The Queer Pride Chronicles

Saturday August 17, 1974

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Saturday August 17, 1974, was a bright sunny afternoon. I was walking towards Alan Gardens. My stomach was in a knot. I saw a handful of people on the north side of the park and a pile of placards.

I was just back in Toronto after two years in South America. I had been following a young man who I was in love with, but afraid to tell.

When I finally hitchhiked back to Canada in the spring of 1974 I knew I couldn’t live with this kind of trauma drama. I had to either come out or jump off a bridge.

I had heard about The Body Politic, and although completely paranoid that someone might find me with them, I managed to read a couple of issues sitting in the middle of an abandoned playing field where I could see anybody coming from a quarter mile away. The paper had gotten me used to the term gay. It no longer made my stomach twist like the word “homosexual” did. But I didn’t actually know any gay people. There were ads for bars and baths, but the thought of going to a gay bar conjured up terrifying images of drag queens or leather men. I had no idea what a bath was. I was from Beaverton after all.

Then I saw an ad for a Gay Pride March. I’d been on my share of marches and demonstrations. I knew what you were supposed to do at that kind of thing.

Still, that hot Saturday afternoon, I hung around at a distance for a while before I jumped in. There was no one in drag or wearing leather or chains. In fact, most of them seemed pretty normal. So when they were almost ready to go, I quickly walked over and picked up a sign that said “Gay Liberation Now” and started marching down the sidewalk thinking, “if there’s a TV camera I wonder if I can induce a heart attack and die by holding my breath.

But there were no TV cameras. A gaggle of people walking down the sidewalk with hand-drawn placards, was hardly newsworthy, even in 1974. Another advantage of the group being so small was that everyone recognized a new face in the crowd. At the end of the march I was snapped up, taken home, had sex with for the first time, given a bunch of gay liberation literature and told to come back for more when I had finished reading.

I was a quick reader.

3 Comments

  1. I love this story!

  2. I was there that day and had exactly the same experinece but without the sex. I had just moved to Toronto to come out. Finding copies of The Body Politic in Guelph had helped me do that. I’d seen posters announcing the march and had been stressed all the week wondering if I could actually do that. I remember casually hanging around somewhere along the route and seeing it coming around the bend. I was terrified but jumped in and started chanting “Out of the baths and into the streets”. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was saying. It ended up in front of city hall with everyone holding hands and dancing in a circle. Now that was more then I could take. Gay men marching together was one thing but dancing was more than I could take. The rest of the day was uneventful but I had changed my life.

  3. Thanks Lawrence… thanks The Body Politic! I wonder if my dad was there?

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