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The Body Politic and Visions of Community
Page 1 of 14 / Introduction / Appx 650 words

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The Body Politic
and Visions of Community

Rick Bébout, November 1995
Revised December 1996; re-edited January 1998

This is a big overview, basically chronological in approach, tracing changing notions of community as seen in and by The Body Politic, a gay liberation magazine published in Toronto from late 1971 to early 1987. It was produced by a collective -- of which I was a member for its last ten years.

"Community" has been a vital organizing concept, not just in lesbian and gay politics but in many movements for social change. It's a concept we use with a gut sense of its reality and power -- even when we might not be sure exactly what it means.

Or -- perhaps more to the point here -- who it means, and why.

This paper was originally produced for the Queer Exchange, a series of courses put on by the Toronto Centre for Lesbian and Gay Studies. Long-time activist Tom Warner was coordinating a course on community organizing, in which I presented the paper on Nov 13, 1995. I made some minor additions in 1996; a slight re-edit in January 1998 added nothing new -- so this piece still reflects my perceptions as of late 1995. At the time I was also near the end of a two-year stint working again for Pink Triangle Press -- by then a very different place from the one I had known while The Body Politic was alive.

It was a time when rising identity politics were challenging comfortable notions of "gay and lesbian community." Official gay politics at the time (lobbying efforts for spousal benefits -- in Ontario a failed effort, with the 1994 defeat of Bill 167) were, I felt, caught up in short-sighted "minority rights" politics of its own.

Working on this paper made me question the continuing value of "identity" and "community" -- even "diversity," "inclusiveness" and "communities" -- as organizing concepts. They have been vital, but are they sufficient now?

The text (more than 13,000 words in total) has been divided into individual web pages, listed under Contents. A word count is given there for each page. The whole thing works best read in order. Links at the top and bottom of every page let you move easily through it all.

Also available in the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives website is an Inventory of the Records of The Body Politic and Pink Triangle Press. This is not only a guide to tonnes of archival paper, but a direct source for the history of The Body Politic and the Press to 1988. It includes extended commentaries on that history, appendices noting more than 500 people involved in it, and big lists of other related material. There is more information in the inventory on many of the people, organizations and events whose names you'll find highlighted in bold in this paper.
(Full address:

There is related material in my own website, launched in January 2000: On the Origin of The Body Politic Link opens in a new browser window, covering the paper from 1971 to late 1974 (and a bit beyond); Gay "journalism": What for? Link opens in a new browser window; and a big memoir, Promiscuous Affections: A Life in The Bar, 1969 - 2000 Link opens in a new browser window, with tales of TBP (and pics of its people) 1977 - 87, and its descendants' shifting notions of "audience" into the 1990s, in chapters titled "Media."
(Home page address:

I'd appreciate questions or comments about this paper. You can e-mail the Archives (their address is at the bottom of every page) or me directly, at