LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The gay movement used straight media coverage of demonstrations and other events both to get its point across and to reach a gay audience, let that audience know we were fighting back, things were happening, there was a different way of seeing the world. To me letters-to-the-editor were simply an extension of that tactic, one more way to use the straight media for our own purposes. I was neither a good writer, nor particularly articulate so these things were a real struggle and the results uneven. The whole process was often controlled by what I felt a newspaper would let me get away with saying. It was a wonder to me how my letters ever got into print.
I've also made chronological note of articles etc that appear elsewhere on this website
Letter to GUERILLA
Guerilla (published Sept., 1971)
I hope that your lack of response to William Lee's epistle merely indicated a belief that this type of statement said more about the person writing it than anything else. Specifically, I refer to his expression of pleasure that you no longer devote so much coverage to "gay" (his quotes) activities.
I think, though, that you should now see and take the opportunity to express your support for the gay liberation movement. Gay people deserve at least this much. We are a part of the community and have been, are being, and will continue to be oppressed by forces within that community until these forces are exorcised. Let us know where you stand in this struggle. Enough of your token coverage, choose your side and let us know whether you are the paper you profess to be. We wait for a public declaration of your support or condemnation, ambivalence is oppression as much as the most direct attack.
Article in Guerilla published late Sept. 1971 Screwed At The Pretzel Bell
Article in The Body Politic issue #1 Oct/Nov 1971 Initiation Rites
Article in Guerilla published Jan.19, 1972 Gay Community Centre
Charlie's article in Guerilla published Jan.26, 1972 Piss On Police At Parkside
Article in Guerilla published Feb.2, 1972 Can Two Dicks Find True Love Behind An Air Vent (my companion piece to Charlie's above article)
The Globe & Mail (published July 10, 1972)
Kenneth Bagnell columns in the Globe & Mail often seemed attempts to create problems for the gay community. See the CHAT section for a couple of instances.
With regard to Kenneth Bagnell's attitudes toward homosexuality as outlined in his column (A Matter of Pride--July 3), my reaction as a homophile was insult and offence.
Mr. Bagnell used a news item as a starting point to voice ill-founded biases, albeit attempting to sugar-coat those biases with sprinklings of tolerance. The tone of his column suggested that homosexuals were somehow heterosexuals gone astray. Presumably heterosexuals are failed homosexuals.
It is not as obvious to me, as it apparently is to some, that sexuality is a divinely bestowed gift designed solely for use between men and women. This theory has as its basis the view that the primary purpose is procreation, a rather naive concept. To attempt to draw this conclusion is similar to arguing that since beavers build dams in creeks, the divinely inspired purpose of creeks is for beavers to build dams in them.
A further insult in the article was the smear by association involved in the comparison of homosexuals with gluttons and "preachers whose grasping reveals their greed". Was the imagination which inspired this tripe so limited it couldn't fit in arson and murder too?
As for gay liberation, it preaches not so much that homosexuality is the Garden of Eden but that all people are severely handicapped by the manipulation of minds and attitudes inherent in this society and are prevented from facing the sexual facet of the human personality, whatever its form of expression.
In reference to another specific, I hope that one of these days it will dawn on the newspaper columnists of the world that there exist not only male but female homosexuals.
But Mr. Bagnell meant well. After all, he doesn't state, he only strongly suspects, that homosexuality might be some sort of disease and hopes that one day psychiatrists can line us up and recondition our minds to fit his concepts. As a homophile, as a human being, I find unacceptable the idea that any individual speaking as "we" should think he has the right to sit in judgement on my sexual orientation, as does Kenneth Bagnell, "withholding final affirmation".
HATE LITERATURE HURTS MORALITY
The Toronto Star (published Jan.16, 1973)
This letter was edited for publication in a way that made me seem anti-gay, so I had to write a letter of protest after it appeared. The letter itself is in reference to an article in the Star by Daniel Cappon titled The Homosexual Hoax -- This Abberation Is Not A Right. It's discussed in the introduction to Media Wars 2. In these times the Star had Daniel Cappon, the Globe had Kenneth Bagnell, and the Sun had Claire Hoy, all of whom repeatedly went on the attack where things gay were concerned.
In publishing the article on homosexuality, The Star chose to abandon any facade of journalistic responsibility whatsoever. The Star which editorializes in favor of laundering the Yonge St. strip and which greets every relaxation of censorshiop with prophesies of gloom and doom should expend more energy in rearranging its own act.
The Toronto Star (published Jan. 29, 1973)
I object to the manner in which a letter published on Jan. 16 over my name was edited. Following deletions to the letter by The Star it intimated that I felt the topic of homosexuality was an offensive one. Rather it was The Star's role in validating Daniel Cappon's bigoted anti-homosexual diatribe by publishing it on the editorial page of Jan. 10 which angered me.
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(March 15, 1974; NOT published)
The Globe published an editorial critical of people at the University of Toronto who were objecting to Edward Banfield being given a forum at the university to spread his theories. This letter also appears in Media Wars 1 as a sidenote.
The Globe & Mail's editorial "Freedom?", Mar.15/74, consisting of objections to "Thought Police" who prevented Edward Banfield from saying his piece at the University of Toronto contained a certain amount of hypocrisy. The Star also had its moralizing to do on the subject.
I couldn't help recalling another case a while back involving both newspapers. I'm referring to the trouble the Body Politic had in having its advertisments accepted, and attempts to throttle its publication altogether. At the start it involved a rival and the Globe reported the affair with some glee. Then suddenly the shoe was on the other foot. An ad was submitted to them and the silence, as they say, was deafening. Should a gay newspaper be allowed to advertise its existence? Horrors! They cringed in Forest Hill and on King Street.
Well the shoe is still on the other foot and the ad is still waiting to be accepted but the Globe seems to have a few "Thought Police" of its own. Perhaps, in a quiet hour, its editors ought to read their own editorial, or lacking the necessary skills, have it read to them. In the meantime their meanderings remain merely another case of "Do as I say not as I do".
CONTINUING ATTACK ON HOMOSEXUALS
The Toronto Star (published April 20, 1974)
This letter forms part of Media Wars 1(see for context), along with the much longer one to Sidney Katz himself, below.
Sidney Katz's article "Homosexuals: Sick or Not" (April 10), merely continues Toronto's over-exposure to Daniel Cappon's anti-homosexual views. It is ironic that a man like Cappon should be making such a career out of homosexuality. As a thinker he lacks coherence and originality but as a bigot his qualifications are professional and beyond dispute. As for Katz, he has been writing this type of article since sometime before Moses and his approach to the subject seems more ancient than ever.
My letter of May 7/74 to Sidney Katz with regards to his letter to me about the above letter to the editor. (See Media Wars 1 for context)
Due to the postal strike I received your letter only recently and my wanting to take some time with my reply caused further delay. My first letter was both general and brief because past experience has taught me as it has others that this is the kind of letter the Star wants. Anything of length, dealing with specifics, is liable to be so gutted as to become unreadable. Particularly, letters expressing a gay viewpoint are unwelcome and generally ignored. How many such letters are ever printed in the Star? The reaction and rebutting article to Cappon's article of `73 were given space in the Star more because of the quality and quantity of pressure put on it than any openmindedness on its part.
"Homosexuals: Sick or Not", "Negroes: Do They Smell", "Women: Are They Sick", "Sidney Katz: Sick or Not?' "Beland Honderich: Sick or Not?" I'm sure neither you nor Honderich, neither women nor blacks, would appreciate titles like that. I don't see how you could expect us to react any differently.
The pyschiatric approach to homosexuality is run through and through with invalid assumptions, biased attitudes, inconsistencies, and unrepresentative samplings. It is a battleground littered with cliches. Resort and reference to this approach has become a reflex action of those who refuse to recognize the bigotry which exists in attitudes towards gays.
If you are interested in helping to present a homosexual point of view to the public, as you say in your letter, then I strongly suggest for all our sakes that you consider both the tactics of the issue (for most certainly tactics, whether consciously or subconsciously, are being used all around) and what is going down. What Homosexuals: Sick or Not was actually leading towards was whether gay people, myself, my friends, millions of people are actually worthy of the respect due one human being from another, should actually be granted civil rights which others enjoy, should be given reprieve from the constant harassment of social prejudice. That such a question should be asked is a fine comment on the state of things. You must understand my distaste that such things can actually be up for debate.
So much has been written by pyschiatrists and in answer, that it seems a useless endeavour to work the field once more, especially as I feel that it has become something of a red herring. However at the risk of clouding what I feel are the real issues, I will make a few comments about your article and pyschiatry in general.
Firstly Bieber, Socarides, and Cappon are people who owe their prominence as much to the fact that they represent an extreme as to any academic expertise. Not only was Homosexuals: Sick or Not heavily weighted towards pyschiatric opinion, its balance consisted of the rather lurid viewpoint of one extreme juxtaposed to the non-committal attitude of the politically cautious. There is pyschiatric attitude that is positive and pro-gay, but it was given no representation. Not only is Hooker a pyschologist but the quote you chose was insulting in its description of homosexual orientation. Your own attitude is up for question when in the opening paragraph you suggest this particular "preference" is abnormal. The many sexual orientations that exist are variations on a theme. For any particular one to be in a minority position on some imaginary incidence scale does not make it abnormal. You made liberal use of such words as "sick", "normal", "abnormal", and "maladjusted" with no reference to their differing meanings to different people and professions. Surely such words could be used with more care in a newspaper article.
As for the second section "Claims of Cures", it was united by an acceptance of homosexuality, curable or not, as a pyschological malfunciton.
Wainwright Churchill's "Homosexual Behaviour Among Males" (Prentice Hall, 1967) especially the chapter Homosexuality and Mental Health, is a good reference on the pyscho-analytic approach to homosexuality and Bieber's work in particular.
To quote from another chapter, Theories on the Origin of Homosexuality: "The fundamental objection that must be raised against most clinical interpretations of homosexuality is that they are offered as explanations for all homosexuality when in fact they fail to explain most of the data which we have on this subject. Moreover most clinical interpretations are based on an a priori conclusion that all homosexuality in adults is pathological, another assumption that does not seem to fit a great many facts."
Then there is Bieber himself: "All pyschoanalytic theories assume that adult homosexuality is pyschopathological and assign differing weights to constitutional and experiential determinates."
A pyschiatrist discovering homosexuality in a patient is all too willing to attribute the patient's real problems to that homosexuality and to work them into his theories on the subject. These theories can cheerfully contradict each other or even be contradictory in themselves. Note Bieber on dominant mothers: "The child who becomes homosexual is usually overprotected and preferred by his mother. In other cases he may be underprotected and rejected." This is as much anti-woman as it is anti-gay, but then pyschiatry has traditionally shown an anti-female streak.
Further, studies on homosexuality are notorious for their biased samplings and interpretations. Cappon is hardly alone here, Bieber among others is well known for these failings.
Pyschoanalysis as much as it attempts to understand the human pysche tends to interpret it within the framework of a restrictive morality and the biases and prejudices of the day.
To return to my prime objection, pyschiatric arguments are so often a red herring dragged out to divert attention from legitimate gay issues and concerns.
There would be an uproar if the Star used the same tactics with women's issues as it does with the gay community, if it ignored what women are saying and resorted to articles about whether women were sick or not. Assuredly you could find pyschiatrists as willing to be outrageous on this as Cappon et al on homosexuality.
Gay people do have genuine grievances, are denied equality under the law. They are discriminated against in the immigration, civil service and military codes, in age of consent laws, marriage and as a result, tax laws. They are subject to unequal enforcement of the law in that police apply certain sections of the criminal code almost exclusively to gays. They have been subject to police entrapment in Toronto. They can lose their jobs and housing for being gay. They are given no protection under the different human rights codes in Canada. (Such organizations as the Cdn. Civil Liberties Assoc. are it seems, interested only in rights for certain people. They have so far not endorsed gay coalition briefs to the provincial and federal governments.)
They are subject to ALL forms of prejudice, with no protection from it. Due to the stigma attached to homosexuality by this society, due to the restrictive and restricted places where gay people can be openly gay, they are isolated not only from straight people but also from others in the gay community.
All these things you could write about. You could write about coming out, about dealing with the family, about the gay organizations and what the different ones are trying to do, about the lack of funds for a proper distress centre. You could do interviews with gay people. You could write about the downtown scene, hopefully without being patronizing (the straight scene can be pretty crass but at least they have somewhere else to go, are not so subject to an atmosphere dictated by a few bar owners.)
In short the Star could give proper, fair and adequate coverage to the gay community, especially given its size and need to get out of isolation.
You intimate that I somehow am advocating the restriction of free discussion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Star is the one restricting free speech and communication in this instance.
With regards to Daniel Cappon, bigotry deserves to be recognized as such and challenged. Further, given the vicious and phobic nature of his comments (in his last article he felt it necessary to include a disclaimer to the effect that he wasn't advocating persecution), the repudiation of his views by many in his field, the general vacuity of his thinking, I do not see why of the infinitessimally small amount of space in the Star given to things gay, he should monopolize so much of it. (Your use of him was ambiguous, he was long ago given enough rope to hang himself and I couldn't tell whether you were just kicking the corpse or trying to revive it.)
I would like to go a little further into the attitudes and policies of the Star. Perhaps you can be of some assistance here, close to home.----------------------------------------
At this point in the letter I go on to the familiar grievances with regards to:
1) The Body Politic
2) The Personals and Business Personals columns
3) The Shared Accomodation ads
4) Letters to the Editor
5) The use of the word "gay"
6) Why is such little coverage given to gay news. There is quite a sizable community here, your estimate of 100,000 is extremely conservative.
What news coverage is given is either very terse or very lurid. Witness the nomenclature change by the APA, reported in the Star, April 11/74. The very brief report failed to make it clear that homosexuality per se had been removed from the "sickness" category altogether and that a new category "sexual orientation disturbance" referred only to people having difficulty accepting their orientation whether as the result of societal prejudice or whatever.
As for lurid, I refer to that front page coverage, I believe late last year or early this year, of some alleged "chicken ring" in Los Angeles. Its strange that the Star would use something like that from thousands of miles away while on the other hand ignoring gay pride parades and gay demonstrations (such as the recent one protesting OHRC refusal to meet with gay groups. They have since met.) which constitute local events. It is ironic that the first defendant in this case, a gay person, has been acquited.
I'm enclosing a photostat of an article from the Advocate, referring to a series that the NY Post has apparently run. It should be of some interest to you. Such a series is needed in Toronto. It is to be hoped that one day not only the likes of it but also ordinary day to day coverage free of squeamishness will be accepted here.
The Star must eventually realize that it is to no-one's benefit that it continue this petty harassment in its advertising columns, and its word wars. It is surely to everyone's detriment that it continues a news blackout on the daily events in the life of part of the community. It is certainly to its discredit that it refuses to give space to legitimate issues of legal and social prejudice which the gay community has raised, and to the difficulties its members often experience.
The Globe & Mail (published July 9, 1974)
It should be pointed out to people complaining government grants to gay organizations are a misuse of the taxpayers' money, that homosexuals are taxpayers as much as anyone else. (Gay Group Gets Backing From Ottawa--June 25.) In fact given that the tax advantages of a marriage certificate are not available to gay couples, we pay proportionately more than other sectors of society. Moreover when compared with amounts made available to much smaller minorities, these grants are seen to be a mere pittance, tokenism, in fact simply further evidence of discrimination. Any time these complainers wish to refund the gay community the taxes it pays, I'm sure it will be happy to hand back any grants received. If they wish to take on a share of our oppression too, we'd be more than willing.
Open Letter to Toronto Star distributed Oct.1974 (see Media Wars 2 for context)
The Toronto Star
There are numerous points of fact which could be made in rebuttal to the Star's editorial on its position vis a vis the gay community. Even after much discarding I'm left with eight that directly concern statements in that editorial. As briefly as possible:
1) In every instance of the Star being brought before the Ontario Press Council by a gay person or organization, the Star has been found guilty of discrimination. The Press Council, in conceding the Star breaks neither rules of the Council nor laws in so discriminating, merely emphasizes its powerlessness as a regulatory body and the farcical nature of its existence. Certainly, its decisions offer no justification for the Star's attitudes; discrimination, after all, is discrimination.
2) Over the course of a number of years, the Body Politic has published numerous articles from many different viewpoints. In basing its refusal of ads from the Body Politic on the content of two of these articles, the Star has indicated it is merely seeking excuses for its actions.
3) While the Star claims acceptance of the rights of gay people to "free speech" and "publication", its actions bespeak a different outlook, for in 1972 the Star forced the Body Politic's former printer, Newsweb Enterprises, to refuse any further business from the Body Politic.
4) In its editorial, the Star attempts to link its refusal of an ad from Glad Day Books with its refusal of those from the Body Politic. The implication is that it disapproves of the "proselytizing" nature of a gay bookstore. In the Star's reckoning, it would seem, anytime gay people say anything of which the Star does not approve, anytime gay people write anything of which the Star does not approve, anytime gay people come together to buy or sell anything of which the Star does not approve, then that is "proselytizing". So much for the Star's claimed advocacy of the rights of gay people to "free speech, publication, and assembly".
5) While the Star may claim it has no ban on advertising from gay organizations, it certainly tried to impose one.
In refusing an ad from a gay organization, the Metropolitan Community Church, in February of 1974, the Star made the ridiculous assertion, in a carefully phrased letter, that it did not "accept advertising from a group, an individual, or an organization whose message is directed towards a specific segment of society". Only after receiving unfavorable publicity did the Star relent.
6) In addition, in its Shared Accomodation ads, the Star, for years, refused to allow advertisers to indicate that a particular accomodation was in a gay household. At the same time though, it allowed other advertisers to state that the accomodation they were offering was in a straight household, and, indeed, that it was for straights only.
Recently the Star, in allowing the words "homosexual atmosphere" to be used, changed its policy somewhat. However the word "gay" is still not allowed, the Star claims it does not accept "euphemisms". Some pettiness knows no bounds.
Considering that it does allow the use of the word "straight", and considering the homosexual connotation of the word "gay" is accepted in recent editions of various dictionaries, Webster's New World Dictionary being one, the Star's practice in this area still amounts to discrimination.
In sum, it seems the Star's stated belief in "full civil rights for homosexuals...in housing" does not extend to its own advertising columns.
7) As for the Star's claim it has "no ban on news concerning homosexuals", a perusal of such news items reveals four things:
a) In all of these items there is a ban on the use of the word "gay" despite its dictionary acceptance, and despite its wide use both within and outside the gay community.
b) Most of the articles published concern actions of organizations outside the gay community, be they the Vanier Institute, the American Pyschiatric Association, or the government department administering LIP grants. I have no objection to such items, however there is never any attempt to follow up with reaction from gay organizations. More importantly, there are no articles whose primary focus is on the gay community, itself.
c) Only in the case that a demonstration or a direct conflict with the law or the forces of the law is initiated is there chance of such coverage, and even then the chances are slim.
d) The Star's claim that it did not publish information on the gay studies course at the University of Toronto because it was of marginal interest, is absurd. Even the attempt to term it a "homosexual studies course" is laughable, comparable to calling a black studies course, a negroid studies course.
The first recognition by a Canadian university of gay studies as a legitimate area of concern is of historic importance to gay people in Canada, and the Star's attitude reveals nothing so much as abysmal ignorance on its part.
8) There is a great deal of antagonism between the Star and the gay community in Toronto. This situation did not come to be as a result of "tolerance" and fairness on the part of the Star. All gay organizations, in dealing with the Star in the past few years, have come across much pettiness and bigotry. Every time the Star has attempted to justify its attitudes, its arguments upon examination are found to be evasive of the issue, specious, wanting in logic, in fact just so much red herring. Continually, as the Star is forced to abandon one position, it has found new arguments, new reasons to discriminate. The more this happens, the more ridiculous the Star looks.
People or institutions that attempt to set themselves up as guardians of the public's morals, in the end must rely on bigotry for support and are often the greatest danger to equality, liberty and justice within a society.
It is time the Star came to realize that unfairness in the treatment of gay issues and concerns is in the end an injustice to the community as a whole.
Letter to THE EYE (Ryerson)
(published Nov.28, 1974)
Gary Curtis interviewed Ken Popert and myself at the GATE/BP office on Carlton Street. The Curtis version of this encounter was very different from mine. Basically it was a non-event involving a poorly informed reporter who had done nothing to prepare himself and who had no idea what he wanted to ask. We did the best we could for him, Ken did most of the talking. Our criticism nudged him into investigating the community a little more thoroughly, from which came a series of articles. Maybe we should have kept our mouths shut.
As a side note Curtis has me referring to "the gay capitalist". That's part of a terminology I tried to avoid in discussing the community. To my mind it changed the conversation rather than informed it.
Re: Gary Curtis' articles on gay life in Toronto, there are a few things which need to be cleared up. As far as his reception at the GATE-BODY POLITIC offices goes, he got an hour's worth of two people's time and all he seemed to do was fumble from one simplistic question to the next. He didn't seem to have any grasp of the gay situation at all, but on the other hand seemed to be trying for some sort of debate rather than conversation.
When asked if he knew any gay people, had ever been to a gay bar, club, or organization, or had any contact with gays, he replied no, but he had read a copy of The Body Politic. He implied that as far as he was concerned that was all he needed, together with a few words from us. He didn't want to write about the gay legal or political situations, or the gay movement in general, or about GATE or The Body Politic in particular. He didn't seem to know what he wanted to write about, but he wanted to do something with "the human touch".
With regards to cops, they may say that claims of entrapment are so much horseshit, but let them explain why for such a long time the same plainclothes cops kept turning up in court, in case after case, claiming someone had pinched their precious buns, or grabbed their nuts. If they weren't practicing enticement, they were certainly making themselves available. If this sort of thing isn't as widespread today as it used to be, then it's thanks to the CHAT courtworker who persuaded people to fight charges brought against them, the result of which was cases being thrown out of court left and right. Simply put, it's not as lucrative anymore for a cop, whose promotion, to a degree depends on the number of convictions obtained, to harass gays.
The fourth article, "A gay guide to Toronto", was something else. I mean that's really trippy stuff, gay drag queens masturbating thumbs over lesbian-whores thighs, and all that. You have a genius on staff there, a veritable closet Genet. The only difference, of course, being that Genet knows what he's talking about. Does anyone honestly believe that millions of gay men (gay women, as usual, are left out of this game) walk around constantly stuffing their genitals down their left or right pant leg as an active or passive sexual mood strikes them?
Perhaps the most revealing paragraph in the whole series appears in the section about the baths, where someone gives Curtis' penis "a playful caress". "I was so tense and he was so aggressive that it happened before I could react." No kidding. Poor you. I hope your penis has recovered. What soap opera!
The companion to the Curtis series, "the personal story of how and why a member of Ryerson turned gay" is perhaps the most disappointing. It takes convoluted logic to author and some sense of humor to print an article titled "I Am Proud of Who I Am" when the author remains anonymous. And it was deception to attempt to hide the latter by accompanying the article with an uncaptioned photo of two people, the implication being that it was the author and his lover, when, in fact, neither of the persons in the picture was that writer.
The person behind this piece, whoever he is, seems to have an awfully limited view of gay social life. His implication is that it consists of those who meet, screw, and part and those who meet, screw, and fall in love. Maybe that's the way it is with him but some of us out here like to feel we have a bit more room, broader range than that, for feeling and response in our lives.
His life is his own business, but his philosophy---that if you smile a lot and hide yourself from those who might find you disagreeable, everything will work out---comes awfully close to what some people might call "uncle tomism". I have no grudge and much sympathy for those who have not found it in themselves to come out, but I have none for someone who while maintaining his own anonymity, attempts to criticize and stand in the way of those who have or wish to step forward.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
The Globe & Mail (published Dec.24, 1974)
I should have at least found a more elegant way to end the letter, but you do what you can.
The Globe's editorial To Have and to Hold (Dec.19) attempts to justify a recent Manitoba court decision denying a marriage certificate to two men. Its arguments are based on an interpretation of the marriage laws as being historically and primarily designed for the protection of the offspring of a sexual union.
There are, however, other interpetations of the evolvement of these laws. They can be seen as a reflection of the values of a society in which the adult male has been regarded as supreme and those legally bound to him, wife and children, as mere chattels. Given the traditional non-recognition of the rights of the child by society, the idea of the marriage laws as being designed primarily for the welfare of children seems a bit of a farce.
Further, the marriage laws can be seen as the deliberate division of society into small, cellular, family units. This division makes the individuals susceptible to a more rigorous control by the dominant elements in a society. Conveniently, it also helps maintain a passive, available, and immobile work force. Such at least is an alternative to The Globe's view of the purposes of the laws.
The thrust of The Globe's reasoning seems to be that since a gay union cannot produce offspring, therefore it should not have the benefit of the marriage laws.
Since childless couples are in fact allowed the economic and legal benefits of the marriage laws The Globe is clearly applying different standards to gay and straight unions.
Further, if one of the members of a same-sex couple were male rather than female, or female rather than male, there would be no difficult obtaining a marriage certificate. However, since they are of the gender that they are, obstacles are placed in their way. This is nothing less than discrimination based on the sex of the person involved. Supposedly such discrimination was outlawed by the Bill of Rights.
LOVE, VARIETIES OF
The Globe & Mail (published July 1, 1975)
This letter also has its own section on this website, with further comment on where Hofsess' borrowed argument had previously raised its head.
John Hofsess is upset with the portrayal of women and heterosexual relationships by Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams and Peter Shaffer (The Equine Strategy, etc.-June 14).
Feeling these playwrights camouflage homosexual situations as heterosexual in their work, he goes on to chastise other unnamed gay writers for this same supposed act, accusing them also of an unsympathetic attitude toward women. If in fact some homosexual writers have been guilty of vindictive attitudes, as Mr. Hofsess suggests, it would take a discussion of each writer in turn to decide who they were, rather than the innuendo which links particular sexual orientations with particular attitudes.
Mr. Hofsess is speaking of male writers and what could be said perhaps is that some male writers, both homosexual and heterosexual, have exhibited derogatory attitudes toward women in their work. But that's another ball game. Certainly the act by which a writer will create a character and call it Martha or Blanche and have it accepted by the public whether or not it is a realistically female characterization is something more heterosexual than homosexual writers can be called to account for.
The suggestion that gay writers often disguise homosexual relationships in a cloak of heterosexuality is suspect. More typically a gay writer who does not openly present gay characters is one who will refrain from attempting to deal with gay relationships at all. There is certainly nothing wrong with a writer using themes obvious in gay life in some other context when those themes are in fact universal. Part of the basis for Mr Hofsess' thoughts is his belief he has detected something emotionally inaccurate in the depiction of heterosexual relationships by some gay writers. This is not an automatic signal that the writer is in fact dealing with a homosexual situation. It does say one of two things though. Either Mr. Hofsess has a personally limited viewpoint or the writer's observations are incorrect.
To my mind, homosexuality is in no way the barrier some heterosexuals continually proclaim it to be. It requires an absence of thought to say that gay writers, by definition, do not possess knowledge of women or heterosexual relationships and should not write about these things. John Hofsess may perhaps declare he did not say this but it is the sum of his words.
The Saturday (June 21) following the Hofsess essay a review of a Tennessee Williams novel appeared. In that review Miriam Waddington took time out to deliver a sermon on loving human relationships. Apparently true love is heterosexual and "a homosexual relationship no matter how loving and tender" just doesn't make the grade. Ah well...intellectualized snobbery will be forever with us, I suppose. It seems in her theology of true relationships the essence of love is the meeting of "vagina" and "penis", brought together by a desire to procreate and thus "defeat death and satisfy...hunger for immortality". Heterosexuals have now had it revealed to them why they love the people they love. No doubt the pill will be immediately banned as a homosexual plot and threat to personal Immortalization.
When Miriam Waddington salvaged these barnacle-encrusted hulks of theory from the mysterious deep did she really expect them to float? What her analyses are in need of more than anything else is a set of water wings.
But enough is enough. John Hofsess disapproves of Equus and isn't too fond of Blanche Dubois either. Miriam Waddington casting aspersion and breathing benevolence (she likes Jean Genet) at the same time, does and doesn't like Moise And The World Of Reason. Fine. But if people are going to review sexuality and sexual orientation in The Globe and Mail could a reader ask for maybe just a little originality of thought?
The Globe & Mail (published Aug.20, 1975)
A letter of mine to the Globe around this time made reference to the RCMP civil service witch hunts of the 1950's and 60's. It must have been this one. The Globe phoned and asked if I had proof of such things. When I said no they said it would be deleted from the letter.
In my comments on the 1975 Third National Conference there's criticism of the gay movement's move to focus solely on civil rights. This letter illustrates I fully supported civil rights campaigns. It was the abandoning of other facets of the movement that bothered me. In the section on that conference there's also an unhappy encounter with Ron Dayman, who is mentioned in this letter. Such things were side issues, personal conflicts happened.
In reply to a statement (Aug. 5) by Ron Dayman that the federal Government discriminates against homosexuals in hiring and promotion policies the Director-General of the Public Service Commission of Canada, A.R.K. Anderson, claims (Aug.12) that this "is not in accordance with the facts".
In a rather pitiful attempt to deny discrimination, he says homosexuals "may" be considered for employment, with the individual case "being treated solely in terms of job and national security requirements." this statement is in fact a reiteration of the policy enunciated by The Royal Commission on Security in Paragraph 100 of its 1969 report. The commission recommended that "homosexuals..not normally be granted (security) clearance to higher levels...(and) not be recruited if there is a possibility that they may require such clearance in the course of their careers." The policy then is one of discouraging homosexuals from aspiring to, and attempting to bar them from many higher level, higher paying, civil service jobs and in fact discouraging them from even seeking employment with the federal Government.
The rationale for this discrimination---a fear of misconduct on the part of homosexuals---is merely a disguise for outright prejudice. Ignoring this misguided view of homosexuals and considering only the number of heterosexual civil servants who, in the history of government, have been involved in security or other misconduct, this policy, carried to its logical conclusion, should dictate that only those persons who were asexual be considered for employment. Mr. Anderson points with pride to the fact that the Anti-Discrimination Branch of the Public Service Commission has not received any complaints of sexual orientation discrimination in its two and one-half years of existence. This should fool no one. That the Public Sevice Commission has received no complaints is simply a reflection on the tenuous position of gay employees within the civil service. Given government and commission attitudes, to make a complaint would only further complicate the employment situation for a gay person.
It is a matter of public record that a royal commission appointed by the federal Government recommended without valid grounds that homosexuals be discriminated against within the civil service. It is a matter of public record that the Director-General of the Public Service Commission of Canada while attempting to deny such discrimination made statements which acknowledge its existence as policy.
It is a matter of public record that the anti-homosexual attitudes of the federal Government manifest themselves in such diverse areas as the Canadian Armed Forces (Administrative Order 19-20, par.6) and the Immigration Act (Section 5, par.(e),8(f) and Section 19, subsection 1).
Very clearly it is not a question, as Mr. Anderson would have it, of whether discrimination exists but one of when society will stop attempting to justify it and start attempting to eradicate it. As Ron Dayman wrote, what is called for, as a first step, is the recognition of homosexuals as a class requiring the protection of anti-discrimination legislation.
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(Aug.1, 1977; NOT published)
For background to this letter see SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS CODE, where it also appears. With proposed changes to the Human Righst Act before the public the idea of openly gay teachers was being much cited by opponents of those changes. As mentioned above, the Globe simply stopped publishing my letters after the one of August 20, 1975. I did talk to someone at the paper and was told this letter had been recommended but was killed higher up.
Surely underlying any Human Rights Act worth its name is a recognition that there exists a body of rights which belong to the individual whether or not those rights are in conflict with society and the law. Such an act is not simply a piece of legislation granting particular rights to particular people. Rather it is a re-affirmation of the rights of all individuals, whether those individuals are directly referred to in the act or not. Suddenly with the proposal to include a reference to homosexuals in the Ontario act, there is talk of "qualified", "conditional", "limited" equality which is of course mere sophistry and no equality at all. There is a direct contradiction involved in the unhappy spectacle of editorialists and others suggesting a Human Rights Act in fact be used to limit human rights. Once again there is that familiar ease with which in Canada the principle of equality is abandoned precisely where it is most needed, in the case of embattled minorities.
Gay teachers are a main point of anti-gay focus and their situation is useful as an illustration of that of other gay people. There have always been competent gay people in the teaching profession as much as in any other profession. In the past more vicious opponents of this fact have talked of child molestation but this having been widely exposed for the bunk it is, a new position is taken up. No matter how fine a person they may be, homosexuals and lesbians it is now stated, are somehow unsuitable role models. Children are not to be exposed to people who admit to being gay. A gay teacher, to survive, is expected to omit all reference to his or her private life, be hypocritical in answering questions, to avoid rumor be careful not to be seen associating with known or identifiably gay people, be sure not to be seen going into any gay establishment or attending gay events, be careful of what book they may be seen carrying, be extremely guarded in reacting to all criticism of gay people, and on and on. Somehow to be homosexual is interpreted as a put-down of heterosexuality. Such sensitivity on the part of a majority is unflattering to its view of itself and suggests a failure to deal with and understand its own sexuality.
This of course is only a very small part of an enormous list of unwritten rules by which the lives of most gay people are circumscribed, part of the contract by which the dogs are kept at bay. There is enough evidence to testify to the little faith with which even such an insidious bargain is kept by society. To have all this reduced, academicized to talk of role models is beyond farce.
For the heterosexual child, role models abound everywhere, the message of heterosexuality is constant, strong, and omni-present to the point of oppression. A heterosexual child will not become homosexual because a teacher is, any more than a homosexual child will become heterosexual in the reverse situation. Homosexual role models, in contrast to heterosexual ones, have never been allowed to exist in the school system or anywhere else. If they were a factor in homosexuality there wouldn't be a single homosexual in Canada.
Those who in the name of role models say that open and positive gay adults should not be allowed around children, in actuality are saying they do not want children exposed to the fact that there are decent human beings who are homosexual. To put it more bluntly, they are urging, in the name of role models, the perpetuation of the myth of the homosexual as a sick unfulfilled person and want the evidence to the contrary obstructed and withheld. Future heterosexual generations have the right to be given that evidence.
It is the equal right of homosexuals to be brought up in an atmosphere which does not constantly attempt to deny the validity of their very existence.
Although not always possessing the words for it, as a child I knew in which direction my inclinations lay. One of the enduring, unnecessary, and unforgivable experiences of that childhood was the sexual custodianship which denied me all access to other gay people and, except for the notion it was "sick", all information to do with being gay. Any child, now as then, has the right to talk to other gay people, to find out what being gay is about, to be equipped to survive the harshness of the ways in which a heterosexual society attempts to demoralize its gay segment.
Those who in the past acted to "protect" us as children gave those who were heterosexual only a perpetuation of prejudice, and those of us who were growing up gay, long years of isolation, fed only ugly myths about "queers" and "faggots". For myself the experience was unrelentingly destructive of self-esteem, an acrid and total gutting of the soul.
Full civil rights will have little meaning if other homosexuals have still to go through that kind of experience in the future. Those who think the gay movement is just a debate over this or that civil right badly misjudge the depth of feeling and experience from which it springs. Indeed until they begin to understand from where we are speaking, I doubt if they can truly understand what is being said.
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(Sept.30, 1977; NOT published)
This was in response to someone else's letter to the editor but it's real target was the longstanding resistance of Toronto newspapers to the word gay. That was a battle that seemed to have no end.
John Grayson's irritation at the use of gay to mean homosexual as opposed to a meaning he understood in his youth is peevish. It brings to mind all those newspaper editors who are ever banning the word from their columns, crossing it out with a vindictive satisfaction which suggests it is more some itch than a word they are scratching.
The whole futile exercise, like Mr. Grayson's letter, suggests more a discomfort with homosexuality than a concern for language. Language is a fluid instrument. Words, phrases gain new meanings, shed old, contain several, often depend on an era or context. "Black humor" for instance, easily conveys at least three distinct and different concepts.
There is no offense in Mr. Grayson's nostalgia for the time of his youth. Even the gall with which he claims the word gay as "his" word, to be defined by his understanding of it, can be passed over. Like most pedants though, he betrays a hunger for some philological Moses come down from the mount, dictionary in hand, to reveal `the one, true, and only meaning of all words now and forever'. Such tablets of stone applied to any language would eventually render it useless.
Certainly using gay to mean homosexual is not an innovation of the seventies. There are historical examples of such use which reach back many decades. Stamping his feet, moaning over the use of the word, casually slurring gay people as he passes, Mr. Grayson merely delineates the limits of his knowledge, or as some would have it, the bounds of his ignorance.
As for being prevented from using his "favorite" word anymore, what unearthly fear keeps him from doing so? He can use it as he pleases. He can run down the street shouting it. If he is afraid of being misunderstood he can wear a sign reading "I do not mean this word the way all you people hearing me understand it, I mean it a different way." Certainly there will be newspaper editors on the sidelines cheering him on.
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(Oct.26, 1977; NOT published)
This letter was never going to be accepted by the Globe so I just had a little fun with it. Jim Christie, a sports reporter there, had been one of the people involved in the start-up of Guerilla. Charlie seems to remember him mostly dropping by its offices as a sort of mentor after that. The article this letter refers to was stereotypical in its homophobia, almost funny. Again it shows what the times were like.
Jim Christie should be given some kind of award for uncovering that homosexual plot to undermine the heterosexual male image. That bit about gays controlling the media, just great, should've been brought up a long time ago. I used to lie awake nights wondering how they got that great press coverage over the last half century or so. Now its all clear!
It is true about John Wayne too. Only the other day I saw him striding down the middle of Yonge St. and some people actually laughed. Out loud. I was shocked.
And something really ought to be done to help those masses of downtrodden heterosexual males forced by homosexuals to mascara and marcelle and curtsy and all that. I've written to the Canada Council about it. All the real men are becoming weak-willed, cowardly, simpering individuals. Everyone knows that's the woman's role. You can't tell them from the homosexuals.
I heard someone talking the other day about heterosexual males being both creators and parodies of their own image or something. How unkind! no sympathy for the trauma of it all. Oh for the days when men were men, women were slaves, and homosexuals were lobotomized. Thank goodness some women still shave their legs.
Now about that award...
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(Mar.29, 1978; NOT published)
The Supreme Court of Ontario, referred to here, no longer exists, being replaced by the Superior Court. The trial is for the murder of Emanuel Jaques, a time when the gay community was being set up as scapegoat.
By what logic does a Supreme Court judge manage to equate homosexual orientation with sexual assault and murder? When such crimes are committed by heterosexuals what strange ideas does he entertain? Will any but gay people object to his use of the Jaques trial as a platform from which to smear the gay community and defend discrimination?
Are there those in the media who have throughout the trial ignored the presence of this process of guilt by association or even taken some delight in it? Do I regard the workings of justice in this province with undue cycnicism? Would others think "overdue" more apt?
Letter to TORONTO LIFE
(published May, 1978)
The letter refers to Looking For Mr. Gaybar, by John Hofsess.
Such a wonderfully trashy, campy account of gay life hasn't hit the fan in years. I haven't read anything like it, in fact, since the good old days when Midnight sleaze journalism was at full ooze.
What a triumph, what a marvelously overblown parody of the Sun's Claire Hoy (such a thing is possible?). The lurid cliches, e.g. "groups of men...pawing and crawling over one another in impersonal congress until senseless and exhausted," the easy dismissal of The Body Politic, the tired analyses or lack thereof and misrepresentation of the gay community, the pawing over people's lives to find what suits, the attempt to divide into good homosexuals (anyone under 20) and bad homosexuals (anyone over 20, especially if we've ever thrown a cream pie), the puritanical and vicious pseudomoralizing---they're all there, all the hallmarks of Hoy, delightfully satirized.
Congratulations, felicitations, greetings and thank you!
Letter to THE TORONTO SUN
(published Aug.25, 1978, 1978)
This was published in some edited form or other, I don't have a copy.
Re Claire Hoy's column on Gaydays, I'm taking up a collection to buy him a very large tea towel. Nine out of ten dental hygienists agree its just the thing when dealing with "foaming mouth" problems. Poor Claire, if only his parents hadn't call him that he wouldn't have had to spend the rest of his life trying to prove he wasn't gay.
Satiric response in The Body Politic, published Sept. 1978, to an article by John Forbes (see Another Sordid Tale)
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(Mar.9, 1983; NOT published)
A letter that was never going to be published but a useful reminder of Carter's antics.
After reading Cardinal Carter's `some-of-my-best-friends-are' defense of Jew-jokes I can only conclude that nature and the National Geographic were right in thinking the proper place for cardinals was in trees. Those who fly down to deliver speeches at police banquets are strange birds indeed. Those who also write letters to the editor in defense of themselves are liable, it seems, to end up with as much ink on their feathers as they already have egg on their beak. A messy sight, this!
Unpublished Letter to The Globe & Mail
(Dec.6, 1985; NOT published)
This letter is also included in the Gay Liberation Union section and refers to the murder of Kenneth Zeller in High Park, in Toronto. Toronto Life covered his murder in an extensive article, I think.
Eight teenage boys set out in the middle of the night to "beat up a fag". That night five of them murder a forty year old man because they judge him to be gay. A newspaper prints an article in which people repeatedly assert these boys are not homophobic.
Question: If the murder of this man does not constitute an act of homophobia what, in this society, does?
Is homophobia such a common currency of the country that for people to admit its existence would be to admit their implication in it?
The presence of and publicity given such groups as Positive Parents (whose literature just happened to appear on the counter of Toronto police stations), the charges of harassment and sexual entrapment often leveled against the police by the gay community, the rush of high-minded newspapers to publish names of people involved in so-called "washroom" cases: none of these suggest a commonly held bigotry as part of the daily life of the province.
If a Toronto cardinal dismisses three staff members of a theological college because their views of homosexuality are deemed not sufficiently negative, this does not suggest the kind of institutionalized homophobia which might contribute to these boys' attitudes.
If the Armed Forces and the RCMP expel people from their midst for reasons of sexual orientation, well they are simply keeping the country strong.
What, about the atmosphere of day-to-day existence, could possibly be seen in the treatment by courts of gay parents in custody cases, or the refusal to allow even common-law status to gay couples?
What, after all, do these things have to do with the bloody and cruel murder of Kenneth Zeller?
Certainly there is not even the hint of public or private homophobia in the refusal to include sexual orientation in the Ontario and federal human rights codes.
Se where, in this demonstrably non-homophobic world, could these five nice teenage boys have picked up attitudes which allowed them to go queer-bashing and which led to the death of a man?
It is truly a mystery and presumably people would like to keep it that way.
ALDERMAN SCAPEGOATING HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITY
The Toronto Star (published Oct.24, 1986)
Tony O'Donohue's version of Why We Should Not Extend Family Benefits To Gay Couples is a fine example of the politics of greed, of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.
Gay couples are subject to the same laws as everyone else, are required to fulfil the same societal duties, including helping finance the benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples, and pay the same range of taxes, yet when it comes to a share of the social benefits pie we have helped produce, all of a sudden a reasonable and obvious request becomes an attack on "the family".
If O'Donohue sees an "erosion of the family" he should look to his own rigidity and concept of family for reasons rather than trying to scapegoat the gay community.
Letter to NOW (Toronto)
(published Jan.22, 1987)
Amiel before she married C. Black was best known as a rightwing columnist
Given John Hofsess' reputation as the Barbara Amiel of the gay world, the revisionist drivel tacked to the end of his piece on John Damien (NOW, January 15-21) was no surprise. The wonder is that NOW printed it. Anyone familiar with Damien's story knows that, other than his family, it was the gay community who stuck by him through the years. The trouble with some writers is they cannot resist the impulse to see any gay story as just so much journalistic carrion in which to muck about on their favourite hobbyhorses. Hofsess, after all, is a man who as late as March, 1978 was titillating readers of Toronto Life with the decidedly purple prose of "Looking For Mr. Gaybar", a.k.a. "Cruising For Trouble. Exploitation within the gay community," in which "groups of men...paw and crawl over one another in impersonal congress until senseless and exhausted" and so on.
It is in the context of such past performance that any comments on the gay community in a Hofsess article ought to be considered.
His approach has always been essentially negative. Thus in 1978 the only good thing going was noble if somewhat troubled Gay Youth, especially if it was trying to avoid "the engulfing whirlpools of boundless promiscuity and rebellion offered by the sexual underground."
As for the baddies, they are legion. In 1978 they included "promiscuity," "The Body Politic (enraging) the straight establishment by publishing...Men Loving Boys Loving Men," "militant `fags' engrossed in drafting manifestos," etc. Come 1987 the list does not seem to have changed at all.
The idea of any shared ground between Damien's struggles, or even his fleeting dissatisfactions (expresssed at a moment when he was dying and Hofsess was trying to squeeze one more article out of him) and Hofsess' particular agenda vis a vis the gay community is, I think, at best illusory. . . .
To this letter Now attached this Editor's Note (and I can only presume what they say must be the case):"Hofsess had no plans to do a final article on Damien until Now suggested it. Half the royalties from Hofsess' book on Damien will go to Damien's estate."