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Black and white photo of Jack Hallam with a rabbit
Jack Hallam. Photo by Gerald Hannon

A Late-in-Life Activist

For much of his life, Jack Hallam couldn’t be public with his sexual politics. And then, suddenly, he could

Jack Hallam (BA 1952 UC, MSc 1954, PhD 1974) was one of the first gay “grown-ups” I met. It was 1968. I was 24, recently out of the closet and a noisy gay liberationist. He was 40 (which seemed ancient), and careful. He had to be – he was a teacher when we met, and it was an unforgiving era. Still, he did his best to create a space for young firebrands like me. He gave me a rent-free room in his apartment. Helped make me aware that gay life existed before 1968 – was full of stories, hosted the occasional party that I and another young friend would attend. We were always privately amused at the sight of men in their forties and fifties actually slow dancing together, like in high school. We didn’t realize he was opening the door for us to the social history of older, closeted gay men.

I think he was frustrated that he couldn’t be as public with his sexual politics as he could with other social issues dear to his heart. And then suddenly, he could. Retired, the beneficiary of a large estate, living in a supportive environment on Salt Spring Island, he became the activist’s activist, gleefully funding causes ranging from his $100,000 gift to the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at University College to a bequest to the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives to scholarships for indigenous students in northern Ontario.

Jack Hallam, in the last decade of his life, finally had the resources to do what grown-ups should always do: open the door to the past, while keeping a keen and generous eye on the future.

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