Cover Story / Feature / Summer 2009
Out and Proud

How students, faculty, staff and alumni brought queer activism to the University of Toronto and changed the campus forever


The beginning of the gay rights movement in North America: Christopher Street Liberation Day, New York City, June 28, 1970

On October 7, 1974, thirteen students gathered in a U of T classroom for the first night of a new course.

“New Perspectives on the Gay Experience” – the first gay studies class to be taught at a Canadian university – soon became the subject of a public controversy. The Toronto Star planned to run a story about the course, but the editors changed their minds and dropped the article. Instead, in mid-October, they published an editorial stating that the paper didn’t ban news about homosexuals so long as the editors were “satisfied that they are not seeking converts to their practices.”

The publicity created a problem for the university. And it created a problem for Michael Lynch, an English professor at St. Michael’s College who was teaching the continuing education course.

St. Mike’s asked Lynch not to teach any more gay-studies courses and to refrain from making public statements about homosexuality. New Perspectives went ahead as planned, but at the end of the term, Lynch faced a difficult decision: keep quiet or risk losing his job. He eventually agreed to a transfer to Erindale College.

But he didn’t stop fighting.

T is for Trans Read alumna Nikki Stratigacos’ essay about being transsexual

Gay Studies Branches Out U of T’s Sexual Diversity Studies program is the largest of its kind in North America

The March to Equality 40 years of sexual equality rights in North America and around the world

LGBTQ Wants You! Join U of T’s newest alumni community

Lynch spearheaded several local activist groups, including Gay Fathers of Toronto and the AIDS Committee of Toronto. In 1988, he founded the Toronto Centre for Lesbian and Gay Studies. Its mandate: to foster academic and community-based queer research. Two years later, the centre established the Michael Lynch Grant in Lesbian and Gay History to support research in the field. Deeply mistrustful of U of T, Lynch requested that the fund remain outside of the university. He died in July 1991, at the age of 46.

How the endowment named in Lynch’s honour eventually took up residence within U of T, at one of the largest university programs for sexual diversity studies in the world, is one chapter in a storied evolution that couples noisy demonstrations with quiet reflection, community activism with intellectual study, and fear and timidity with anger and courage.

The story begins, effectively, in 1969.

Rising Up
“I wanted to change things,” says Ian Young, reflecting on his student days at U of T in the mid-1960s. “People were in the closet, hiding or pretending. I knew it was wrong.”

Young wanted to be a teacher. “But in those days, you couldn’t be openly gay and teach at any level,” says Young. So he left his studies at Victoria College and headed to New York, where he immersed himself in the city’s literary scene. There, he met like-minded souls such as Allen Ginsberg, prowled bookstores in search of gay literature, and developed a politically unapologetic stance on homosexuality.

In the late ’60s, Young returned to U of T, took a job as a microfilm technician and helped run a campus coffee house. Through his association with the coffee house and Student Christian Movement, Young tried to organize a discussion group on sexuality and gay issues, similar to the homophile associations he knew existed on American campuses. “But with very few exceptions, gays and lesbians were too scared to risk even showing up for a meeting,” he says.

Then in 1969, two catalytic events occurred. In New York City, gay men and women took to the streets in violent protest against police raids on the Stonewall Inn and other Greenwich Village bars. And in Canada, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau amended the criminal code to decriminalize homosexuality.

That same year, Jearld (pronounced “Jerald”) Moldenhauer landed a job in U of T’s physiology department. Moldenhauer, a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, had founded a homophile association at his alma mater. When he crossed paths with Young at U of T, they talked about creating a similar group on the St. George campus.

Moldenhauer placed an ad in The Varsity to ask if anyone was “interested in discussing the establishment of a student homophile association.”

“I am,” thought Charles Hill, an art history graduate student. Within days, a handful of men and one woman had founded the University of Toronto Homophile Association.

It was the first gay student group at a Canadian university and, arguably, the first gay liberation organization in the country. The association’s first meeting, on October 24, 1969, drew 16 people. The group needed a student leader, so Hill – the only student willing to go public – became president.

Recently, I asked Hill (MA 1969), now a curator for the National Gallery of Canada and member of the Order of Canada, how he mustered the courage to be the first leader of the homophile association. “Anger and irritation,” he replied. Hill had been charged with an indecent act in Montreal for dancing in a gay club, and, although he was acquitted, the charge left him feeling fed up with the rampant discrimination against gays and lesbians. “Prejudice was everywhere,” he says. “We were an invisible minority and as long as we were invisible, people could create their own theories about us.”

The U of T Homophile Association set up a weekly information table at Sidney Smith Hall to increase the group’s visibility on campus, and the members hoped their presence would challenge discrimination. “Many people either stared or walked by very fast,” recalls Hill. Others showed up “ostensibly to do research,” says Young.

Posters publicizing homophile events, such as dances at Hart House, were routinely torn down. As a countermeasure, the group invented lunchtime “blitzes,” in which members rushed through cafeterias handing out flyers. Many students crumpled their flyers and threw them back. But word spread, and within months the group had grown almost too big for its Graduate Students’ Union meeting room.

By the early 1970s, lesbians and gay men and their supporters had begun to publicly challenge the still widely held notions that homosexuality was criminal, sinful or sick. At Canada’s first large-scale gay demonstration on Parliament Hill in 1971, Hill was called on to read from “We Demand,” a short text co-written by U of T graduate student Herb Spiers (PhD 1979). The manifesto’s 10 demands included equal rights for homosexuals to employment at all levels of government, the right to serve in the Canadian Forces, and a uniform age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

Public reaction was swift and condemning. Dick Smyth, news editor for CHUM radio in Toronto, described the demonstration as a march “by militant alcoholics, militant lepers or militant lunatics.” Not surprisingly, the creation of a homophile association at U of T had also come under attack. A letter in the Globe and Mail published a few months after the association had formed criticized the university for recognizing the group, stating, “It is imperative that our young people not be misled as to the nature of this pathological condition.”

In response to the letter, Moldenhauer wrote the Globe to defend the association. “If the homophile represents a challenge to society, it is only in that he promotes an increased freedom of expression between human beings.” Within days of his letter being published, U of T fired Moldenhauer. Reflecting on the dismissal now, Moldenhauer says, “Somehow I don’t expect to receive an apology after 40 years, but it would be nice.”


Gathering Force

One winter day in 1978, Dan Healey, a second-year student in Russian Language and Literature, was strolling along Sussex Avenue when a young man whizzed past him on a bicycle. “He was wearing a Russian fur hat,” says Healey, “and I thought, ‘Hmm, not bad!’” A few days later, Healey spotted the same young man in the Innis College cafeteria and introduced himself. The man, Tom Suddon, in turn, introduced Healey to Gays at U of T, the group that succeeded the U of T Homophile Association.

In 1980, when Healey took the helm of Gays at U of T, most gay students and faculty remained in the closet. But acceptance on campus appeared to be spreading. “We confronted hostility periodically, but mostly we pushed against a relatively open door,” says Healey (BA 1981 Trinity, MA 1993, PhD 1998). A charismatic leader, Healey often used humour to leaven the fight against homophobia and spoke out – angrily on occasion – for political change. He renamed the semi-regular, same-sex dances on campus “Homo Hops” and became the prime force behind the parodic Homophiles of Trinity (HOT), a group best known for drinking sherry at lunch and modelling academic gowns.

Gays at U of T, though, did more than “dance and drink and shag,” says Healey. They held meetings at the International Student Centre to provide a supportive place for people wanting to “come out.” Members also organized the first campus-wide Gay Awareness Week, which included Gay Jeans Day. Posters around campus encouraged everyone to “Wear your jeans in support of gay rights!” The week’s activities included lectures, films, a Homo Hop and a daily table in the Sid Smith lobby that Healey says it took some nerve to stand at. “The occasional egg was thrown at the table, but people generally were polite.”

That first Gay Awareness Week helped raise the profile of gays and lesbians at U of T, but it was important for another reason. Two weeks earlier, on February 5, 1981, police raided four of Toronto’s five bathhouses, smashing doors with crowbars and sledgehammers and taking 266 men into custody on charges of prostitution or indecency. In the wake of the raids, thousands of protesters – gay and straight – took to the streets. Two more raids occurred in June, with an additional 21 men charged, and again, demonstrators rose in protest.

Healey was asked to speak at one of the rallies. In response to a police statement that the raids had been scheduled so as not to “aggravate” the gay community, Healey shouted to a cheering and defiant crowd of 2,000 demonstrators, “We’re not aggravated. We’re fucking angry!”

At the height of the tensions, Trinity students Brian Pronger and Craig Patterson came up with what was a scandalous idea for the time. They enlisted five couples from Gays at U of T to attend the Trinity College formal. “The night was incredibly charged,” remembers writer James Bartley (BA 1975). “Dan brought a white towel and cut it into tiny swatches, which we added to our boutonnieres in an elegant expression of outrage.” Pairs of men dressed in tuxedoes waltzed in circles in the presence of Ontario’s attorney general, Roy McMurtry (BA 1954 Trinity, LLD 1998, DLitt Sac Hon. 2007).

“We were isolated from each other. None of us were out”

If women were less visible than men in the early days of queer activism, it was because they were fighting on two fronts. For many women, gay rights included the struggle for women’s rights. Luanne Karn (BA 1982, BEd 2004) recalls fighting for reproductive rights and for an end to violence and discrimination against women and gays and lesbians. Karn was one of a politically active group of women who published a radical feminist newspaper called OtherWise “on new 64K personal computers that we had just learned to use.” The paper published lesbian content, and the OtherWise collective distributed the publication across campus. “We were ready to change the world and change our lives and change the university while we were at it,” says Karn.

Despite these few out and proud voices, the atmosphere on campus encouraged silence. “The ’80s were a conservative time and in most circles it was perfectly acceptable to make homophobic comments,” recalls Margaret Webb (BA 1985 UC), a former editor of The Varsity. “I learned, many years later, that I was actually among a coterie of gay and lesbian undergrads who had attained leadership positions on campus – we had led The Varsity, student government, athletic teams. But we were isolated from each other. None of us were out at the time.”

Heterosexism on campus received relatively little official attention until 1989, when political science professor David Rayside established an ad hoc committee on homophobia at U of T. With the backing of the university administration, Rayside’s committee aimed to identify and challenge examples of heterosexism, recognize links between homophobia and other forms of discrimination, and promote academic research and courses in gay, lesbian and bisexual studies.

One of the committee’s first projects was surveying students living in residence. At University College, 38 of the 42 residents polled reported witnessing incidents of homophobic behaviour; some considered this perfectly acceptable. “I can sympathize with ‘gay-bashing’ because those faggots teach children their own perverse habits,” said one resident. Isobel Heathcote, University College’s dean of women, wrote to the residence deans saying, “I was smug enough to be sure that our residences were pretty free from prejudice. I simply was not prepared.”

Rayside’s committee began applying pressure to administrators as well as faculty and student groups to officially recognize sexual diversity. The lobbying paid off, and early in 1991 the university extended benefits to same-sex partners of employees. Borrowing an idea from Gays at U of T, the committee also declared January 30, 1991, “Jeans Day.” On this day, hundreds of people wore jeans and gathered at Convocation Hall to hear more than 50 U of T community leaders, including President Robert Prichard, declare their support for Lesbian and Gay Awareness Week.

Breaking Barriers
In 1995, Professor Rona Abramovitch, the newly appointed Status of Women Officer, was having lunch with Rayside. They were trying to come up with innovative ideas for confronting homophobia. “How about stickers?” said one to the other. And what began as a simple idea – stickers with a rainbow triangle and the words “lesbian and gay positive space” – soon transformed the campus. By putting up a sticker, every faculty, staff member, teaching assistant and student could declare his or her space “safe” for lesbians and gays. The sticker became a powerful tool of self-expression, and over the years, in many buildings across campus, stigma became attached to not displaying the emblem.

The Positive Space campaign coincided with a surge of student activism, led by the now more inclusively named Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans People of the U of T (LGBT-OUT). In March 1999, the group waged a well publicized referendum campaign for a 75¢ student ancillary fee to support a resource centre for sexual minority students. When it was announced that the majority of voters had cast a ballot against the centre, some students cheered and made homophobic remarks. An analysis of the results revealed that a group of students had led a campaign to reject the levy.

Defeated yet still determined, LGBTOUT staged same-sex kiss-ins on the steps of Sidney Smith Hall, and Bonte Minnema (BA 2000) convinced the Students’ Administrative Council to name him Homecoming Queen. Minnema put a new twist on an old tradition when he arrived at a Varsity Blues football game in September 1999 in colourful drag and joined the Lady Godiva Memorial Band on field at halftime. Many cheered but not all of the football players were game for a photo op.

LGBTOUT had initially approached the university’s equity and student services office to explore the idea of creating a permanent university-wide office to address heterosexism and homophobia. The proposal hadn’t gone very far when a horrifying incident in the U.S. underscored the importance of maintaining vigilance. In October 1998, two young men savagely beat Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, tied him to a roadside fence and left him to die – all because he was homosexual. News of his murder played and replayed in the media, and united the gay community in anger. In July 1999, the university established the office of LGBTQ Resources & Programs (“Q” stands for “queer”), a first for a post-secondary institution in Canada.

Today on campus, sexual diversity groups cross all faiths, faculties and ethnicities. They include the LGBTQ Jewish student group Kulanu, Queers of Colour, Out in Law, Diversity in Medicine and Rainbow Trinity.

Matthew Gray, who recently finished his first year in the Faculty of Arts and Science, says he finds U of T to be “very welcoming” for LGBTQ students. Gray, who came out during his final year at a conservative Toronto high school, says he’s impressed with the LGBTOUT drop-in centre and the university’s resource and programs office. He also praises the “queer orientation” that introduces new students to the resources available to U of T’s LGBTQ community.

In the last decade or so, the university has also become significantly more welcoming for LGBTQ staff and faculty. In 2001, U of T amended its employment equity statement, included with all job descriptions, to include sexual minorities. Five years later, Governing Council unanimously approved a similar statement on diversity that explicitly supports equal opportunities and fairness for sexual minorities. Canada’s Top 100 Employers has recognized U of T as one of the country’s top 35 diversity employers for the past two years.

When you add it all up, the university has “taken a lot of proactive steps,” says Jude Tate (MSW 1999), the LGBTQ Resources & Programs coordinator. Compared to a generation ago, “many more students, faculty and staff are out.” But today’s students come from a greater variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, some of which are socially conservative. Many still wrestle with coming out, fearing that their family and friends will reject them. Occasionally, staff and faculty hear hostile comments on campus. “It’s tempting to say that things are better, and in many ways they are,” says Tate. “But the lived experience of LGBTQ people is uneven. Many are out and accepted; some are not – they live very careful lives in order to avoid discrimination.”

No doubt subsequent generations will ensure that U of T continues to be an incubator and a catalyst for the visibility, liberation and celebration of sexual diversity. As for the many activists over the past 40 years who stood their ground and demanded change, they can be proud of what they accomplished.

It’s a tough act to follow.

Anne Perdue is a writer in Toronto.


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Scott Anderson on June 23rd, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

The beautiful, eye-catching, colourful 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. We all want caring communities.

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 if 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. Marriage and family have accepted historical meanings that we hold dear. Why do some members of the gay movement feel that they have to be part of the marriage tradition?

Sexual identity is shaped during adolescence. As today’s youth navigate the muddy waters of finding themselves, they are being influenced by many things, including the gay movement. And while certain aspects of the gay movement are addressed through the public school system, traditional viewpoints are not always. As the gay movement makes itself heard, it is having an impact on the rest of society.

What I find contradictory is that while personal empowerment, can-do philosophy, and the ability to reinvent oneself is promoted heavily in today’s culture, making a choice about one’s sexuality is not. How can human beings be capable of changing their behaviour in so many ways, but not their sexuality? After all, there is a lifestyle associated with the colourful flag and the gay movement.

Throughout the article, readers are encouraged to look at things through the particular lens of the gay movement. As a result, people with traditional values, such as myself, find themselves shutting off the media to avoid what has become, in my opinion, the oversexualization of society.

There are children reading and watching these cultural changes and displays. Some of the public displays of the gay movement are the most sexually assertive of any resulting from the sexual revolution. Is this really progressive?

John
Last name withheld by request

# 2
Posted by Jessica Freedman BA%201974 on June 24th, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

I read the article with great interest, having been an undergraduate before most of the events chronicled took place. Yet I struggled in vain to see any mention of transgender or transsexual people during this period. It is as if there were no trans people active in Toronto at this time – or possibly ever.

Many trans people also identify as gay/lesbian and, along with straight people of good conscience, contributed to the struggles described here. The comment will be made that it is impossible to chronicle the history of transsexual people, but then that was a charge once made regarding gay/lesbian people, which we find well countered by this very piece.

Maybe, sometime in the future, earnest journalists, if not historians, will unearth the interesting, and so far erased history of transsexual people in Toronto, as Susan Stryker has done for the United States. Maybe then, having our history well regarded and well known, we will be able to join those, whose history is told here, formally and explicitly in the human rights and hate crime laws of this country.

Until then, one can only struggle against the silence.

# 3
Posted by Michelle Rosen BA%201996 on June 26th, 2009 @ 10:27 am

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.

# 4
Posted by Scott Anderson on June 26th, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

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.

Donald Casswell
BSc 1972 UC, LLM 1980
Professor Emeritus of Law
University of Victoria

# 5
Posted by Paul Cadario BASc%201973 on June 27th, 2009 @ 6:23 am

Anne’s article captures the evolution of LGBTQ visibility at U of T over the decades very well. I remember as a member of the Governing Council asking the administration around 1986 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, Rob Prichard and I were the only ones wearing jeans: it would be different today. And as the first openly gay President of U of T Alumni Association for the last two years, I can say that we’ve come even further since then.

# 6
Posted by Scott Anderson on June 29th, 2009 @ 10:58 am

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.

Yvonne Greig
MEd 1985
Etobicoke, Ontario

# 7
Posted by Scott Anderson on June 29th, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

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.

Mike Scapillato
BA 1972 UTSC
Toronto

# 8
Posted by Scott Anderson on June 30th, 2009 @ 10:09 am

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.

John Adamkovics
BSc 1961

# 9
Posted by Hrag BA%201995,%20MA%201997 on June 30th, 2009 @ 10:47 am

Anne Perdue’s article provides a good start for LGBT history at U of T, but offers a very incomplete picture. Focusing on the policies of U of T rather than the individuals is rather dull. There is no discussion of how race and class played into LGBT activism (and schisms) at the school.

# 10
Posted by Scott Anderson on June 30th, 2009 @ 10:48 am

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
Fallbrook, Ontario

# 11
Posted by Cynthia BA%202012 on June 30th, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

@John: “Some of the public displays of the gay movement are the most sexually assertive of any resulting from the sexual revolution. Is this really progressive?”

You know, I had a similar question, and I interviewed Vash Ebbadi, Program Assistant for the LGBTQ Resources & Programs in my recent article for UpbeaT, the Student Life blog: http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/UpbeaT/2009/06/24/out-and-proud-with-lgbtq-u-of-t/

Here’s my question and his answer:

Me: I’ve always watched the Pride events from afar. What do you think of the argument that events like Pride parade just increases the gay stereotype because all these “gay guys” are flaunting their sexuality by prancing around barely dressed? That if the gays can have a parade, then so should the straights?

Vash: I’ve heard of the argument, and it is a very heterosexist point of view. Heterosexuality is the socially accepted norm. Events like the Pride Parade are an exaggerated way of making a political stance. You’ve got to remember that these events have strong political and social activist roots, aiming to bring LGBTQ visibility to a mainstream front. We’re making a stance and celebrating acceptance rather than tolerance.

At the end of the interview, he mentioned that not all LGBTQ people are comfortable with the parade, and some don’t participate.

# 12
Posted by Scott Anderson on July 6th, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

I generally enjoy U of T Magazine but “Out and Proud” should have been left to the minority it represents. To be heterosexual is not something most of us feel the need to proclaim, so why is homosexuality a characteristic to be bruited about? Let’s all be satisfied with our private preferences; there is no need or desire to be “in your face.”

I am disappointed that the university has conceded so much time and space to this fringe population. Not that I’m a big contributor, but I’ll keep this in mind next time I’m solicited for the Annual Fund.

D. R. Stoll
BA 1952 Victoria

# 13
Posted by Stephanie Cook BPHE%202009 on July 9th, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

The various comments on this 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 sexual 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.

# 14
Posted by Sharon Cebrowski BEd%201977 on July 30th, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

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.

# 15
Posted by Matthew Gray BA%202012 on August 19th, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

@D.R. Stoll: I can understand your point of view, though I would fundamentally disagree. As an LGBT student at the University of Toronto, I feel that this sort of 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.

Well said, Stephanie Cook. I couldn’t agree more.

# 16
Posted by Scott Anderson on September 22nd, 2009 @ 11:13 am

I generally enjoy U of T Magazine but lately I’ve been growing tired of the imagery celebrating heterosexual liaisons (see the story about Melanie Moore and Brad Tapson from the Autumn 2009 issue). I have no problem with heterosexuals. A few of them are friends of mine. But what people do in private should be kept private. Why does their chosen way of life have to be rammed down my throat every time I read the magazine?

Graeme Parry
BA 1992 Innis
Toronto

# 17
Posted by Chris Damdar HBSc%202006%20Erindale on September 25th, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

U of T Magazine, and society in general, seems to be filled with propoganda promoting the heterosexual agenda. Don’t people know that heterosexuals are the main reason for high divorce rates and broken homes? I don’t understand why people would choose to live a heterosexualist lifestyle that is so obviously flawed and morally aberrant.

# 18
Posted by Maria Brand MEd%201997 on September 25th, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

I found it very sad to read the responses from alumni such as Mike Scapillato, John Adamkovics, Dr. John Coombs, and D. R. Stoll. Why can’t we be welcoming and kind to all people? Your letters display a lack of understanding and caring that I find saddening. Would you have written the same comments if the article had been about civil rights or women’s rights? I agree with the comments made by Stephanie Cook and I too feel ashamed to call people such as yourselves my fellow alumni.

# 19
Posted by Scott Anderson on October 15th, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

I am disappointed by the amount of senseless propaganda that gets published in U of T Magazine. I was most appalled by the front cover of your summer 2009 issue, featuring a “gay” flag.

If you are truly a democratic, all-encompassing university magazine, with respect for truth and freedoms of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, why don’t you ever give front-page coverage to pro-life students at the university? Surely they deserve equal treatment.

The reality is that truth and lies cannot co-exist. One either serves the true God and seeks truth, or one follows the world of lies, with all of its hedonism, pleasures and “rights” without any responsibilities.

Jaroslawa Kisyk
BA 1994 St. Michael’s

# 20
Posted by Victoria BA%201990 on October 27th, 2009 @ 9:53 am

Anne Perdue’s article “Out and Proud” has spurred a discussion on a topic that draws fierce emotional reactions at both ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

Kind of like picking up a rock and shining a light on a dark spot, it frees people who were pinned down by the silence and at the same time drives the cockroaches into the public eye.

The article was very interesting and informative, but it also serves the purpose of reminding us that there still are people who cling to their homophobia.

# 21
Posted by Michelle on January 22nd, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

Graeme Parry’s comment (#17) says it all. Kudos!

# 22
Posted by Scott Anderson on January 28th, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

I would like to add two thoughts to this discussion from the scientific and semantic points of view. I have no moral or religious agenda, and firmly believe that each individual has an equal right to pursue his or her emotional and companionship fulfillment so long as he or she causes no harm to others. I also know where homosexuals are coming from. One only has to remember the abominable treatment by archaic British law of Alan Turing, the great mathematician who played a major part in breaking the German naval Enigma code, who was hounded into suicide shortly after the war.

Darwininan evolution by natural selection demands without exception that every direct ancestor of any living thing had, at least at some time in its existence, been actively heterosexual, ever since gender appeared in living organisms. Thus heterosexuality holds a special place in the forms of sexual manifestation: not in terms of good or evil, but in its evolutionary uniqueness among these forms.

In the backlash against previous persecution, I have heard of mothers wheeling baby carriages being sneered at by passing drivers as breeders and have witnessed a parade in Provincetown in which homosexuality was extolled as a superior way of life. Of course this is exceptional; all most non-heterosexuals want is acceptance in the community as ordinary members with the same rights, including the legal rights of long-term relationships.

Personally, I think that semantics have been a major stumbling block in the attainment of these legal rights. Words in a language change their meaning through long-term usage, not through legislation, and words meaning marriage are among the most ancient and clearly defined in any language, including cultures in which homosexuality was widely accepted. Those who wish to establish an equitable legal status for their long-term intimate relationships would ease their rocky path by simply using another suitably descriptive term for the present, and let time decide the semantic outcome. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Norman Allentoff
BA 1950, MA 1951, PhD 1956
Pittsford, New York

# 23
Posted by Luigi HonBA,%20BEd%202005 on April 19th, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

Norman quotes from Shakespeare that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Those who championed segregation held the same views. Many argued that non-whites could have all the rights they wanted just as long as the stayed separate. To suggest that gays and lesbians should “simply use another suitably descriptive term for the present, and let time decide the semantic outcome” is cowardly and ridiculous. Humans did not evolve or change because they just sat back. The scary thing about this argument is that the writer attempts to use Darwinian theory to say that heterosexuality is uniquely important because of procreation. This view of dominance, disguised by the word “special,” reminds me of others in history who used science to suggest superiority.

Jaroslawa’s comment that the university is hypocritical because it does not dispaly pro-lifers on the front cover then goes on to deem us to be hedonistic and not living the truth. Let me remind Jaroslawa that individual rights and freedoms are bound by the rights and freedoms of others. Feel free to think and feel and believe as you wish and let others do the same.

# 24
Posted by logan on September 30th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

Great article!

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