An article of mine in GUERILLA, JANUARY, 1972
(The paragraphs of this article were mixed up in layout at Guerilla. A couple of possibilities here. Charlie says people on layout were often pissed out of their minds so when the article was scissored for paste-up around a photo of the centre maybe they couldn't figure out how to put it back together. On the other hand I'd complained over the editing of a previous article I'd had in Guerilla so maybe it's a lesson in not biting the hand that holds the scissors. In any case although it was comprehensible as published, in order to make it more so I've included it here in the way I think it originally fit together.)
GAY COMMUNITY CENTRE
Toronto sits on its eggs, indifferent to everything. The past year or two, a few strange animals have come stumbling out of the mists, things like UTHA, YUHA, CHAT, TGA, the Women's Caucus, The Body Politic, and now the CHAT Community Centre.
What's a soul-suffering, foot-pad, honest-to-goodness gay supposed to make of it. What does it look like from deep inside the cellar? What does it feel like on the subway at eight o'clock on a week day morning?
Strange things happen here and there. More people don't take to the way they're treated, they fight back once in a while. They stage small confrontations, like the Pretzel Bell, once in a while. Its said one small confrontation is worth a thousand pictures...or something.
When the gays zap the straights, you can hear the straights wondering what the queers are doing, why aren't they at their own place: and inevitably the dykes, the gearboxes, the fags are kicked out and do go back to their own place.
The kind of place where the manager sics the morality pricks on people for peddling gay lib papers outside the door; the kind of place where we're told we're just lucky we have a place; the kind of place where they help the dicks knock up their arrest tallies when they're tired of spying on subway toilets and parks; the only kind of place.
How many times have these places stuck up for anybody, or complained about the way these guys walk over everybody. They're all part of the same package. They all feed on us and shit it back in our faces. Do we need a place of our own?
Areas where we are permanently and openly accepted are limited and money has taken advantage of this. With their bars and clubs and baths, people entrepreneurs have fed on our need for some ground where we can associate, where society's restrictions are relaxed. They are the only places that tolerate us for any length of time and they know it. They tolerate us as long as we keep paying. It is this totally commercial exploitation of our isolation which makes gay life the way it is. Many people cannot or won't take it and instead have been driven away into further isolation.
If all the paranoia disappeared, if everybody's sexuality weren't straitjacketed, things would be different. But things aren't different and won't be until we change them; and we can't do that until we change ourselves. We have to begin seeing ourselves and treating each other like human beings. Places like Charlie's and the Parkside teach the opposite. Nothing new, nothing different will ever come out of them. They suffocate everything.
I don't accept that they are like they are because we are like we are. The gay scene exists because society finds us unacceptable and attempts to push us out of the mainstream.
The gay organizations have been formed by people coming together to open their lives to some alternative. The CHAT Community Centre is at 58 Cecil Street and opens at the beginning of February. There will be a coffee house, a dance hall, a library, a book shop, as well as the usual counseling, 24 hour crisis phone, court assistance, etc. that's been going on for the past year. Cecil is one block south of College on the east side of Spadina. For information phone the CHAT office above Cine City, 964-0653.
The world is not going to open up or the sky fill with stars. It is a long way from here to there, but the idea of the Centre is an important part of the road, and should be treated gently, with care and allowed to develop.
The shadows are cold and one day a lot of people are going to begin wandering out of them. When that happens, let anyone try to put us down anymore.