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Inventory of the Records of The Body Politic & Pink Triangle Press
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Page 21 / Inventory Series 13
News
And some major news themes
PT

News reports appeared in The Body Politic from the first issue, though not gathered together and labelled as such -- then as News of the Gay -- until # 3 (Mar / Apr 1972). By # 9 (mid-1973), the designation was simply News, and some attempt had been made to group all reports under that flag and move them toward the front of the paper.

Most news stories were from Canada. Geographical flags appeared in # 18 (May / Jun 1975), partly to emphasize that not all were from Toronto. ("Torontocentricity" was a common charge against what was -- effectively, if not always to everyone's satisfaction -- the newspaper of record for the gay movement all across the country). Stories from outside Canada were first grouped into a separate section, flagged The World, in the Apr 1978 issue.

News correspondents across Canada and a few outside the country were first listed as such in # 23 (Apr 1976) -- though people had been sending in stories from outside Toronto long before that. In the full course of its history, The Body Politic had more than 80 volunteer correspondents in other Canadian cities -- many of them contributing regularly for years -- and nearly as many, if much less regularly, reporting from around the world. (For a list of all Canadian correspondents and some international ones, see Appendix 3.)

Early on, news was the responsibility of individual collective members: Ken Popert from mid-1973 to 1976; David Gibson in 1977. From 1975, Tim McCaskell played a major role in gathering news from outside Canada. He is listed as International News Coordinator in the masthead of # 42 (Apr 1978).

That was the first issue in which such roles were named. Bill Lewis and Gerald Hannon show up there as News (meaning Canadian news) coordinators. Mastheads after that show a changing cast of characters over time, with Ed Jackson, Chris Bearchell and Ken Popert playing long- standing roles.

Working groups evolved gradually in the late '70s to oversee various operations of TBP and the Press. A Canadian News Group was in place by 1979, eventually attracting new reporter- activists, many of whom went on to play significant roles at TBP and beyond. The group developed systems of background and story files -- systems that tended to change as coordinators changed -- that make up a large and historically valuable part of this series.

International News (which included US news) continued to be handled outside this group by Tim McCaskell -- usefully well- travelled and multi- lingual. Through this work and many feature articles, Tim helped make The Body Politic renowned for its attention to gay organizing outside North America, particularly in developing countries. Tim was assisted by Leo Casey (a temporarily transplanted New Yorker) from 1980 to early 1982, and later by Kevin Orr and Gillian Rodgerson. Gillian went on to gather world news for Gay Times in London, England, and later to the editorship of that city's Capital Gay and the lesbian magazine Diva.

As a historical resource, however, news in The Body Politic is most valuable as an ongoing record of the gay and lesbian movement in Canada. TBP was a major source (after 1971) for Don McLeod's Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A Selected Annotated Chronology, 1964 - 1975 and "Victories and defeats: a gay and lesbian chronology, 1964 - 1982" in Flaunting It! (for both see Other sources of information: Published material).


Some major news themes

A full record of news reported in The Body Politic over 15 years is beyond the scope of this Inventory. But some themes and highlights are worth noting here as possible guides for further research.

Issue 20 cover
Ottawa conference demo, Jun 1975
# 20, Oct 1975

PT

The growth of gay & lesbian organizing: TBP's Community Page (and later Network and Out in the City; see Series 16: Listings) recorded the rise of new groups and publications across the country. Issue 1 reported the first public gay demonstration in Canada, on Aug 28, 1971 in Ottawa; later issues often noted initial public actions in various regions.

Extensive coverage was given to national gay conferences: in Quebec City (Oct 1973); Winnipeg (Aug 1974); Ottawa (Jun 1975, which saw the founding of the National Gay Rights Coalition); Toronto (Sep 1976); Saskatoon (1977); Halifax (1978); Ottawa (1979) and Calgary (1980) -- the last four held around the Jul 1 weekend. The national group -- by then the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition -- was disbanded at Calgary in 1980, but another national gathering, Doing It!, was held in Toronto in the summer of 1982.

TBP also covered five national (later, in recognition of Quebec as a nation, called bi- national) lesbian conferences from Jun 1973 to May 1981, the Bi-national Gay Youth Conference in Toronto in May 1978, and many regional gatherings.

Consolidation of the human rights strategy: In "A strategy for gay liberation," an essay in TBP # 3, Mar / Apr 1972 (also reprinted in Flaunting It!), Brian Waite set what would become the primary political agenda for the gay movement in Canada: the inclusion of "sexual orientation" among the prohibited grounds of discrimination in provincial and federal human rights codes.

Victory came early in Quebec, in Dec 1977, but efforts elsewhere filled TBP's news pages for its entire history. Ontario did not write sexual orientation into its human rights code until Dec 1986; most other provinces and the federal government did so only after TBP was gone.

Earlier victories were also reported at the municipal level, with bans on discrimination in civic employment in Toronto (Oct 1973), Ottawa (Apr 1976) and Windsor (Mar 1977). TBP also covered many union efforts to secure anti- discrimination clauses in collective agreements, and growing support for legislated gay rights from churches, social agencies and professional groups.

John Damien cover
John Damien: A case without end
# 37, Oct 1977

PT

Discrimination: Prejudice, bigotry and even violence against gay people were common themes, with the most extensive coverage given to ongoing challenges against firings based on sexual orientation.

Among the most significant cases were those of: Doug Wilson (Sep 1975 - Jan 1976) a University of Saskatchewan teacher and later Toronto activist; expelled Canadian Armed Forces members Gloria Cameron (Jun 1977), Barbara Thornborrow (Jul 1977) and Stephane Sirard (Mar 1983), with a later military purge of lesbians reported in Mar 1985; Toronto teacher John Argue (Jul 1978); and Paul Head (Mar 1978 - Oct 1981), an Ontario Provincial Police officer.

The most famous discrimination case was that of John Damien, who launched a civil suit in Feb 1975 after being fired as a racing steward. Damien's case became a focus for national organizing but was never settled. He died in Dec 1986, just weeks after Ontario amended its human rights code.

The media: Many early movement battles focused on the fight to advertise in the mainstream media (see notes in Series 11: Promotion). TBP often critiqued coverage of gay issues in the mass media. See in particular: the Sep 1977 issue, its cover flagged "Media murder" after the reported "homosexual orgy slaying" of 12- year- old Emanuel Jaques; "Overkill," Feb 1979, on newspaper treatment of "homosexual murders"; and two regular columns noted in Series 15, Trash, and Monitor.

Issue 129 cover. File bpcov129 143x196
New porn laws: The Last Picture Show?
# 129, Aug 1986

PT

Censorship: Apart from its own court battles, TBP reported continually on attempts to suppress freedom of expression. In Jul 1974, Derksen Printers' refusal to print a booklet for Gays for Equality Winnipeg helped spark the first gay protests on the Prairies.

In Dec 1979 a Quebec court decision upheld the right of Canada Customs to ban import of gay magazines -- leading to years of Customs challenges. The lead news feature in TBP's final issue (Feb 1987) reported seizure of 58 titles headed to Vancouver's Little Sister's bookstore. The store's case against Customs reached the British Columbia Supreme Court only in Oct 1994. Gay bookstores also faced local police action; most reported was the Apr 1982 raid on Glad Day Books, leading to obscenity charges against TBP writer Kevin Orr.

In the early 1980s, censors found "progressive" cover behind feminist anti- pornography efforts, led in Canada by Women Against Violence Against Women and in the US by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. TBP's Jun 1983 publication of an ad for Red Hot Video caused an uproar; later the paper became a major forum for anti- censorship feminists.

The Supreme Court of Canada's Butler decision, defining obscenity to include material "degrading and dehumanizing," particularly to women, came after TBP's demise -- and was soon used to justify an attack on the lesbian erotic magazine, Bad Attitude.

Fighting the right: TBP gave major coverage to Anita Bryant's Jun 1977 defeat of a gay rights ordinance in Miami, and in 1978 to her Canadian tours. Home- grown evangelist Ken Campbell had appeared in stories since Mar 1974; he later testified against TBP in its trials.

Electoral politics: While sometimes skeptical of their value ("Whoever you vote for, the government will get in"), TBP covered many municipal, provincial and federal election campaigns. (The National Gay Election Coalition, formed in Aug 1972, was the first Canada- wide gay organization.) The usual issue was support for gay rights among (ostensibly) heterosexual candidates.

Later TBP would have gay candidates to cover, most notably George Hislop, whose run for Toronto City Council was extensively reported from Feb 1980 to Jan 1981 (see also accession 83-009 / 01-02, below). George lost, but Toronto and other cities would eventually have openly gay elected officials -- in Vancouver in 1996, six at the same time.

TBP cover #25: Police. File bpcov25.jpg 122x166
Entrapment in Toronto; crackdown in Montreal
# 25, Aug 1976

PT

Police power: In TBP's Jul 1979 issue, Michael Lynch proposed "the end of the 'human rights' decade" and suggested another strategic focus: "containment of totalitarian power, particularly that of the police."

Police entrapment of gay men in parks and washrooms was a constant theme in TBP from Issue 1, with a major piece as late as Mar 1985 covering mass arrests across Sourthern Ontario in the previous two years. From Mar 1986 Xtra ran a regular page-1 box headed Indecent Facts, reporting statistics collected by the Right to Privacy Committee's Gay Courtwatch on indedency busts that came to trial in downtown Toronto. The total reached 366 for that year; it had been 660 in 1985.

Police- and media-generated "sex ring scandals" in Ottawa (Mar 1975; see accession 89-065 / 01, below) and Winnipeg (Feb 1979) got ongoing coverage. Raids on baths and bars had been reported as early as 1973, with major stories on the 1976 pre-Olympic "clean-up" in Montreal and that city's Oct 1977 Truxx raid. Issues throughout 1979 and 1980 chart growing tensions between police and Toronto's gay community after the Dec 1978 raid on the Barracks baths.

No More Shit! sticker
Enough is enough!
Bath raid protest sticker, Feb 1981

PT

Police actions often galvanized gay activism: TBP's stories were not just about raids, but about resistance. Nowhere was this more true than in the Toronto baths raids of Feb 1981 -- where massive resistance to the arrest of more than 300 men in one night marked a watershed in the history of gay organizing in this city. [1] Extensive reports on the raids, demonstrations and trials begin with the Mar 1981 issue and continue to the last verdicts -- mostly acquittals -- in Feb 1985.

Issue 88 cover. File bpcov88.jpg 147x198
Facing down panic
-- and raising American ire

# 88, Nov 1982

PT

AIDS: TBP's first notice of what would come to be called AIDS appeared in a Sep 1981 World News piece, on US media reports of a "rare cancer found in 41 homosexuals." Bill Lewis and Randy Coates, both medical researchers, also focused on media misreporting in an Oct 1981 analysis.

Many major AIDS pieces after that ran as features, not news. The biggest, in Nov 1982, was a 10-page pair by Michael Lynch ("Living with Kaposi's") and Bill Lewis ("The real gay epidemic: Panic & paranoia"). Bill and Michael warned against turning our lives over (again) to medical "experts" and urged concern not just for personal health, but for the health and strength of our communities. The articles angered US activists (see Letters in the Jan / Feb and Apr 1983 issues), but had a strong influence on later AIDS organizing in Canada.

In 1983 TBP covered Red Cross concerns over blood donations, in stories mostly by Ed Jackson that became evidence in the 1995 Krever inquiry on the safety of Canada's blood supply -- before which Ed would be called to testify. It also tracked the beginnings of community response. Randy Coates, Bill Lewis, Michael Lynch, Ed Jackson and Robert Trow were involved in meetings that led to the founding of ACT, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, in the spring of 1983.

World News covered international AIDS developments each issue, with a major analysis in May 1984 (by Kevin Orr, by then with ACT) on San Francisco's decision to close bathhouses, and another, by US activist Cindy Patton in Jul / Aug 1984, on the discovery of HIV (then known as HTLV-III / LAV).

A chart of AIDS statistics first appeared in the Jul / Aug 1983 issue (with 27 cases dignosed in Canada). Stats became a regular feature of Canadian News coverage -- by the mid-'80s often part of a full- page AIDS Update including a growing list of community service groups. By its last issue, Feb 1987, TBP reported 830 cases in Canada, and AIDS organizations in 18 cities across the country.


83-010 / 06-07
Manuscripts, correspondence and background files, 1971-1980.

82-019 / 06
Canadian News. Administrative and background files, 1978.

83-002 / 01
Canadian News Group. Administrative and background files, correspondent contact, 1979-1980.

87-004 / 03-13 and 16-17
Canadian News Group. Administrative and background files, to 1984 (collected by Christine Bearchell in her role as news coordinator, and including other files maintained by her as a member of paid staff and the collective).

87-011 / 01-07
Canadian News Group. Administrative and background files, to 1986 (arranged alphabetically by subject; collected by Ed Jackson, Christine Bearchell and Ken Popert).

88-004 / 12
Canadian News Group. Background files, 1979-1985.

83-009 / 01-02
Canadian News Group. Background files, 1980-1981 (includes material on the 1980 Toronto civic elections and the 1981 bath raids).

82-019 / 07
Canadian News Group. Background files, 1980-1982.

86-012 / 01
Canadian News Group. Background files, 1982-1984.

88-004 / 02-03
Canadian News Group. Background files, 1985-1986.

88-004 / 01
Canadian News Group. Manuscripts, 1986.

88-004 / 12
Canadian News Group. Minutes of editorial meetings, 1986; correspondence soliciting writers, 1986.

87-004 / 11-14
International News. Background files and correspondence, 1978-1986.

82-019 / 08
International News. Background files and correspondence, 1980.

84-024 / 01
International News. Background files and correspondence, 1983- 1984.


Material not listed in the 1988 Inventory
89-065 / 01
Clippings and other material related to the Ottawa Sex Scandal, 1975. [2]

84-044 / 01
Notes and press clippings related to Toronto gay bars charged with "overcrowding" and other infractions, Dec 1980 - Jan 1981.

86-003 / 05
Canadian News Group. Background files, c 1983 (mostly on Toronto municipal politics, likely collected by Ed Jackson).

86-003 / 07
Canadian News Group. Background files, c 1983.

86-003 / 06
Canadian News Group. Background files, 1984-1985.

89-089 / 01
Miscellaneous material apparently gathered by International News workers, through 1986. (Includes items from Tim McCaskell, Leo Casey, Gillian Rodgerson and Charles Phillips; also includes papers from the Jul 1984 conference of Black and White Men Together in Atlanta, with notes by Kevin Orr.)

90-008 / 01
Pink Triangle Press. Miscellaneous material including a draft News Manual, c 1982. [3]


Footnotes
  1. For more background on the Feb 1981 raids, see accession 83-009 / 01-02, listed above. See the cover of the Mar 1981 issue, reporting the raids, in this Inventory's Introduction. For a commentary on their effects, see "Our Stonewall?" in my paper The Body Politic and Visions of Community.
    (Full address: http://www.clga.ca/Material/Records/docs/tbpvis/tbpvint.htm).
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  2. This 1975 media panic over a "homosexual vice ring" resulted in the suicide of Warren Zufelt, a civil servant whose name had been reported in the press. See Gerald Hannon: "Anatomy of a sex scandal," TBP # 24 (Jun 1976).
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  3. Titled on its binder cover "(Documentation pertaining to attempts at a) News Manual," this included not only guidelines for news gathering and writing but also a "Manifesto" on TBP's political role. Chris Bearchell was news coordinator at the time.
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