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.