referencing similar events in other countries.

Since I only had an hour, I needed to summarize the material into very broad strokes of commentary, trying from time to time to pick out examples of events which highlighted steps in our history of life in the closet to living with greater and greater openness about being out. Many of the people present would nod vigorously when I touched a point in their lives directly. Unfortunately, the chronology of McLeod's book ended in 1975 and I was running out of time, so I had to do a quick summary of the last few decades thinking that most in the room would have been active participants in this last period. However, I think we need to go back for another session to do proper justice to that period as well.

The conversation which followed was very lively, with individuals recounting the bars they used to attend, the clandestine nature of some of these clubs and bars, the stereo types which existed, the games that needed to be played to hid one's sexual identity, the way the police actively raided clubs and how the men and women had to switch dance partners when the lights flashed the warning signal that the cops were on their way. We talked about the piano bars and how they were real magnets for the gays and the dykes. There was real history in the room with all those present remembering their lives, their experiences, their traumas and their fun times, their romances, and their heart aches. It was great to be a part of the rekindling of those memories. This was experiencing archives of a different sort; this was the living lesbian and gay archives.

Dennis Findlay

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CLGA sponsored Inside Out Film

CLGA sponsored Inside Out Toronto Film:
Royal Ontario Museum Sat May 23 12:30pm

The Queer Nineties brings to completion Nancy Nicol's award-winning series on the history of lesbian and gay rights in Canada, which has been 10 years in the making and has covered 40 years of history. This bookend documentary brings together the most influential voices of the struggle for equal rights, giving precedence to human rights activists as well as to pioneering lawyers. The work also addresses the issue of censorship at the Surrey School Board, which in 1997 banned three children's books that depicted same-sex parents. The roles of ethno-cultural communities and the labour movement in the advancement of LGBT rights across the country contribute to the documentary's comprehensive view of the decade that gave us many of the freedoms we enjoy today.

Click here for more information and for links to purchase tickets: