The Queer Pride Chronicles

March 13, 2014
by John Greyson
1 Comment

John Greyson

Making Glue from Macaroni
Dedicated to Ali Mustafa, Toronto photographer, killed in Aleppo on Sunday, March 9

Lisa chose some of my tapes – video art, video activism, video storytelling – as my contribution to Generations of Queer. Tonite I’m going to tell stories about how I made three of these tapes. The stories will sample methods that echo or mimic the formal strategies of the tapes themselves: substitution, hybridity, alchemy. Willfully, in this retelling, they have become jail stories. They involve Coconuts, Zorses, Glue.

The Roman Baths & the Perils of Pedagogy

Thanks to Monty Python, everyone knows that if you can’t afford
horses, you can always substitute coconuts. This is the story of how my first night in jail back in 1983 inspired me to put on a policemans uniform and a magic marker clone moustache.

In 1983, I spent the summer in Esteli, a northern town in Nicaragua, working with my friends Maryanne and Eric on a documentary about the Sandinista’s revolutionary agrarian reform efforts. I arrived back in Toronto one hot August morning, and decided to catch a bus home to London Ontario to visit my very worried parents, who’d been sweating their way through Contra headlines and Reaganite sabre rattling for 3 long months.

The last bus was at 10pm, and the Bus Station was several blocks south of the Roman Sauna Baths on Bay St. I was walking south on Bay, from my new apartment share at Harbord and Spadina. I crossed at Gerrard, and I’m pretty sure there was a green light and a walk signal. But then I heard a voice: “Why’d ya cross on the red light, faggot?”

There were two uniformed cops, lurking in the shadows. They asked for ID. All I had was my passport. They started hassling me about the Nicaragua stamp, repeatedly calling me faggot. I explained I was on my way to catch a bus. They knocked the passport out of my hand. I bent to pick it up. One of them stepped on my hand. I called out loudly in pain. They accused me of threatening them. I told them if they beat me I’d yell — loudly. They put me in handcuffs, threw me in the backseat, drove me down to the 52nd Division. I was allowed a phone call. I called Tim McCaskell. He phoned Bob Kellerman, one of the law union lawyer who’d defended many of the found-ins in the baths raids 2 ½ years earlier. I was released around 3am, and caught a morning bus to London. Needless to say, I told my parents I’d just missed the last bus, no big deal. When the case came to trial, Bob found a witness, another gay guy who’d been beaten by these same two cops a few months earlier. Their modus operandi was to lurk a block from the Romans, and make their arrest quota by nabbing guys coming and going. The case was thrown out.

Six months later, for my short video The Perils of Pedagogy, I needed a quick shot of a cop jerking off. I’d lined someone up – but then they cancelled at the last minute. Lacking a horse, I became the coconuts — I pulled on the uniform myself, drew on a quick magic marker clone moustache, and got the shot, accompanied by the dulcet tones of a youthful Stephen Andrews (seen here in a school boy uniform), seductively lipsynching to Lulu’s To Sir With Love.

The Kiss-In and the Letter.

ACT UP staged their infamous Stop the Church action in late 1989. 4500 activists outside St. Patricks Cathedral chanted slogans against the lethal homophobia of Cardinal O’Connor. 111 protesters were arrested and one activist notoriously threw a communion wafer on the floor. Artist Ray Navarro dressed up as Jesus to cover the action ‘live’ for DIVA (Damned Interfering Video Activists) TV.

A few months later, channeling a similar DIVA spirit, the Toronto chapter of Queer Nation organized a lunchhour kiss-in at the Eaton Centre. The goal: targeting the rise of anti-gay violence and promoting queer visibility.

The kiss-in was a humourous failure. Only three dozen people showed up, and we seemed more committed to gossiping then smooching. Along with fellow video artists Colin Campbell and Stuart Marshall, I’d volunteered to shoot the action, and we had a hard time getting any decent footage of actual lip-on-lip militancy. The hundreds of shoppers seemed oblivious, more intent on the 50% off sale at Stitches.

The cops and security guards were another story, however. Over a dozen of them circled our group, repeatedly asking us to leave, clearly frustrated that they had no legal means of moving us. The chief security guard attached himself to me. He was obviously upset about the kissing, and displaced his anger onto my camcorder, insisting over and over again that videotaping on private property was against the law. I argued back that the courts just six months earlier had legislated that malls were indeed public areas, despite private ownership. I also pointed out that a CBC newscrew was filming a few feet away, and asked why he wasn’t harassing them? The answer was predictable: they were journalists, I was a demonstrator. Well, ok, I’d done some kissing myself, but who are cops to arbitrate objectivity? The situation degenerated and eventually I was arrested — the only demonstrator to be arrested that day. My camcorder was confiscated because he claimed it could be used as a “dangerous weapon.”

That such a lack-lustre demonstration could be so threatening to the cops, and that it’s recorded image could be confiscated so arbitrarily, serves to illuminate just how jumpy the state gets when dissent and desire meet. The demonstration sought to promote visibility through intimacy — in short, to kiss and tell. This combo flies in the face of the state’s accelerating project over the past two centuries to regulate in Foucault’s sense — to do all the talking. The states many tentacles (in particular its legal and medical arms) don’t seek to choke or repress the sexual conversation, but merely to monopolize it. Deviant dissenters threaten this monologue with their own voices, and are thus prime targets of censorship.

Ray died in 1991 and four of us burned the midnight oil for several days to edit a tribute tape to his life for the memorial. Later, each of us re-cut the footage into our own versions. Mine became Letter to Ray Navarro, which included a romantic beach shot from the 1971 porn classic Boys in the Sand and Barbara Streisand singing Ave Maria, slowed down to make time last a little longer. The voice-over says: “The laws of physics suggest that if you slow down Barbra enough, you could make time last forever. Well, not really. The math doesn’t work, and its too much Barbra. But we’d have more time.”

There was never any time in those years, as the memorials accelerated and Queen West became a graveyard: Michael Lynch, David Buchan, Jorge Zontal, Ron Gabe, Alex Wilson, Rob Flack. We coped by slamming together Barbra and demos and Jesus and kisses. We were making Zorses.

Green Laser and Cairo Flip Flops

Every night in our prison cell in Cairo, I’d stare up at the ceiling fan and think of Gabriel Orozco. In 1997, he placed 3 rolls of toilet paper on the blades of a fan, and created a perfect triple helix when the speed was slow enough. As we remember from Grade 10 chemistry, while the double helix of DNA is common to all living organisms, the triple helical molecular structure, discovered in 1954, is unique to collagen. Collagen is the main protein in the connective tissues in mammals, and has been used as a glue for 8000 years. The word comes from the Greek ‘Kolla’, meaning ‘glue producer’.

I learned how to make glue from macaroni in prison, a glue so strong that it can support a grown man hanging off a hook glued to the wall. It revived my belief in the agency of alchemy, the necessity of making art from toilet paper.

In 2011, I joined the Canadian boat of the Flotilla sailing to Gaza, an international effort to break the Israeli blockade of this open air jail, the only port in the world not allowed to access its own waters. We got within a mile of international waters before we were arrested by the Greek coastguard.

My video Green Laser is an account of that experience, and rifles through the garbage to glue together a bunch of disparate elements: hornet films, Irish step dancing, Seth Rogen, Dalton Trumbo, scenes of shirtless Paul Newman in Exodus, on his boat and in prison as he tries to sail for Gaza from Greece, only to be stopped by the Greek coastguard.

Two years later, I tried to get to Gaza again, and again was stopped, this time by the Egyptian police. Here’s a story about flipflops.

We were sardines for the first three weeks, 38 men squeezed into a 10 m. x 3 m can, marinating in sweat. Then, finally, on September 4, they allowed us half an hour of exercise. To be released into that ocean of sunlight, that vast periwinkle sky, that choir of crows – we couldn’t stop running, round and round the yard. Some of the others had flip flops from their families, but Tarek and I were barefoot, we barely had pen and paper and soap from our weekly ten minutes with the embassy. We ran and ran, not caring that the concrete was griddle hot, a molten ice rink. Four blisters bloomed on our soles, the size of toonies, puffed like pancakes.
That night, it was our turn to give a lecture to our cellmates. Tarek described working as an ER doctor in London’s Vic and Gaza’s Al Shifa. He didn’t mention his ongoing experiments with quad copters (researching alternative methods for delivering blood samples) and 3-D printers (manufacturing medical implements), his radical sideways uses of new technologies that could potentially ease the brutality of the Israeli blockade. Sometimes you have to keep it simple. I talked about the four films I’ve made that are ironically set in prisons, joking that that’s the Canadian way – first we make the films, then we do the field research. I didn’t mention that the four are queer love stories. Sometimes you have to keep it simple.

Tarek decided that we should end with a song. Neither of us can sing. He decided it should be Que Sera Sera. We were shaky on the verses, but got the whole cell singing the refrain. He explained it as a parable of fortitude, of survival, of resistance. What will be, will be. Inshallah, shallah. Songs can let meanings fly free, beyond Doris, out the bars. For Tarek, it perhaps served as a secret serenade to his inner geek. For me, it perhaps subbed as a coded campy coming-out ballad. In the days and weeks that followed, whenever I was sitting alone, feeling blue, crushed perhaps by another extension of our detention without charges, one of the others, Masry or Ala or Ahmed, would throw a comforting arm around my shoulder and say: “Oh John, que sera sera.”
We are now free, and eight of the others are too, but 28 remain behind bars, held without charges. So are 600 others, arrested the same day. So are thousands more, for the simple crime of protesting Sisi’s restoration of military dictactorship. So is Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist arrested on December 29, and now locked up in solitary close to our former sardine can. I wish I could tell him that freedom is sometimes blisters on your soles, but the Cairo winter is too cold for running barefoot on concrete. I wish I could tell him that freedom is sometimes an arm around a shoulder, quoting Doris, but he’s probably not allowed any contact with Ala, Masry, Ahmed.

I’m working on portraits right now of my cellmates, using a Garmin runners watch which records the GPS location of where I run. Here are portraits of Masry, of Ahmed. I create a route, superimposing the drawings I did of them in prison onto a different part of the city that bears some reference to their own life – for instance, with Masry, his brother-in-law is an archaeologist at the Cairo Museum, so I created a route which ran past the ROM. Then I run, and record them, transferring them to photoshop.

Pam Rodgerson and I are running a portrait of Mohammed Fahmy right now, broken up into six different chunks. Like so many, we worry as his case winds its way through the Egyptian courts, a show trial exploited by General Sisi to silence criticism and help consolidate his military dictatorship. Like so many, we can’t figure out why there isn’t more international outrage, why Baird and Harper are staying silent.

For generations, we’ve marched and kissed and mourned the dead – Ray Navarro, Rob Flack, Ali Mustafa. For generations, we used coconuts to make zorses. For generations, the glue that has held us together, despite the odds, a super-glue made of macaroni – that glue is our stories.


March 10, 2014
by Andrew Zealley

Rob’s Dream of the Inspirational Vibration

“Rob’s Dream of the Inspirational Vibration”(duration: 5 minutes, 19 seconds)

This track is culled from the audio installation that I was producing at the time of Rob’s death – for an installation that we were collaborating on at the time. The installation was tentatively titled The Eternal Cosmic Love Machine, and addressed the moment of transformation from life to death. I recall Rob’s joking suggestion that the show might alternately be titled Rob’s Theatre of Blood (said in a mock horror movie accent).

“Rob’s Dream of the Inspirational Vibration” is named for a dream that Rob told me about on a number of occasions. The dream first occurred when Rob was travelling in India, with his close friend Tim Guest. In the dream, Rob is floating, horizontally in a circular path around an arena or stadium where a large mass of people are gathered. They are watching him float above them, cheering and waving. He is emitting beams of healing light from his wrists that wash over the crowd, dosing them with wellbeing and love as he passes over.

This track is included in This Is True To Me, the bookwork w audio CD that was produced/published by The Eternal Cosmic Love Machine Collective (Kathryn and Brian Brownlie, Julie Gibb, John Flack, Christian Morrison, AZ) during the 12-month period following Rob’s death.

There were two collectives operating in that calendar year (November 1993 to November 1994): the ECLMC and the Rob-O-Rama group – each producing an exhibition and publication to mark the one year anniversary of Rob’s death. The ECLM presented at Cold City Gallery with the show, This Is True To Me, and the other group—including Stephen Andrews, Alan Belcher, Carlo Cesta, Andy Fabo, Janice Gurney, Micah Lexier, Regan Morris, Lisa Neighour, Andy Patton, David Rasmus, Chrysanne Stathacos, Julie Voyce, and Robert Windrum—exhibited Rob-O-Rama at YYZ. I performed a live “remix” of material culled from This Is True To Me at the opening of the Cold City show.

This Is True To Me, Cold City Gallery, November 18 to December 17 1994.

Rob-O-Rama, YYZ Gallery, November 16 to December 18 1994.

(image: Power Begins With You by Robert Flack, a full-colour poster project intended for public hoarding in the city, 1991-1992)


March 10, 2014
by Andrew Zealley

on Robert Flack, HIV/AIDS, and becoming sound

Rob and I originally met in 1980, as co-workers at Art Metropole. Rob was hired to work in the layout department, tending to projects like FILE Magazine. I was working first in the mail-order department (a chain-link cage; literally a pretty, conspicuously—dare I say flamboyantly—dressed boy in a cage) and later moved to the video department (1980-81). We re-connected in 1986. I was working at The Power Plant and I distinctly recall Rob coming into the gallery, very excited. He was listening to my new 7″ single on his Sony Walkman – the single was a split-7″ that I released with Dianne Bos. Bos and I each had one track on the single (hence it was called Taking Sides). Rob was very turned on by my track because it represented an audio approach that reflected his visual methodology: the layering of original material with found images/sounds. Plus he loved the fact that there was the voice of Elizabeth Taylor sampled into the track – culled from the film dialogue to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (NB. this was pre-sampler era… so I would painstakingly record bits from vinyl records to cassette tape, then load them into a delay FX unit and playback manually, moving between cassette tape and FX unit to fashion live effects and performance). He invited me to his studio for a visit, to see his latest works and talk about process – and Elizabeth Taylor.

After a series of studio exchange visits we decided to collaborate. This led to the Empowerment exhibition at Garnet Press Gallery in early 1991. For me, it was the first time I produced work as “audio art” though the material clearly bears the stamp of musicality. This duality—conceptual and musical—developed into a distinguishing mark in my sound installations.

Starting in 1987, we would meet regularly to talk about mysticism, queer history and culture, and art and music. In 1989, Rob tested positive for HIV. I was diagnosed around the same time with a different, serious health issue (cirrhosis). Together, we researched alternative and non-Western healing practices, meditation, and information regarding the Chakras (centres of energy in the body) and Kundalini. The Empowerment/Nature: This Is A Recording output was the first result of that shared research.

In his critique of the Empowerment exhibition, Hamish Buchanan wrote (in VIEWS Magazine, May 1991):

“The layering of images and visual styles, and the references to assorted cultural and symbolic languages, and to the mystical body and alchemical transformation, create a rich maze. General evocations of different kinds of knowledge of the body — visual, medical, mythological, spiritual — are united in a pseudo-psychedelic pop sensibility and transcribed onto the body. (The fine line between mysticism and mystification is largely in the eye of the beholder: for all its esoterica, this is work that seeks to engage with a contemporary audience).

“The same could be said of the sound environment by Andrew Zealley, which accompanied the installation of photographs. Rhythmic, pulsing, non-narrative, with allusions to various cultures and times, invoking/involving the body of the viewer, the sound transformed the space from gallery to shrine/dance club, and also altered the experience of viewing the photographs from largely visual to more fully physical. This effect is consistent with the artists’ statement in a double-page spread in OUT Magazine (No.9, Jan/Feb1991), which stated that the work ’embodies ideas that integrate the body and mind as transformational tools.’ It also states that the work is about, ‘investigating ideas, disciplines and techniques designed to improve mental/physical health – serving to strengthen the immune system and encourage a positive state of mind.'”

Buchanan’s observation on shrine-cum-disco was totally on the mark. Rob and I talked at length about the disco as temple, a divine location of celebration, shared energy-raising, lights, movement, loving. We deemed the motif from Donna Summers/Giorgio Moroder’s “I Feel Love” as the universal theme and that sequence made its way into my next audio installation for Rob.

We continued to meet up for studio visits post-Empowerment with the goal of further collaboration. I created two volumes of mixed/DJ cassettes that Rob used for his presentations of Love Mind, the photographic series first presented in 1992. During that year we also started to chart another collaboration: The Eternal Cosmic Love Machine (working title). This was intended as a major installation, with soft-sculptural “portals” of sheer fabric, light, colour, and sound. However, it would not materialize.

Rob died in October 1993, as we were in final production mode for the ECLM. The bookwork, This Is True To Me, features the graphics and photographic images that Rob was working on for the show, alongside excerpts from his dream and studio diaries – and a compact disc of the audio intended for the installation.

I was the last friend to visit Rob in his hospital room at Wellesley Hospital. He was mostly silent that evening and in a particularly meditative state. There was little to no conversation and he was deeply engaged with a series of photographic images that David Rasmus had arranged on the wall, one day earlier, at the foot of Rob’s hospital bed. The images of flower blossoms and sky were organized in a grid of 9. Rob appeared to be moving into the images – as though he was concentrating on—or willing—a psychic shift. On his bed, beside him, his copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I brought a mixed tape of music for him to listen to – it was common practice for me to mix music for him, for his studio time and for meditation. The cassette, on that evening, was a recording of Kenyan singer and Nyatiti player, Ayub Ogada.

Since there was little conversation, I turned my chair to sit abreast of Rob at the head of his bed, and together we gazed into Rasmus’s flower blossom images. After a few hours, I prepared to leave. It was around 10 or 10:30 pm. As I was departing, Rob finally spoke, “Andrew, just keep working – and I will see you in two days.” He died within a few hours – around 1:30 am.

Rob’s close friend, Patrick, called me first thing in the morning – it was around sunrise. “Rob is dead,” he said. I immediately got out of bed and moved to my studio area. I could feel Rob’s energy in the room. I finished the track “Invocation” (from This Is True To Me) – the track was played for the first time publicly the next day at his funeral.

Rob was right. I did indeed see him in two days – or at least, it was his corpse that I saw, at the visitation. I left some purple and gold mardi gras beads in his Hoax Couture suit pocket. And as per his instructions, I have never stopped working in my studio.

(image: Etheric Double by Robert Flack [1990] – the image used for the Empowerment exhibition promotional postcard, and later reproduced as a giclee print in the audio edition of Nature: This Is A Recording [Art Metropole, ARTMET-CD006, 2006]. Rob gave me the original print of this piece in 1991 as payment for the sound, and I honoured our collaboration during that summer by tattooing one of his mandalas on my back – a drawing that would find its way into his Love Mind series.)

March 10, 2014
by Dr. Sara Diamond

“The Seventies were somewhat utopian times in Vancouver”

I hardly know where to begin as I have been a lesbian or bisexual as long back as I can remember. Thank heavens our histories are multi-layered and contradictory.  I thought I would share a tidbit from my twenties.  Other than working fulltime and going to university to study history and communications, I divided my time between union and political activism and lesbian bars such as the Vanport (a trucker’s bar with a fantastic inner room with a small stage with a large stripper named Mary), clubs such as BJ’s with its fantastic drag shows, hot seventies disco and swirling lights. Summer days were spent at a fantastic beach up the old Squamish Highway by a cold water spring.  At the same time, I was involved in early theoretical work that suggested that social movements around issues such as sexuality would be formative of a new kind of politics of identity.  We drew on an historical and materialist approach to theorize desire and its construction.

Later (in the late 1970s and early 80s) I amplified my feminist activism and immersed in what felt like a large women’s community in the city. I was part of a five woman lesbian video collective entitled Amelia Productions.  Amelia created what I jokingly called, “occupational video”, pieces that documented daycare workers fighting for their rights, telecommunications unionists literally occupying their buildings, postal workers establishing daycare coverage as well as producing such pithy titles as “Lesbians against the Right”.  Amelia produced fourteen productions (a few fictions as well) in two years and then imploded due to our complex sexual dynamics.

The Seventies were somewhat utopian times in Vancouver – pre-AIDS crisis, full of optimism and hopes for a better world.


March 3, 2014
by Andrew James Paterson

Some Pride Commentaries

My first Pride was 1985 –  I remember it being pretty sparse and grass roots _ don’t remember the March but I remember John Greyson wearing John Scott’s Fuck Mary Brown’s dress – there was that funky combination of activism and queer performance happening.
1986 – I remember doing the march and then hanging in the beer garden. It was pissing rain but the march and the show had to go on. By show I mean presence -it was raining men as well as cats and dogs. The epidemic was getting worse and worse – so damn the heavens.
1987 – I remember the corporate-ness of it all beginning to seep in. I remember getting pissed with my friends Dean (RIP) and Jeannie in what I think was Robert’s because we didn’t want to go in the Molson’s beer gardens because Molson’s distributed Coors who were still verboten in the gay bars not to mention dyke-friendly establishments. Observations were made that anger was eroded, despite the escalation of the plague et cetera.
1991 – I remember being with friends who didn’t want to march because of a loved one’s recent death. I remember wanting to march because of the overwhelming velocity and propensity of HIV-AIDS-related deaths as well as the lives of those defying the odds. I also remember every fucking float broadcasting Gypsy Woman, by Crystal Waters. La-di-di-la-di-da. Same tune as that from the theme of Jeopardy and not dissimilar to Three Blind Mice.
1993 – Very intense year. Worst for AIDS-related deaths. I remember that one would watch the parade and then suddenly join in. Ah, there he is! Omigod…that person is not only still alive but looking great! Fantastic. There wasn’t yet the barrier between performer and audience necessary to make spectacle.
1997 – Watched parade from my friend Robert’s roof on Yonge Street with a usual gang. The parade was now spectacle. You were either marching or watching – no sudden conversions. I think 1997 was the first year of The Dyke March, or was it 1996? Then over to Church Street and then over to Alexander Street Park – alternative or whatever that means. But safe and friendly enough.
2001 – marched for first time in years, on a float loosely associated with Artists’ pride. Some called it the YYZ Float but I’m not sure about that. I remember wearing blonde wig once given to me by Suzy Richter of the Nancy Sinatras, a wig which I had tried to cut into a Warhol wig but badly. I guess I saw myself as Warhol – watching while walking.
2004 – a pattern began to define my personal calendar. Skip the parade, head over to Buddies and Alexander Park, have a few pints, say a few hellos, and then slip away. Not always to the same destination, but slip away.
2010 – I was sick as a dog and I marched with the Artists Against Censorship. Our contingent made posters and then marched in front of QuAIA. We were not QuAIA, but it all got confused. This was a march and it was political. 
The difference seemed to get lost. But whatever.
2011 – I remember the alternative march – queers for social justice. This was a week prior to the big parade and it was intense and funky. AIDS Action Now, QuAIA, individuals who could take or leave the big parade and tempering Olympics etc.
2012 – The alternative queer march was very intense as it was at night-time and it took over the streets. It wasn’t just a picnic with a bunch of friends.

March 2, 2014
by Lisa Deanne Smith
1 Comment

Growing up with my gay dad…

My father died on September 3, 2012. He was 74 years old and a gay man. The following June, my sister, my daughter and I spent a weekend going through my dad’s belongings. As we decided what to do with his leather pants and cap I thought about the queer community and how it has changed since my father came out in the 1970s. Back then, it wasn’t easy to be a gay man or a gay father but it was possible — barely. It had only been legal to participate in consensual homosexual acts in Canada since 1969, although George Klippert was arrested in the Northwest Territories just before the law changed as “incurably homosexual” and a dangerous sexual offender for admitting to having consensual homosexual sex with four separate adult men. He was not released from Canadian jail until June 1971. I was six years old at the time and had no idea how brave my father was to publicly be who he was.

Through my father I learned there were alternative lifestyles to explore as the mainstream didn’t seem to fit either of us well. We both liked to party and as we discovered when he lived in Vancouver in the early 80s, we made a great team! We would start a night out at the Luv-A-Fair on Seymour Street. I danced to punk music while my dad warmed up with a few drinks. One night a young man tried, unsuccessfully, to hit on me. He turned to my father and asked, “Why is she with you old man?” My father replied slowly with his warm smile, “Because I’ve got the money, honey!” We both chuckled and left for John Barley’s in Gastown. The club was packed to the rafters with sweaty, muscle bound men (and a few women) dancing to loud disco and my father knew most of them. I lost myself on the dance floor, once in a while finding my dad with my eyes and a smile.

The late 80s were a very intense time as many of his friends began to die from AIDS related illnesses. It was scary and heart wrenching and the air was full of fear and lies. My father refused to get tested. He hated illness of any kind and spent hours at the gym to stay in shape and socialize. He remained steadfast in his decision until the late 90s when antiretroviral treatments became available in Canada. One day he called me out of the blue to share his test results. He got lucky and they were negative. Many weren’t so fortunate: in 1994 there were 32,995 Canadians living with HIV.

Pride Toronto became a family event for my dad and me after he returned to Toronto and the Village Green high-rises in the heart of the village. We adored the beer gardens, prancing up a storm. One year his crew did a float for the parade. My father was Cleopatra with a harem of frond waving slaves. I was so proud of him. I didn’t know anyone with a gay parent and it empowered me to have a place to openly celebrate us and queer culture. He led by example, teaching me to be kind and accepting to all people, even those with differing morals without giving up my beliefs. It isn’t always easy.

One night, returning from a dinner party, my father was brutally gay bashed while walking the pathway between the high-rise buildings on Maitland and Alexander (the area is now fenced in and locked). He was hospitalized and shaken to his core, often waking suddenly from reoccurring dreams of revenge on the three young men who stole his sense of safety. Soon after his physical recovery, he bought a house in Crystal Beach, Ontario with two of his oldest friends. A small town with an active queer community in which they could retire gracefully — and the YMCA was still only a bike ride away!

Storytelling becomes a political action. It is important to hear these stories, understand and celebrate how they affect our lives of both within and outside of the queer community. Years ago all the sidewalks in Toronto had curbs and did not slope down onto the roads at crossings as they do now. Disability activists lobbied for sloping curbs, or curb cuts, and now we all take these for granted, enjoying easier movement through the city. Looking back through generations of queer activism I realize how positively queers have affected human rights for everyone. We have a lot to be thankful for. Thank you. I am grateful the conversation continues.

Lisa Deanne Smith, curator, Generations of Queer

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