Comments from readers about U of T’s queer history, rationality, the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan and academic integrity
The Gay Lens
The beautiful, eye-catching flag on the cover of your Summer 2009 issue is an identifying symbol of the gay movement. As a Christian who considers everyone my neighbour, I’m appalled when anyone is bullied or made to be an outcast. Mistreating people can never be condoned.
Gay acceptance is a complex and important issue for our society, since it goes to the heart of who we are and what we celebrate as human beings. But I question whether anybody really understands where society is heading as a result of the freedoms and choices of the sexual revolution.
Not everything traditional, such as marriage and family, needs to be revisited and reworked. Many of us draw on these traditions for comfort and security. They connect us to history and give us hope for the future. Why do some members of the gay movement feel that they have to be part of the marriage tradition?
Regarding sexual behaviour and identity, I would like to see more discussion on what role personal choice plays in determining it and to what degree the gay movement is influencing adolescent choices today.
Throughout the article “Out and Proud,” readers are encouraged to view the world through the lens of the gay movement. Yet what people with traditional values see through this lens is the over-sexualization of society.
We’ve Come a Long Way
Anne Perdue’s article captures the evolution of LGBTQ visibility at U of T over the decades very well. Around 1986, when I was a Governing Council member, I remember asking the administration if the omission of sexual orientation from the proposed anti-harassment policy was deliberate. The senior staff member presenting it said, “Not on my part.” It was added on the spot. At a Governing Council meeting on “Jeans Day” in 1991, U of T president Rob Prichard and I were the only ones wearing jeans; it would be different today. And as the first openly gay president of the U of T Alumni Association for the last two years, I can say that we’ve come even further since then.
I read “Out and Proud” (Summer 2009) with great interest, but was disappointed to see no mention of transgender or transsexual people. It is as if there were no trans people active in Toronto in the past 40 years – or possibly ever.
Many trans people identify as gay or lesbian and, along with straight people of good conscience, have contributed to the rights movement the article describes. Maybe, sometime in the future, intrepid journalists or historians will unearth the interesting and, as yet, erased history of transsexual people in Toronto. Maybe then we will be able to join those whose history is told here, and who are now formally and explicitly protected by Canadian human rights and hate crime laws.
BA 1974 New
Ed. note: We published an essay by trans alumna Nikki Stratigacos online. Click here to read.
I was very interested to read Anne Perdue’s article about queer activism at U of T. A piece of the history seems to be missing, though. The Sexual Education and Peer Counselling Centre was an active and vibrant contributor to the U of T community. I was a volunteer at the centre in 1993 and 1994 and co-cordinated the centre in 1995. We trained between 60 and 70 volunteers a year. These volunteers staffed a peer counselling phone line and put on sexual health workshops at the university and in high schools. We also organized an annual sexuality awareness week. In my memory, no other group was doing sexual education on campus at that time. Sexual Diversity Studies was just getting started and LGB OUT (as it was called at the time) primarily organized homo hops.
Posted by Michelle Rosen
U of T Homophile Association Wasn’t First
Anne Perdue refers to the founding of the University of Toronto Homophile Association in 1969 and says that it was, “arguably, the first gay liberation organization in the country.” The association may have been the first lesbian and gay rights organization in Toronto, but certainly not in Canada.
The Association for Social Knowledge (ASK), formed in April 1964 in Vancouver, was the first lesbian and gay rights organization in Canada. Its objectives included public education and supporting law reform. Lesbians, gay men and heterosexuals were members. ASK organized lectures and community events, opened the first lesbian and gay community centre in Canada, and published a newsletter. It disbanded in early 1969.
The history of ASK is considered in detail in standard references such as Gary Kinsman’s The Regulation of Desire and Donald McLeod’s Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada.
BSc 1972 UC, LLM 1980
Professor Emeritus of Law
University of Victoria
Pride at the University of Toronto traditionally has been founded upon admission into an institute of learning known for its high academic standards. Are we now saying that the flowering of pride is rooted in the freedom of gay and lesbian students to earn a degree in the study of their own sexual practices? What a queer tautology.
BA 1972 UTSC
I generally enjoy U of T Magazine, but “Out and Proud” should have been left to the minority it represents. Most of us don’t feel the need to proclaim our heterosexuality, so why is homosexuality a characteristic to be bruited about? Let’s all be satisfied with our private preferences; there is no need to be “in your face.”
I am disappointed that the university has conceded so much time and space to this fringe population. I’ll keep this in mind next time I’m solicited for the Annual Fund.
D. R. Stoll
BA 1952 Victoria
Raleigh, North Carolina
Flaunting the Gay Agenda
I’d like to remind you that not all of your readers have bought the politically correct party line. Compassion and tolerance for gays I fully endorse, but flaunting the gay agenda is about as constructive as flaunting divorce.
A strong society is made up primarily of strong families, but there are too many in academia who have lost sight of this reality.
Dr. John Coombs
BSc 1968 Trinity, MD 1971
I am very disappointed with the Summer 2009 edition of U of T Magazine. A great university like ours has thousands of events and achievements to be proud of. The one you put on the cover certainly isn’t one of them.
BSc Pharm 1961
Coquitlam, British Columbia
Pride Parade an Irresponsible Spectacle
I have to wonder how flaunting abberant behaviours in public could possibly help the image of gays, particularly those who may be living in a committed union with another person of the same sex. The parades and spectacles endorse a promiscuous and irresponsible style reminiscent of teens or “frosh” yet to mature. I am saddened for the gays who are portrayed falsely in this shameful stereotype.
Posted by Sharon Cebrowski
LGBTQ Agenda Is Equal Rights
The various comments on Anne Perdue’s article condemning the choice of cover topic, voicing concern about “the gay agenda,” and denouncing the degree programs in sexual diversity studies really concern me.
To the first matter: Given the prevalence with which matters concerning heterosexuals dominate the media, is it really so problematic to devote one cover article to a sexual minority group? Would the same be said if U of T Magazine featured African-Canadian rights struggles on its cover? I don’t think so.
As for the second matter, “the gay agenda” is a propaganda tool created by homophobic, narrow-minded heterosexuals who refuse to realize that the only “agenda” LGBTQ people have is to obtain the same rights as heterosexuals in terms of marriage, employment benefits, legal rights, and public acceptance. Heterosexuals would be left stunned if the rights we as LGBTQ people are fighting for were removed from them. Yet this is how LGBTQ people live every day in most of the world –without protection from discrimination, without the ability to marry, receive spousal employment and health benefits, and without many other rights heterosexuals take for granted.
The third matter is equally concerning. The legitimacy of earning “a degree in the study of [our] own sexual practices” has been questioned. Yet would racial minorities’ ability to study their own racial and cultural background be questioned, as in East Asian Studies or African and Caribbean studies? Or how about the ability to which a woman can study her sex and gender in women’s studies? The Sexual Diversity Studies program combines psychology, anthropology, gender studies, literature studies, sociology, epidemiology, and a plethora of other fields in its multi-dimensional analysis of sexuality and gender. If that’s not a legitimate strand of study, I don’t know what is.
I still fail to understand why thoroughly educated individuals seem to lose all ability to reason when sexual diversity matters come into play. These comments make me ashamed to call people such as yourselves my fellow alumni.
Posted by Stephanie Cook
Unitarian Church Permitted Gay Minister Before United
As a U of T alumna, I am proud of the university’s activism in promoting gay rights. I offer my congratulations and compliments to Anne Perdue for a well written article.
As a member of the former Unitarian Congregation of South Peel (renamed Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga) I was a tad miffed by an error of omission in the “The March to Equality” timeline. The Rev. Mark Mosher DeWolfe was called to our pulpit in 1982 after graduating from theological college in 1981. He served as an interim minister. The congregation then voted him in to serve as our permanent minister. He was openly gay and highly qualified to serve. He may have taught at U of T; his academic interest was “Contextual Theology.”
Rev. DeWolfe died from AIDS in 1988. Shortly before his death, Muriel Duncan interviewed him for the United Church Observer. The article, with accompanying photograph, was published under the title “Time to Live.”
Later the congregation published a volume of 10 of Rev. DeWolfe’s sermons entitled Time to Live (which was printed by the University of Toronto Press). The United Church Observer graciously gave us permission to use their photograph and a quotation from the article.
Nothing is 100% perfect. U of T Magazine’s coverage was not quite there with respect to the history of gay rights in Canada.
Pride’s Significance for Youth May Be Declining
As an LGBT student at the University of Toronto, I feel that Anne Perdue’s story is a testament to the tolerance and acceptance that I can find in the university community. Increasingly, society is accepting people like me, and is allowing us to lead more “normal” lives.
I can see that the sort of political activism and vocal flamboyance is something that is a product of years of discrimination, marginalization and homophobic policies. I would recommend reading Ritch C. Savin-Williams’ book The New Gay Teenager. It discusses the attitudes of LGBT teenagers towards their sexuality, and how vocal they are about it. He finds that amongst teenagers, sexual identities are becoming more fluid, and less easy to define. Thus, the political significance of Pride Parade marches and protests seems to decline.
Posted by Matthew Gray
Teaching Facts Easier Than Teaching Reason
I enjoyed Kurt Kleiner’s article “Why Smart People Do Stupid Things” and the admonition to examine problems more carefully and broadly. I like the idea of teaching people how to think rationally rather than what to remember. It seems to me that the reason this is done less often is that “facts” and techniques are relatively easy to teach and assess, whereas the critical tools to interpret “facts” are more difficult and therefore less “efficient” in the short term.
Posted by David
People Surrender Rational Thought to Religion
I can’t believe Kurt Kleiner doesn’t mention religion in his article “Why Smart People Do Stupid Things.” I can think of no greater example of the surrender of rational thought to superstition by so many otherwise intelligent people. Is the subject still taboo to mention?
Posted by Dave
Robert J. Sternberg’s writings on “wisdom” may be appreciated by your readers as common ground. In particular: “How wise is it to teach for wisdom? A reply to five critiques” in Educational Psychologist 2001; 36(4): 269-272.
Posted by John Lovas
On Prejudice and Ignorance
Kurt Kleiner’s interesting article made me immediately think back on a quote by the late Sydney Harris: “The fatal mistake that most intelligent people make is assuming that a high degree of intelligence confers an equally high degree of judgment, when actually the correspondence between these is quite accidental. However, there is a high correlation between prejudice and ignorance.”
Posted by Leo Næsager
I have been receiving U of T Magazine since I graduated in 2007, and I so thoroughly enjoy each issue that I am unable to say which articles have affected me the most. How you manage to appeal to both old and new alumni beats me. Keep up the good work!
A. O. Akorede Yusuff
Eating “Locally” Not Just about Distance
Geoff Thomas’s article “The Ideal Distance from Farm to Fork” may have left readers with false impressions of Local Food Plus. LFP certifies farmers for both ‘local’ and ’sustainable’ food production. The sustainable component looks at environmental sustainability in production, habitat preservation, biodiversity, animal welfare, farm labour rights and reduced GHG emissions on the farm. This article implies that LFP is only about local which is not the case.
Posted by Emily
Dying in Vain
I advise Bruce Rolston (“This Is a Generational Struggle,” Spring 2009) to buy Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between, which should be required reading for all politicians, military generals, foreign service personnel, and NGO and UN employees. A British diplomat, Stewart walked across Afghanistan in 2002. His book provides the only accurate, in-depth view of the country that I’ve read. According to Stewart, most Afghans could not care less about such Western ideas as human rights, freedom, a liberal education and democracy. In his view, Afghan women are never going to obtain equal rights. Western ideas about the country are based on Kabul, which is not representative of the countryside. Stewart points out that most people who work with NGOs are parachuted in for a year or two, cannot speak local dialects and restrict themselves to driving SUVs in the secure areas.
I say the sooner Canada’s Armed Forces leave Afghanistan the better. Our soldiers are dying for nothing.
BA 1970 New, BEd 1972 OISE
Maintaining Academic Integrity
As manager of the Office of Student Academic Integrity at the Faculty of Arts and Science, I was pleased to see the issue of Internet plagiarism featured in “Stolen Words” (Winter 2009). Our office resolves allegations of academic misconduct at the faculty and advises departments on resolving offences. I would like to clarify that the article’s first example – where the purchase of a paper was strongly suspected but unproven, resulting in a “high mark” – is not typical.
Allegations of purchased papers, or papers where the plagiarism is not “cut and dried,” are admittedly challenging to resolve, but the prognosis for these cases is far from hopeless. Even though an instructor may initially be unable to prove that an offence has occurred, help with the investigation is available at the divisional level. Our office resolves offences involving purchased papers every year, sanctioning students with a failure in the course and usually a suspension from U of T for up to one year.
Efforts by faculty and staff to promote academic integrity and report offences when they occur are integral to encouraging proper academic behaviour and maintaining the university’s strong ethical reputation.
BA 1993 TRIN, MA 1997, PhD 2002
Old Building Charms
Your summer issue was excellent! “Bugs by the Bushel” (Calendar) immediately took me back to the early 1960s, to a biology lab in the old medical building. In one of our labs, we were required to dissect a cockroach. The rumour was that, to keep expenses to a minimum, the lab assistants were sent into the back halls to catch as many as were needed for the next day.
Somehow the new buildings on campus lack these old-fashioned touches, don’t they?
BSc 1963 UC, MBA 1965
Port Carling, Ontario
The back cover of the Summer 2009 issue contained incorrect information about honorary degree recipients. The published list of honorary graduands omitted Keren Brathwaite, an influential U of T leader highly regarded for her educational expertise, and Michael Porter, an authority on the competitiveness of nations and regions. Although Lawrence S. Bloomberg and Andrzej Wajda are honorary degree candidates, their degrees have not yet been awarded.
Former Governing Council chair C. Malim Harding played an instrumental role in the establishment and success of U of T’s Committee of 1,000 and, in fact, served as its first chairman. We provided an incomplete account of the committee’s origins on page 17 of the Summer 2009 issue. U of T Magazine regrets these errors.