THE 1981 BATHHOUSE RAIDS
Covering only a small part of the hyperactivity of the period, I've stitched this piece from my notes at the time and my memories. It's no news the protests after the bathouse raids had a galvanizing effect on gay Toronto --- our first realization of the power we actually held, and the beginnings of the explosive growth of the community.
Each decade builds on the foundations of the preceding. Certainly it was clear both in the immediate response to the raids and later, how much was owed to the groundwork performed, networks formed and experience gained in the 1970's.
Of the individual and collective fight for the right to exist that preceded that, who knows whether we'll ever be able to fully understand our debt there. Perhaps we'll need a different way of thinking about ourselves first.
(A plug here for the documentary Track Two which contains good footage of events of these days; Jack Lemmon, one of the triad of people who put this film out, being an old friend of Charlie's and mine. Why has this film been neglected?)
Fri., Feb. 6/1981
Charlie's [40'th] birthday and he had the day off. On the subway to work at 8:30 in the morning and turned my Globe & Mail over to find a little insert on the front page -- the cops had raided the Roman, the Club, the Barracks & Richmond Street Thursday night arresting over 200 people, 273 as it turns out.
Started to get angry, but wanted to keep that in check. I don't function that well if I get too emotional. Didn't want to wake Charlie up so didn't phone him right away with the news. Eventually got through to Harvey (Hamburg) at the provincial Ombudsman's office. His phone wasn't working and he'd been called back and forth to other people's phones all morning, everybody wanting to talk things over. I was calling for news, but by the time I finally reached him I'd begun to wonder if he'd been arrested too. Which he hadn't. He mentioned a couple of people who had, someone from Children's Aid, someone else. He'd been talking to people down at the BP and there was a noon meeting there to plan response. They were wondering whether a rally was better right away or Saturday. I mentioned it was the Star's headline story in the two-star edition and people would know what had happened -- if we could get the word out I, for certain, wanted to go out and do something right away and others were probably feeling the same emotion.
He said some people in the showers at the Barracks (I think) had been told by the cops it should have been gas coming out of the showerheads.
He's finally had a first date with an interesting guy from a government office near where he works. We'd talked about it earlier in the week. He's been cultivating this person for months, said it felt like a straight courtship ritual. They'd had a really nice time and now there was this real downer. He'd just given his card to someone working at the Richmond this week, in case there was ever any trouble. The guy had called, left a message which had been waiting for him when he got in to work.
I mentioned it was Charlie's birthday. I'd talked to him earlier, before getting through to Harvey and we'd had a long silence on the phone when I told him what had happened.
Phoned Charlie again. Harvey had just been on, wishing Happy Birthday... Charlie had phoned the BP and talked to Andrew Mullin. Andrew said Brian Mossop and Robert Trow had been arrested.
Phoned the BP and talked to Ed Jackson. He said Harvey'd talked about being too depressed to come to the noon meeting. He thought that had sounded very unlike Harvey. I hoped something could be done about getting the news onto 923-GAYS (gay community info line) right away. They hadn't been able to get a phone number for John Fergus, who was taking care of the line at the moment. Told him Harvey had said he'd passed along two numbers where John could be reached. Ed was surprised. Talking to Andrew later, in the evening, when the tape still hadn't been changed, he'd heard in the afternoon everything had been taken care of.
Ed mentioned the noon meeting at the BP, said to come up if I wanted. Wasn't sure I could change my lunch hour.
Noticed Linda and Judy talking, Linda was telling her the news. Judy told me if I wanted to leave then, 12:10, to go ahead. Which I did.
Lots of people at the BP, phones ringing everywhere, was five minutes before I even caught sight of Charlie.
Gathered in the meeting room a little after 12:30. Me, Charlie, Harvey, Brent Hawkes, Rick Bebout, Gerry Hannon, Peter Schaffter, Andrew Mullin, Don Franco, Brian Mossop & Ken Popert (both looking pretty haggard,) Robert Trow, Ed Jackson, a few others. I felt out of place since I'm not very active these days, at least in terms of being a member of any organization any more. After some discussion we settled on a midnight rally that night at Yonge & Wellesley, and the message began getting relayed to everyone calling in.
Tried for some sort of focus for the rally, a march on police headquarters or 52 Division, a burning in effigy of a cop. I suggested burning a cop was like burning the flag. But that could be deflected by making it someone in particular, like Adamson the chief. Someone said he'd probably be available in person, since he'd been retired for six months. A slip of the tongue, we could do Ackroyd. Someone else said Ackroyd wasn't really to blame. We've been so protective of Ackroyd, thinking him a sympathetic person. He's the chief, I didn't see why he shouldn't be blamed if he couldn't control his cops. Anyways I think people are beginning to see the light, given the kind of statements he's made recently. Or is he having to jump to the head of his squads so it appears he's leading them rather than their being out of control? I doubt it and don't feel much sympathy either way.
The police seem to be making laws of their own, making gay sex illegal whatever the actual laws say. I can only understand the situation by seeing it as a game. Them manouevering and us counter manouevering. They've struck now because there's an election coming up and they believe politicians voicing sympathy with us are liable to lose votes and will therefore be intimidated. Harvey sees it as just the cops carrying on in their usual heavy-handed way, without regard for timing.
I didn't talk much. Andrew was chosen as spokesperson along with Brent Hawkes. It had been suggested by the BP not to have someone from there, since parts of the community see them as a source of problems. Andrew had done the job before so we threw questions at him for practice. Ken had been thinking of how to explain the baths in a way that straights could understand and suggested only the concept of hotel trysts would provide any kind of key for them.
I suggested, my last comment for the whole hour I think, that it might be good propaganda to link things together as in they don't like it if we so much as hold hands in public, and when we go to our own places, the tubs, they charge in and arrest us, and when we go to to our homes they follow after and arrest us still (two such cases in the past year), so what is left. It's apparent we are not going to be allowed to live our lives in peace.
It was decided in favour of a community meeting early next week and then people broke down into groups to write the leaflet etc.. Charlie, Don Franco, and I left at the end to handle distribution.
I went back to work soon after. Charlie and Don began phoning volunteers.
(With the situation so fluid and plans constantly changing, this phonetree work the three of us had volunteered for very soon began to make me feel foolish. All this phoning people to see if they'd be available then phoning them back to say things had changed, then phoning them again as some new and tentative scheme was hatched. We must have begun to seem a real nuisance. In any case I'm not sure we were doing this for very long, with the community rapidly organizing and new structures being set in place.)
Bought a cake & some books & cognac for Charlie's birthday. We watched the news and then had a brief celebration, during which Charlie's parents phoned. At least we weren't in the middle of sex as we usually seem to be when they call. Charlie's mother seems to have a special instinct for that.
CBC & CITY news coverage that night was okay, CTV pretty bad. CITY seemed on the verge of understanding a bit of what we're saying.
We drove down to the BP around seven to pick up the leaflets. Talked to Roger Spalding briefly, though the phones kept ringing so didn't get a chance to say much.
Woman at BP asked us to drop some leaflets off at Fly By Night, dyke hangout. Went in the door and saw 4 or 5 women at the end of the bar. It was dark and I didn't recognize the bartender, from the sound of her thought I was going to get thrown out. Then realized it was Pat Murphy, putting me on. I got to the bar and she announced that this was that specimen "a man" at which I cringed in apology. Everyone was friendly and wished luck and I left a bunch of leaflets with Pat.
Took 3,000 leaflets to Buddies, where people were going to come pick them up to hand out in other bars and clubs. CITY-TV came in to interview George (Hislop) & get shots of us sending people out to distribute. Old friend Bill Hudson said he saw us on the news.
An old fellow with a bad leg, Lyle, was very upset with us. I got the impression that people were used to him creating a ruckus. He was saying we shouldn't be afraid of the daytime, not try to hide in a night demonstration and then saying we shouldn't have a night demonstration because it might cause trouble with downtown straights. And so on, so forth -- basically against everything except the closet. He got into an argument with a fellow who works at Katrina's, a man in his thirties, substantial looking person, who was arrested at the baths. This guy was going to take leaflets to Katrina's but I'd already sent somebody up. Anyways he said he was going to announce the rally and give a 10 minute spiel there (Katrina's) that night at 11.45, so I guess he'a someone there. Meanwhile this Lyle continued to quarrel with everybody and they had to take him into the office a couple of times to calm him. He insisted the reporter from CITY-TV interview him but she, bless her heart, didn't seem interested though she was polite.
September 8, 1989---at the Cdn. Gay Archives---a break from my notes of 1981
In February/81 I thought it'd be good to write everything down, but time and events barrelled through the days and nights and for the most part I let that go.
Having had a decade of it I was determined not to get sucked back into this sort of thing further than was necessary. Different from previous times there was a real pool of talented & articulate people to be drawn on, people much better at this stuff than I'd ever been. In the 1980's I still showed up at events, pickets, protests, wrote my MPs etc etc but having helped swell the ranks, for the most part I then felt I'd done my duty. These things really do grind at you and on an emotional level there was a lot I wasn't up to dealing with anymore, if I'd ever really been. In any case we still ended up going to RTPC (Right To Privacy Committee) meetings for several years in the 1980's and Charlie found himself on their Counselling committee during his year out from TAG.
After putting down the lead-in to the first rally I wrote nothing about the event itself. Eight years later I of course still have memories of that night and I'll slip them in here, after these photos.
The rally Feb. 6/1981
-Earlier in the day: display in a gay-run cardshop window on Yonge St., a towelled, gagged, handcuffed mannequin
-Arriving at Yonge and Wellesley around midnight: a small crowd on the raised plaza of the building at the northeast corner, all lined up at the edge. Is this all? my hear sinks. Aren't people going to come out? Tonight and Saturday are yahoo nights of the week downtown, if we're going to face all that drunken hostility there have to be more of us.
-Soon we're overflowing the sidewalk. Somebody says lets move into the street.
All of a sudden there are so many of us we fill the intersection. This is more like it.
-Chris Bearchell saying No More Shit, it becomes the rallying cry of this night and these years.
(Aug./1989. a pro choice rally following the Quebec court Daigle decision, we are marching up Yonge. Several times clusters of people break out into chants of No More Shit. We're not even out of the eighties and its already become a nostalgic fragment from another era.)
-Who is it who coins Fuck You, 52? Have we had that one before? It rings through the night, and the days and months that follow, in counterpoint to No More Shit.
-We decide we are going down Yonge to 52 Division on Dundas. Despite the Friday night the street seems empty, baleful, grey as it stretches before us. With the intersection blocked at Wellesley they've had to reroute traffic.
The crowd is a strange emotional mix---boisterous, angry, determined.
I wonder. The cops know how to frighten people, break gatherings up. I remember an anti-war, Viet Nam demo in Toronto circa 1969-70, several thousand of us, the cops charging through on their horses, dragging people away, dividing the crowd into larger and larger numbers of smaller and more manageable groups; chasing people down sidestreets, up alleys, shutting off all exits, intersections blocked, subways entrances closed.
They are not so well-prepared tonight. They could still disperse us but it would be messy, a nasty business leading to many more arrests, and to inopportune journalistic photo opportunities. Is it perhaps beginning to dawn on them the bath raids may be developing into a major public relations disaster for the police? Several times in the future this ability of ours to turn their actions to our advantage holds them in check, but just. Certainly though, their ego is wounded. In following weeks they will frequently saunter through the bars in groups of three or four trying to repair their sense of manhood, blatantly attempting to make the point it is they who control this city.
By the time we pass Gerrard we've become a very noisy and even larger march. We are beginning to be accompanied by a tag-along fringe of frustrated straight machos yelling back at us. There are too many of us for them but they make me nervous.
There is an altercation to the side and a cop is hemmed into a doorway by an angry surge of faggots. Other cops try to come to his rescue. The parade marshals push people back into the street.
There are some police vehicles in the intersection at Dundas, their placement suggests they are meant to block us rather than redirect traffic. We just move right past them.
Along Dundas we pass a streetcar with windows smashed by those ahead of us. We move through Chinatown. And we are at 52. I have never seen anything quite like this. The building is ringed by shoulder to shoulder cops at the ground level and they are up on the roof too. There must be a couple of hundred. We are being filmed from above by police videos.
We come right up to them. SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! we shout, give them the Nazi salute. FUCK YOU 52! NO MORE SHIT! the chants go. On and on. Old memories floating around in my head. Cops pulling me out of gay bars to check my ID, the same ones who've done it time and again before. Snickering over names and messages they find in my wallet. Trying to humiliate me. Cops grabbing me from behind as I walk out of the St Charles, jerking my sleeves up before I even realize what's happening. Looking for needle marks they say. Cops, as I walk the streets in Toronto, calling me faggot, queer, as they walk by, drive by. Cops coming at me with guns pointed as I leave a gay bar in Montreal. Cops dragging people past me, out of the Parkside and Bloor subway washrooms. Cops telling me to move away or they'll arrest me, as I try to sell a gay newspaper to gay people outside a gay bar. Cops slowly following me in their car in the middle of the night, in the middle of a field, in the middle of a park. Five feet behind, high beams on, saying nothing just having a good time.
Now for once they have to stand there and take it from us.
-All of a sudden we are going up University towards the Legislature. We begin to move faster and faster. We are outpacing the figures in blue. The grounds of Queen's Park are dark, we are alone. We are running. Then this deep hollow sound in the night as we race across the lawns. Again and again. I'm still a hundred feet away from the buildings. What is it? A tingling in my scalp, my hair begins to stand as I realize where it's coming from. We are pounding on the legislature doors, throwing ourselves against them. An angry queer crowd, thousands of us, in the darkness only shadows to each other, lit by a lone darting camera light that has raced up to try and record this event. We swarm up the steps behind those already here and begin to recognize each others' faces. What has brought us here? How is it this is happening? For a minute I am afraid. For a minute the very real possibility we are going to break down these doors confronts us. I can see them vibrating. If we rampage through this building it will do us no good. If we're scapegoats as it is, we've seen nothing compared to what it'll be like. Talk about open season on queers. Then I think, look at this pile of rock. It didn't seem about to oblige us by going up in flames.
Faces begin appearing behind the doors, cops start forcing themselves through from the sides. We push and shove, are moved back. Our people are speaking, trying to control us. For once leaders have been forced to run to keep up, are only now reaching the front. Most of us are tired, our anger boiled over, run its course for the night. Not all of us. Several hundred move off to Yonge St. Not me.
I made no entries for Feb. 7-17/1981, there was simply too much happening. On Feb. 18 I made up a list, some of which I no longer understand e.g. what "concert" was referred to.
Events---Fri. night rally
Sat.---reaction & BP office
Sun.---BP office & concert
Mon.---concert, NDP meeting
Tues.---community meeting, Liberal meeting
Thurs.---Police comm., Michael C., Michael A Gay Son (a gay film by Bruce Glawson, who with his lover Paul Endicott was a member of Toronto Area Gays; as well many of the cast were in TAG.)
Sat.---John phoned about attack
Mon.---Hawkes on hunger strike; thinking about quitting job, lunch with Charlie, Charlie-RTPC meeting,
Tues.---lunch with Charlie, Queens Park re Hawkes
Wed.---Queens Park re Hawkes, Charlie-RTPC meeting, Harvey, baths
Thurs.---Queens Park re Hawkes
Off to Queens Park at 6 for Brent Hawkes nightly service etc. (Hawkes was holding a hunger strike.) Approx. 25 people, same as Tues. night. Harvey was there.
Michael C. also. He latched onto some reporter who happened to be coming out of the building and later onto Dan Leckie, the NDP candidate for St. George. I whispered to Harvey but also was thinking it isn't really necessary to be policing Michael.
Kenneth Maxted, the Anglican priest parachuted into Holy Trinity Church, and responsible for putting the boot to gay organization activities there, showed up in a gesture of solidarity (with Brent Hawkes).
Tim Ryan and Barry Blackburn were there, Tim doing the service. He's not exactly a stump speaker, however his analogy between Hawkes' fasting and the gay community's "hunger for justice" was effective.
Brent H. gave a little speech saying those who were not Christian could take part in the communion and consider it a sharing with friends or some such thing. Harvey said afterwards that was all very well but he for one was not about to be taking communion. I certainly wasn't going to.
A collection bucket passed around, as every night.
Harvey and I went to the Empire diner for supper. Walked with some guy from MCC.
Harvey had gone to the NDP nomination meeting last week and was finally speaking with some cynicism of electoral games, disillusioned with the ways they caused people to act. Harvey, the great causer of things to happen, is usually idealist to my skeptic. But maybe that "gee whiz" combined with his drive is what makes him able to tackle so much.
Anyways he thought judging from all the John Argue buttons that John would win, which he didn't (140-106?) of course. (John was a well known gay activist both within and outside the NDP.)
Dan Leckie said all the right things about gay rights apparently, but Harvey thought it simply a political speech without any great conviction behind it. He thinks Bruce McLeod for the Liberals is more sincere.
He didn't go to Sewell's post election fundraiser (which I of course forgot about) out of disillusionment with the whole thing. He'd heard that some RTPC people who went had more or less been told that Sewell's defeat was the result of the gay community not supporting him strongly enough; and therefore all positions vis a vis us had changed. We of course know that he got really strong support from the gay community both vote-wise & work-wise. Anyways he apparently didn't say anything in reference to the raids and it looks like he may not. We'll see; I certainly don't intend turning my back on him, he still has my support. (John Sewell had been mayor of Toronto and had been defeated in his bid for re-election. He'd spoken at a big rally in support of The Body Politic when it went on trial in 1979 and had been pilloried for it. His campaign had strong links with the aldermanic campaign of George Hislop, who was probably the most widely known gay activist in Toronto.)
We had to wait a couple of minutes for a table. This is the third time in a week I've eaten at the Empire. I hadn't really been comfortable in the place in the past because it came with a certain amount of attitude. But they've been really strong supporters of all the events and I'm feeling better about it. They'd put the poster for the first rally in the middle of their Yonge St. window, and for the one coming up it's right on their door. And the waiters of course are gay and political enough to wear pink triangles. Harvey thinks the guy who owns the place had something to do with Stages, more a budding faggot entrepreneur than a rich faggot.
The music is mostly Broadway, as usual; black arborite table tops, a green glow from a neon sign in the window reflects all the way to the back of a room longer than wide. the waitresses come across more fag hag than dyke -- certainly all friendly, which is welcome. A group of us ate in here some time ago and had a snotty waiter, who was nice only to me, seemingly because I was carrying a copy of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. (Reading this over I wonder why I didn't mention the photos from the Lindsay Kemp (theatre) productions of Salome and Flowers that lined the walls. So in love with the Genet-based Flowers I'd seen it at least thirty times, I dragged as many people as I could to it. A long time before my credit card recovered from that one.)
Being conscious of again putting on weight I had only a salad. And a half bottle of Mateus, and cafe au lait, and chocolate mint pie. Harvey ate without any doubts now that he works out at the Central Y. I questioned him about the Gay Community Appeal's (the GCA a major project of Harvey's), $8,000- out of $19,000- raised. Some of it is just initial costs but he says there are a lot of fixed expenses which will cost the same whether they raise $19.000- or $190,000.
He's falling in love with J, a former divinty student, he seems to have a thing for these former almost-ministers/priests. Though of course there are a lot of them around and I've had my share.
Someone came in from the Ontario Ombudsman's office -- Harvey says there are four gay people working there, and one other probable. Peter, a waiter here, who used to share our old house at 108 Langley with Harvey, came over to talk several times. And Charlie Drinkwater wandered through -- Charlie Drinkwater laughing and dancing being a sacred gay image as far as I'm concerned. And I had a brief conversation with a person at the next table. He looked rather butch but then as he curled his feet around a leg of his chair, he spoke.
Told Harvey of thinking of quitting my job and deciding against. Later we dropped in at the card shop next to Longhouse Books for a look around. Last Friday, the night of the rally, they'd had a window display with a male mannequin in a bath towel, blindfolded, handcuffs dangling from his wrists.
On our way to the Parkside we were joined by a reddish-haired fellow who had worked on Gay News & Views (possibly with my Charlie.) He said several of the lesbians who found themselves on that CBC so-called documentary were surprised and unhappy. Nobody's sure where the footage came from, thought it may have been a Gay Offensive Collective tape from the 1970's that the cable company still had lying around.
A good evening was had at the tavern by the three of us, lots of beer, conversation, jukebox tunes. Harvey eventually phoned his latest amour, J, to see if he could come by. J said he wasn't sure he wanted company but didn't want to put Harvey off. So they flipped a coin and Harvey won. When he came back to the table I told him he was pushing too hard, which he probably realized anyways. So he phoned back and cancelled and J. was much relieved. Harvey was ever so grateful for the good advice and I was ever so pleased at having said something useful. He gave me a kiss on the back of the neck before heading home.
I stuck around for another half hour. We'd had a conversaton about the Parkside being the only place with the feeling of a neighbourhood hangout, a place you could go to talk. But really I seem to be the only person among my friends who goes there regularly anymore and even my time is often ruined by the straight staff.
Afterwords I took a cab to the Barracks. Six or seven people there. Poppers, sex, the usual.
Booked off work.
Went to Queens Park at 6. Raining. About 20 people. Hawkes was talking about various meetings he'd had. He'd spoken with Eggleton, the mayor, and was "impressed" with his concern & sincerity. Really! A man who got elected by deliberately courting the anti-gay vote and Hawkes talks about him that way.
Hawkes also seconded Leckie at the NDP meeting because he thought that Leckie would have a better chance of winning the riding than John, who's a staunch member of our community. He's beginning to seem awfully chummy with all the straight politicians.
They sang their Christian song again tonight but I just stood outside of the circle. It left a very bad taste when I participated in that the first night.
And finally, in the newspapers Hawkes was suggesting Cardinal Carter would make a good conciliator & inquirer into the situation between our community and the cops --- the anti-gay Carter, a leader of that homophobic institution, the Catholic Church, who was so busy kicking Dignity out of a Catholic building at the same time as he was issuing his last inquiry report; a report that contained gratuitous & insulting remarks about the gay community. Two religious figures, an MCC minister and a Catholic cardinal, mediating the gay community's problems with the police is an unappetizing idea. There is simply no mandate for anything like that.
Hawkes seems to be trying to take hold of the issue for himself, playing games with Eggleton & Carter and the likes --- you give me credibility & I'll give you credibility. Whatever his sincerity I've about had it with showing up here.
Fri., Feb. 20/1981
Friday, back to work as usual, where I find myself becoming short and condescending at times, especially when thinking of quitting.
We arrived at Queens Park around 6:20 and there were quite a number of people already, although not as many as it seemed from a distance. Cops were already lined up at the top of the steps, afraid I suppose we were going to try again to break down the Legislature doors. They were complete with badges this time. Long after the rally had started people are still streaming in from the direction of Yonge Street and the subway.. Charlie said they planned to march us down Yonge Street again, which didn't exactly make me jump with joy considering the tension I'd felt all the way through the last march.
Paul MacDonald pointed out a couple of plain clothes cops wearing No More Shit buttons right in the middle of their great big chests. They're so obvious, big burly guys looking like they're ready to brawl. Anyways we looked them in the eyes and it dawned on them they weren't so undercover. As I walked around looking the crowd over, I kept glancing back at them. By the time I pointed them out to Jerry Moldenhauer they'd taken their buttons off. Jerry & friend stood there and laughed at them.
Tony Farebrother asked me if I wanted to hand out leaflets to passers-by on the march. I said I wanted to march. Really, given the ugliness of the last time I didn't want to get my head bashed in --- I'm not particularly fond of violence, thanks. (Little did I know. As it turned out I encountered more of it in the 80's than in any other decade.)
They brought a sound truck up with decent speakers this time. You could actually hear the speeches for a change. The crowd itself was swung over to the right, that being where the speeches were coming from. Probably between two and three thousand people.
A number of them from the straight left. They stood out partly because the groups they were gathered in simply looked heterosexual, partly because they didn't understand a lot of the references that were made, partly because they had that mildly countercultural anti-war look about them. They were slung over to the rear and left of the crowd and I heard them explaining pink triangles to each other. When Brent Hawkes spoke they obviously didn't know who he was or that he was on a hunger strike.
By the time the rally began all those who'd arrived first and picked up placards were way at the front, so there were all these signs, then behind them a huge crowd with nothing to hold. Wally Majesky, president of the Metro Toronto Labour Council spoke first & was effective. I think a lot of the crowd hadn't done anything gay-movement-wise before and it cheered them up and impressed them to have someone representing 180,000 trade unionists show up. Too bad the other 179,999 hadn't come along with him.
But who were we to talk. Although these past two demos are the largest we've ever had, given the size of the gay community there should have been a lot more people out.
An Italian housewife also spoke. Charlie says she came to an RTPC meeting and insisted on speaking. Nobody knows much about her, she appears in fact to be just an Italian housewife. She spoke well and forcefully, with genuineness. She used one phrase along the lines of controlling our bodies which suggested a connection with the women's movement. But nothing else that I could understand suggested where she was coming from.
A couple of women who were forming something called WISH---We're In Support Of Homosexuals, a sort of heteros for homos group, spoke. The whole idea sounded if not sycophantic at least rather self-abasing in some way. CBC kept running through the crowd with cameras & very bright lights.
Brent Hawkes spoke at rather too much length and his references to himself seemed somewhat out of place. He was well received and at least it was good to be finally addressed by another gay person.
Tim McCaskell was MC'ing, and he spoke briefly at the end, giving the march route, College to Yonge, Yonge to Dundas & then to 52. Apparently we only had a sidewalk permit for Yonge. I can't imagine anyone thought that was going to stop us from going down the middle of the street (as it was we only took half the street, traffic kept on northward). He said that everyone was aware there were undercover cops in the crowd who were going to try to start hassles, pretending to be militantly gay and trying to get fights started; it was to be a peaceful demo and such people were to be isolated and the marshals called. The mood of the crowd was good and I felt much better because of it.
It took between 20-30 minutes for the full parade to make it out of Queens Park. I met Jan Grygier and we walked together. Roger Spalding was just ahead of us. About 10 cops brought up the rear, just behind. There was was a bottleneck onto College St. where people had swung out across the Legislature lawns.
Nobody seemed to feel much like chanting at the tail end of the parade though you could hear them going at it up ahead. I missed my whistle.
Jan and I eventually ran on ahead so we were a third of the way up, me getting my lungs working by the time we hit Yonge St. I climbed on a garbage can for a look, straining my back at the same time. It looked like we stretched from College to Dundas, though it was hard to really tell.
Things were fairly peaceful, there was the occasional exchange but all in all we marched and they watched. A fellow in front of me was enjoying what looked like the first opportunity he'd ever had to scream back at the straights. We did Minorities Unite through Chinatown & Fuck You 52 as we came in towards 52. Gay Rights Now got picked whenever people couldn't think of something to say, along with Gays Fight Back. But the chant that people seemed to go at with most gusto was No More Shit. On the whole there didn't seem to be need of much prompting from the marshals, chants starting from all parts of the crowd. I did a back and forth Stop Violence Against Women with a group of women somewhere behind me and threw in a few ululations every now and then. There was a large group of women even further back who were into that.
It had been drizzling since we left Queens Park and the end speeches were made from the high patio of an insurance bldg. kitty corner to 52 Division, where there was at least some shelter.
The crowd seemed slightly smaller but it was probably that the space was larger than the paved area at Queen's Park. Rafe waved to me. I don't remember seeing him at any demo before; and Dennis from the Tyendinaga Reserve who is always in such good spirits said hello. I was surprised to see him because I'd never really talked movement with him and he didn't seem to travel in a crowd that would get out under any circumstances.
Allan Sparrow, former city councillor who'd offered up his seat in the attempt to get George Hislop elected, spoke and was fairly good and not too long. David White, whose wife is a main force behind the Working Group On Police Minority Relations, spoke interminably. I didn't know who it was at first, couldn't see him, but since he was talking in gay accents figured it had to be somebody gay and then thought the voice sounded like George (Hislop). But then I saw George wandering around.
A greeting was read from Allan Ginsberg. His name was greeted with silence. Most people didn't seem to know who he was. But his suggestion that the cops should try the baths, it cleanses the mind, was cheered.
Albert Johnson's widow, whose husband's shooting by police was a cause celebre, spoke and was given a rousing reception. I couldn't understand half of what she said but it didn't seem to matter. Charlie said somebody had given her a speech she couldn't read and she missed great pieces of it, but that part I didn't notice. The straight sections of the crowd had begun to wander but zipped back in when she spoke.
Pat Murphy in her big clear voice said we couldn't depend on other people or the establishment to set things right, which got a good response. But also said we had to be not afraid of violence, of fighting back if we were pushed, which did not get a good response.
Tim McCaskell closed off with a long but good speech incorporating all the things other people had said about uniting with other minorities, and going into the politicization of the police force and their degeneration into a goon squad. It was well shaped and well phrased.
He ended off reminding people not to leave alone but in groups, to avoid being attacked---something you don't hear at the end of a straight political rally. Earlier he'd said there was something happening at the edge of the crowd and for people not to get into it. The papers said a fight had started and gay people had objected when the cops used it as an excuse to jump in, and they were in turn arrested. From what was learned later it seems likely some sort of ruckus was started by undercover cops and the people arrested were attempting to stop it.
Monday, Feb.23/ 1981
Went to Czech movie, Magicians Of The Silver Screen, and then Broadview Park afterward. No one around until finally one man. Took long time to make contact. I had to be somewhat gross before he got the nerve to walk up to me.
Married man, wasn't interested in sex or at least the conversation got going & squelched that end of it. Had just been arguing with his wife about bills for keeping her horse! We went for a coffee to a Greek shishkebab place. Ended up giving him a talk on the gay movement. He'd never heard of pink triangles though he works with a lot of gay people & has gay friends. Tried to blame it all on us for not standing up for our rights, told of growing up in Halifax and a game they had played driving through black section of town --- "swat the coon" in which you whacked black people with a broomstick as you drove by and if you lost the broom you had to retrieve it by yourself. This act of retrieving, standing on your own so to speak, supposedly was a learning experience. Undoubtedly.
I talked about the baths and the legal manipulations around bawdy house laws; the baths rising out of a culture forced underground & evolving from that into a social institution of our own. Don't think I did a very good job, but it had been a long day.
Tues., Feb. 24/81
Went down to Board of Education Bldg. on College around 6:30 for school board meeting which was to reconsider its non-discrimination policy. John Wilson was standing outside leafletting.
This is of course just a part of what had happened up to this point. For instance I didn't write about the huge organizing meeting at Jarvis Collegiate a few days after the raids. Over a thousand people attending, reporters identified and kicked out, sub-groups formed. Further along there was another immense meeting at St. Lawrence Hall, Margaret Atwood among the speakers, her dry wit greeted with laughter and cheers. There were city council battles, newspaper headlines, photos of plainclothes police agent provocateurs etc etc.
The police had the temerity to raid more baths in June. And again that was followed by a huge demonstration, this one heading up Yonge St. towards Bloor.
The march itself was peaceful but afterwards a gang of young drunks tried to attack people as they dispersed. The attackers were chased and cornered by an angry crowd but were rescued by the now reappearing police --- who eventually turned on the demonstrators and went after them quite viciouly, thus finally releasing their own anger.
As a grace note to the year, among the many things still to come was the revival in 1981 of the Pride celebrations that had taken place in Toronto in the 1970's.
And finally. April, 1983, the police raid the Back Door Baths. A daylight protest follows, a big one, yet again beginning at Yonge & Wellesley. Again we took over Yonge St., wanting to head north towards Bloor. All of a sudden a line of cops is thrown up in front of us, trying to keep us from proceeding any further than however far we'd gone, The Gasworks I think.
Charlie called out for everyone to sit down. I remember this quite clearly because I thought at the time good for him, a tactic from the far past remembered and put into motion. After a bit of hesitation the call was picked up and the marshals gave the order. As the demonstration dropped to the pavement, I kept my eye on a young cop in the line that blocked Yonge. He was glaring at us, going up and down on his toes, his billy club out as he smacked it again and again against his gloved hand. It was obvious he was itching to wade in and bash a few heads.
But we'd made the choice clear to all. Either they were going to let us pass or they were going to have to drag us away. A senior officer soon came along and pulled the young out-of-control cop out of the lineup. After a few minutes of looking us over the line of uniforms made its choice and stepped aside --- and we marched on. While the battles of the 1970's could be lonely ones at times, whatever else those in later years added up to they finally had the weight of an empowered people behind them.