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People and organizations

The Woman's Common of Metropolitan Toronto

  • Corporate body
  • 1985- 1994

The Woman’s Common of Metropolitan Toronto was a non-profit, private women’s club that was owned and operated by women. The club’s mandate was driven by its goal to offer a meeting place for lesbian and straight women in Toronto. The Woman’s Common was founded in 1985 by a small
group of women who would eventually become the club’s first Board of Directors. After years of planning and fundraising, a building was purchased at 580 Parliament Street in February 1988. The space was renovated and doors opened on June 25, 1988. Money was raised with the help of its 200 charter members who invested a minimum of $1000. Another 250 women purchased $100 memberships. When the building was purchased, the club had raised $300,000.

The Woman’s Common was designed to provide a safe space free of harassment free and fears of being eviction. The Woman’s Common operated a restaurant and bar, and would regularly
organize events, including dances, singles’ nights, exhibits, games nights, mom and tots events,
workshops, live performances, film screenings, art exhibits and comedy shows. Membership was made available to women. At its height, the club had 1600 paying members, but that number dwindled down to a few hundred.

Structurally, the Woman’s Club was overseen by its Board of Directors, all of whom were responsible for different committees or areas of the club. The restaurant was managed by the general manager who reported to the Board. Volunteers would sit on the various committees, which included the art, finance, fundraising, membership, policy & member relations, marketing, long range marketing, special events, entertainment, mom’n tots, disability, mailings, newsletter, film & speakers, literary club and programming.

In April 1994, The Woman’s Common closed its doors after 9 tumultuous years. Throughout much of the club’s history, it dealt with criticisms over its exclusivity and its lack of diversity. Some critics viewed it as a social club for middle class white lesbians. Although attempts were made to reach out to women of colour, and to structure its memberships fees to make the club financially accessible to all women, membership remained largely white.

William Atkinson

  • Person
  • 1916- 2000

William Aktinson was born on February 26th, 1916 to William and Margaret Ethel Atkinson in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. At the age of 14 Atkinson left school and took a job as an office-boy. At the age of 16, Atkinson joined the merchant service as an apprentice with F. Carrick & Co LTD of the Medensleigh Steamship Company. He was at sea for 4 years, during this time he completed his second mates foreign going certificate.

In October 1938, Atkinson began his service with the Royal Naval Reserve as a sub lieutenant. In 1942, Atkinson was appointed to commission and command the HMS “Manitoulin” which was being built in Ontario. He stayed in Canada for a year serving with the Royal Canadian Navy, until he was recalled to England for another command. While residing in Canada, he completed his Masters Foreign Going Certificate. In 1944, Atkinson applied for a transfer to the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, which was rejected on the basis that he was not a Canadian citizen. In 1945, he was promoted to the rank of acting Lieutenant Commander with the Royal Navy. In 1946, Atkinson made a second request to transfer to the Royal Candian Navy Reserve, which was once again denied. It was recommended to him to reapply once he had officially immigrated to Canada. In 1947, Atkinson retired from the Royal Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Atkinson immigrated to Canada in 1948 with hopes of joining the active list of the Royal Canadian Navy. He arrived in Montreal and presented himself before the Royal Canadian Navy authorities, but due to the decline of naval jobs during the postwar period, he was added to the retired list of the HMCS “York”. During this time, Atkinson was forced to seek out employment alternatives. Atkinson found job as a Night Manager of Childs Restaurant, located on 238 Yonge Street, Toronto. He supplemented his income by writing short stories for magazines, and delivered a 3 part broadcast entitled the “Emigrant’s Report” for the BBC Toronto Office. In March 1950, Atksinson left Childs Restaurant for the position of Resident Manager at the Glen Gordon Manor Inn in Blenheim, Ontario.

In 1951, Atkinson requested to be transferred to the RCNR’s active list through an application for a short service appointment. He was granted the role of Area Recruiting and Public Relations Officer for Western Ontario on the HMCS “Hunter”. This appointment was followed by a similar role in British Columbia on the HMCS “Discovery”. From 1954 to 1955, Atkinson completed the Junior Officer’s Technical and Leadership Course on the HMCS Stadacona, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was later appointed as First Lieutenant Commander of the HMCS “Quebec”. In 1956, Atkinson was dispatched to Vietnam and served as a Naval Advisor to the Canadian Delegation to the International Truce Commission.

In 1958, Atkinson returned to Canada, where he served as a Staff Officer in Ottawa. At this time, the Navy and the RCMP had begun its targeting of gay officers and recruits. After being subjected to RCMP and Canadian Naval Intelligence interrogations over the span of 10 months, Atkinson was given the option to be fired or to resign “voluntarily”. Atkinson submitted his resignation and was “Honourably Discharged” with the position of Lieutenant Commander in November 21, 1959. Atkinson would have qualified for a full pension on August 1, 1961, if he had been allowed to complete his ten years of service.

Following his forced resignation from the Royal Canadian Navy, Atkinson returned to the hospitality business. He managed a number of golf clubs in Quebec and Ontario. These clubs included the Kanawaki Golf Course, the York Downs Country Club, the Islington Golf Club, and the Brampton Golf Club. From 1961 to 1965, Atksinson owned a coin laundry service company called the “Coin Wash Limited”, located at 730 Charlevoix Street, Montreal. Atkinson spent a short period of time working at the Southern Palms Hotel located in Barbados from 1969 to 1970. He supplemented his income with acting and modelling which lasted until the 1990s, and was featured in commercials and shows, from a Bell Telephone Commercial, La Femme d’Aujourd’hui, Night Heat, and the Littlest Hobo.

Atkinson served as the President of the Sprucewood Court Condos located in Agincourt, Ontario, where he resided for over 15 years. In 1988, Atkinson moved to 19 Maple Street, Ajax, Ontario, where he lived until his death on January 17th, 2000.

Throughout his life, Atkinson had an interest in writing. From 1939 to 1946, he was enrolled in the London School of Journalism’s Short Stories’ Writer’s Program, which conducted its courses via correspondence. Atkinson submitted a number of works of fiction and non-fiction to various publications. This included a piece that was submitted to The Reader’s Digest and The Body Politic, that dealt with his interrogation and forced resignation from the Royal Canadian Navy.

In 1991, Atkinson made a request for his military personnel records from the National Archives of Canada under the Privacy Act. This search yielded a number files relating to his service, performance, medical, and dental records. However, the search did not result in any records from the RCMP or Canadian Naval Intelligence interrogations that pertained to his sexuality, which he was subjected to for 10 months.

Videofag

  • Corporate body
  • 2012- 2016

Videofag (2012-2016) was arts space located in a storefront in Toronto, Ontario’s Kensington Market. It was operated by Jordan Tannahill (1988-) and William Ellis, a couple who converted the former barbershop into both a home and arts space. Videofag made a name for itself as a venue for queer counterculture and was used as a cinema, art gallery, nightclub, or theatre space, depending on the event. It also provided residency to artists including performance artist Michael Dudeck, visual artist Sojourner Truth-Parsons, and theatre creator Stewart Legere. It also assisted in both developing and premiering shows. These include Sheila Heti’s All Our Happy Days are Stupid which subsequently played at the Harbourfront Centre and The Kitchen in New York City. It held poetry readings by Bill Bisset, exhibitions of work by artists such as Keith Cole and R. M. Vaughan, performances by Karen Hines and Nina Arsenault among others. It collaborated with other institutions to co-present events such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, Buddies in Bad Time Theatre, and the Inside Out Film and Video Festival. The space was closed following the break-up of Jordan Tannahill and William Ellis. In 2017 Bookthug released The Videofag Book, edited by Jordan Tannahill and William Ellis, which chronicles the space in a collection of essays, photos, scripts and reflections.

University of Toronto Homophile Association

  • Corporate body
  • 1969- 1973

Established in 1969, the University of Toronto Homophile Association served as Canada’s first university- based homophile association. On October 15, 1969, Jearald Moldenhauer, one of the UTHA’s founding members, placed a personal advertisement in the University’s paper The Varsity, seeking “those interested in discussing the establishment of a student homophile association”. On October 24, 1969, 8 University of Toronto students and members of the public met at Moldenhauer’s McCaul Street apartment for the Association’s first meeting. The UTHA’s first official public gathering was held on November 4, 1969 at University College. Within a month, the UTHA registered under the University of Toronto’s Student Administrative Council and became an official student organization. The Association’s office was located at 12 Hart House Circle. The UTHA’s initial membership was 18, which increased to 45 by the end of 1969. A membership costed $3 per calendar year. Some of the group’s earliest members included Jearald Moldenhauer, Bill McRay, Ian Young, Charles Hill and Disa Rosen. Charles Hill was appointed as the UTHA’s first chairman, who was then followed by Ian Young.

The University of Toronto Homophile Association’s mandate centered around educating the community about homosexuality, combatting legal discrimination against homosexuality, and bringing about social and personal acceptance towards homosexuality. The Association's work included weekly discussion groups, public forums with invited guests, high school speaking engagements, an informal counselling service, research, political advocacy and referral services.

As a part of their education and outreach efforts, the UTHA provided resources through UTHA literature, brochures and bibliographies. The Association regularly set a table up in the free speech area of the University of Toronto’s Sidney Smith Hall, where material was distributed, books were sold and questions answered. Weekly discussion meetings were organized to discuss a variety of topics from sexuality and gay liberation, which were held at the upstairs lounge of the Graduate Student Union. The UTHA also organized talks given by guests including: Dr. Franklin Kameny, the President of the Washington Mattachine Society, English Buddhist philosopher Scott Symons, D.E. Harding, Dr. Persasd of the Ontario Department of Health and playwright John Herbert. Members of the Association also gave talks on homosexuality to student groups, high schools and more. The UTHA offered informal counselling services run by volunteers, which would deal with personal, psychological, religious, social and legal questions. UTHA Dances on and off campus were organized regularly.

In efforts to combat legal discrimination, the UTHA was involved in political advocacy and research projects on a variety of issues. The Association prepared and submitted a number of briefs to the Federal and Provincial governments, on the Immigration Act, the War Measures Act, the Criminal Code and lobbied for the protection of homosexuals in the Federal and Provincial Public Service. The UTHA also conducted and participated in research projects, including one that examined religious groups’ attitudes towards homosexuality and the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry’s study on male homosexuality in Toronto. Additionally, the UTHA worked on getting the Ontario Ministry of Health’s venereal disease pamphlet revised.

Soon after its founding, members of the UTHA became aware of the group’s wider appeal and interest amongst members of the general public. The need for a community group eventually led to the founding of the Community Homophile Association of Toronto in 1971, which was spearheaded by members of the UTHA, including Charles Hill. The UTHA disbanded in 1973.

Supporting Our Youth

  • Corporate body
  • 1997-

Supporting Our Youth (1997-), otherwise referred to as SOY, started as a project by the Coalition for Services for Lesbian and Gay Youth in 1997. The Coalition, formed in 1991, was created to provide accessible services for youth and advocate on their behalf. It operated out the Central Toronto Youth Services (CTYS). SOY came to be an initiative as a result of the 1995 Other Young Lives Conference as well as the 1996 Other Young Lives Conference II. Both conferences convened to discuss pertinent issues facing LGBTQ youth with the former being Toronto-based and the latter extending province-wide. It was evident at these dicussions that marginalized LGBTQ youth in the Greater Toronto Area needed a support system focused on outreach and mentorship. Following the 1996 conference, the Coalition and its volunteers submitted a funding proposal to the Ontario Ministry of Health’s AIDS Bureau for purposes of needs assessment and feasibility study. The Coalition held forums, interviews, and focus groups of adult and youth stakeholders. The scale of the project grew and SOY applied to the Trillium Foundation for further funding to facilitate an initiative rooted in outreach and mentorship. Between the years of 1997 and 2000, the Coalition functioned as the sponsoring organization of SOY in spite of SOY being run by its own advisory committee. The Coalition dissolved in May 2000, but SOY remained housed at CTYS until 2004 and was managed as part of CTYS. Additionally, SOY absorbed the Bill 7 Trust Award in October 2000, which was focused on giving access to post-secondary education through scholarships for LGBTQ youth.

Stewart Hamilton

  • Person
  • 1930- 2017

Stewart Hamilton was born in Regina, Saskatchewan to Florence Hamilton (née Stuart; 1893-1983) and James Shire Hamilton (1897-1954). His mother was from North Dakota and worked as a nurse (she later remarried under the surname Twiss), and his father, James Shire Hamilton, was from Galt, Ontario, and worked as a corporate lawyer. They had five children: Peter, Dorothy, Douglas, Stewart and Patricia (Patsy). Stewart went to Davin Public Elementary School and attended and graduated high school at Regina Collegiate which later renamed Central Collegiate Institute. His first musical training was in the Lakeview Boys Choir in Regina, under the direction of Kay Hayworth. In 1943, his parents agreed to send him to piano lessons with Martha Somerville Allan. In 1946, when Hamilton's parents moved to Saskatoon, he decided to stay in Regina to continue his lessons, moving into an apartment with Mrs. Annie Hailstone, a dress-maker. Hamilton moved to Toronto in 1947 to join his sister Dorothy Marshall (née Hamilton), who was pursuing her own singing career. He began his piano performance studies at The Royal Conservatory of Music with the Chilean-Canadian composer, pianist, and teacher Alberto Guerrero. In 1948, to help support his studies, he worked as a uniformed usher at Eaton Auditorium, Canada's premier concert stage. This job allowed him to see many performances of The Eaton Auditorium concert series. He also coached singers on the side for twenty-five cents an hour. In 1950 he earned certification as an Associate of The Royal Conservatory of Music (ARCT).
Hamilton spent much of his time in the 1950s involved in the Toronto classical music scene. These seminal years laid much of the ground for his future career in Canadian music. He started frequenting performances and social events of The Royal Conservatory Opera (later known as the Canadian Opera Company) with Herman Geiger-Torel, Nicholas Goldschmidt, and Arnold Walter.
Hamilton accepted an offer from soprano June Kowalchuck, founder of Opera Hamilton, to become the chorus director, rehearsal pianist, and occasional conductor for the Royal Conservatory Opera School, which he held for five years. He accepted his first position as a voice teacher at the local Music Conservatory in Hamilton and spent the rest of his time in Toronto, coaching Elizabeth Benson Guy, Maureen Forrester, and Lois Marshall, as well as accompanying Greta Kraus's lieder classes.
In 1967, he took up a significant technical and musical challenge by accepting the role of pianist and singer in a production of Beyond the Fringe. The show was performed in Buffalo, New York for six weeks, in Toronto for six months, and he later toured across Eastern Canada. During afternoons and off days, Hamilton practiced for his New York City Town Hall piano recital. After a second New York recital in 1968, and a third one in London's Wigmore Hall in 1971, Hamilton decided not to further pursue a concert career and concentrated his efforts on the Toronto classical music scene.
In 1974, Hamilton initiated the annual Opera in Concert series at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto, acting as artistic director, producer, and accompanist. Hamilton was the first Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble and in 1981 he relinquished the position, to act as Lois Marshall's accompanist on her farewell recital tour.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Hamilton was in regular demand as an adjudicator for competitions such as the CBC Young Performers' Competition, Opera America Auditions, the Sullivan Foundation Awards, the Oralia Dominquez Competition (in Mexico), and the George London Foundation Awards
In 1984 he was made a member of the Order of Canada and in 1989 he won the Toronto Arts Award in the Performing Arts Category. In recognition of his significant contributions to performing arts in Canada, he received the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada in 1992.
In 1981, he became the host of the opera quiz on the CBC's Saturday Afternoon at the Opera April–December broadcasts. From 1982-2007 Hamilton worked as the Quiz Master on CBC's weekly Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, as well as appearing regularly as a panelist, and occasionally guest quiz master, on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts in New York City. Hamilton's last Opera Quiz for Saturday Afternoon at the Opera was in the fall of 2007.
In 2000, Opera Canada Magazine awarded him the first Ruby award and in 2004, he was awarded the Beckmesser Award from the Los Angeles Opera League. He received an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) in 2008 from Dalhousie University. Hamilton continued to teach opera repertoire and diction at the University of Toronto and maintained a full coaching schedule and devoted time to master classes across Canada.
His autobiography Opening Windows was published by Dundurn Press in the fall of 2012 and the same year he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Stewart died on January 1, 2017 after a battle with prostate cancer.

Society for Political Action for Gay People

  • Corporate body
  • 1978- 1982

The Society for Political Action for Gay People (SPAG), also formerly known as The Society for Political Action for Gays, was an organized gay civil rights group established on October 1978 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since 1981, SPAG worked with the British Columbia Human Rights Commission to get sexual orientation into the Human Rights Code, lobbied for changes in the Federal Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. They also worked with other organizations to help build the Vancouver gay community and became registered under the British Columbia Societies Act. SPAG dissolved on December 31st, 1982.

Sidney Hugh Godolphin Osborne

  • Person
  • 1887- 1958

Sidney Hugh Godolphin Osborne (1887-1958) was born in London, England on December 28, 1887, the son of Sidney Francis Godolphin Osborne and Margaret Dulcibella (Hammersley) Osborne. Sidney’s brother was Francis D'Arcy Godolphin Osborne, 12th Duke of Leeds, KCMG. Sidney lived openly with men with whom he was romantically involved. Perhaps due to this, he was persuaded to immigrate to Canada as a young man (year unknown). His estate was located outside Niagara Falls, Ontario. Sidney travelled frequently to the United States. He was killed in a car accident on the Queen Elizabeth Expressway on October 9, 1958. The name(s) of his companion(s) have not survived, though the donor's mother knew the last one well.

Raj, Rupert

  • Person
  • 1952-

Rupert Raj (1952-) is a Eurasian (East Indian and Polish) pansexual trans man who came out in 1971 in the queer community of Ottawa as a bi-sexual trans man. He provided peer-counselling, research and education for transsexual and transvestite men and women and their significant others, as well as for the medical/health communities of Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto between 1971-1990, and later, from 1999 to 2015. He founded several trans organizations: 1) Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals (FACT) (1978-1986); 2) Metamorphosis Counselling Services (1982-1983) (which morphed into Metamorphosis Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) (1983-1988)); 3) Gender Worker-cum-Gender Consultants (1988-1990), which changed its name in 1989 to Gender Consultants, with his wife Michelle Raj-Gauthier as partner; closed in 1990), 4) the Trans Men/FTM Peer-Support Group (1999-), 5) the Thursday Night Group (2000), 6) the Trans (Health) Lobby Group (2001-), and 7) TransFormations (2003-2004). He also co-led the Gender Journeys group from 2006 to 2013. He also founded three transsexual periodicals: 1) Gender Review: the FACTual Journal (1978-1981); 2) Metamorphosis newsletter-cum-Metamorphosis Magazine (1982-1988); and 3) Gender NetWorker (2 issues, 1988). Rupert worked at Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto from 2002 to 2015 as a psychotherapist and gender consultant in its LGBT Program, and also had a part-time private practice (RR Consulting).

In the first newsletter for FACT, Nick Ghosh writes that he was born in Ottawa in 1952, the second oldest of five siblings, and was raised Roman Catholic but subsequently became atheist. He lists a number of jobs he has held, including: landscaper, hotel clerk, encyclopedia salesman, medical research assistant, security officer, librarian, caterer, cab-driver. He graduated with a BA in Psychology in 1975, and an MA in Counseling Psychology in 2001. Raj’s given surname was Ghosh. He changed his name first to Nicholas and then changed both names to Rupert Raj. The name "Rupert was inspired by his childhood teddy, Rupert the Bear. Raj chose a new surname because he sought a “measure of protective anonymity” when he went “high profile” in the course of his trans advocacy. He chose "Raj" (East Indian king) to reflect his South Asian ethnic heritage.

He had male chest-construction surgery in Yonkers, NY in 1972, a pan-hysterectomy in Calgary in 1978 and a metoidioplasty ("bottom" surgery) in Montreal in 2012. In May of 1988, Raj closed out Metamorphosis due to “two years of chronic burn out”; the magazine also ended at this time. In July 1990, Raj phased out Gender Consultants due to “personal and professional” reasons.

In January 1978, while living in Calgary, Raj founded F.A.C.T: the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals (F.A.C.T) as a lobbying and educational organization on behalf of trans people, with Raj as founding Director, Kyle J. Spooner as Associate Director, and Chris E. Black as Secretary Treasurer. On July 1, 1979, Raj moved the organization’s “head office” from Calgary to Toronto, while various colleagues participated from Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener and London, ON. As of April 1980, F.A.C.T. was under the management of Susan Huxford and the HQ moved to Rexdale, ON, while Raj remained involved in various capacities, including editor of Gender Review (until December 1981). (At some point between 1981 and 1986, Huxford changed the name of the organization to the Federation of American and Canadian Transsexuals (F.A.C.T.). Raj was the Toronto Liaison Officer for F.A.C.T from 1985-1987, while running the Metamorphosis Medical Research Foundation (M.M.R.F.). After Raj moved to Toronto and began his publication Metamorphosis (in February 1982), he relinquished his role in publishing Gender Review.

Metamorphosis was founded by Raj in February 1982 as a bi-monthly newsletter "Exclusively for F-M men” (with an intended readership among their families, wives/girlfriends, as well as professionals and “para-professionals interested in female TSism”); the newsletter presents a more specific focus than FACT’s broader activist mandate. By the third issue, the newsletter averaged around 8 pages, whereas in 1986, most issues were 24 pages. The last issue was in 1988.

Gender Worker was a counselling/consulting service for transsexuals and transvestites and their partners and family members founded by Raj in 1988 (and soon after renamed "Gender Consultants" to include his then new wife, a trans woman named "Marg" [a pseudonym] Gauthier, as a co-consultant). (Rupert joined their surnames, becoming "Raj-Gauthier," until they split in late 1997). The two issues of the Gender NetWorker newsletter appeared in June-July 1988 and August-September 1988. This publication was directed specifically towards “helping professionals and resource providers.” Raj wrote that he wanted to facilitate a communication network between professional (mostly cisgender [non-trans]) and lay (transsexual/transvestite/transgender) providers, to bring together trans people and the medical and health professionals who worked with trans populations. Some decades later, Rupert became a (mental health) professional himself, and also a published author. He (co-)wrote five trans-focussed clinical research papers for scholarly journals (and elsewhere) and six trans-themed book chapters, and (co-)edited two book anthologies: Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader (with Dan Irving, PhD) (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2014), and Of Souls & Roles, Of Sex & Gender: A Treasury of Transsexual, Transgenderist & Transvestic Verse from 1967 to 1991 (unpublished manuscript, 2017, revised 2018) (free PDF accessible online via the Transgender Archives and the Digital Transgender Archive websites). In August 2017, he self-published the first edition of his memoir (Dancing The Dialectic: True Tales of A Transgender Trailblazer) through Amazon. The second (revised) edition is due in early 2020 through Transgender Publishing (www.transgenderpublishing.ca).

Nancy Nicol

Nancy Nicol (Professor Emeritus, School of Media, Arts and Performance, York University) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work is grounded in the tradition of artist as activist, probing issues of human rights, social justice and struggles for social change. Nicol’s research, writing and creative projects include video art and documentary as well as critical writing in LGBTIQ+ human rights and social movements in Canada and internationally. Nicol’s works are screened widely in national and international festivals, human rights conferences and community-based organizations. From 2011 to 2016, Nicol led a large international research and participatory documentary project: Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada SSHRC. A partnership of mutual learning the project brought together 31 community-based partners based in Canada, Africa, the Caribbean and India. Employing participatory documentary, participatory action research and legal research and analysis, Envisioning researched, documented and analyzed criminalization and human rights violations, contemporary movements to resist to criminalization and advance LGBTIQ+ liberation and rights in the Commonwealth, as well as issues faced by LGBTIQ asylum seekers in Canada.
Between 1979 and 2010 Nicol created over 30 films; and from 2011 to 2016, she produced and directed and/or contributed to an additional 60 feature-length documentaries and video shorts as part of the Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights project. Recent documentaries include: Sangini (2016, directed by Nicol, Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights in partnership with Sangini, a shelter for LBT people in Delhi); And Still We Rise, (2015, directed by Lusimbo and Nicol, Sexual Minorities Uganda and Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights), a moving documentary on resistance to the Anti-Homosexual Act (AHA) in Uganda; No Easy Walk To Freedom (2014, directed by Nicol in partnership with Naz Foundation India Trust, Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights) on the struggle to decriminalize ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ in India; The Time Has Come / Ha Llegado El Momento / Le Moment Est Arrivé (2013, produced by Nicol, Vance, Fisher, Kara; directed by Vance, Fisher and Kara, ARC International and Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights) features LGBT human rights defenders from around the world on ways to strengthen protections under the historic United Nations resolution that recognized sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination in 2011; and Telling Our Stories: 36 video portraits created by Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights partners in the Caribbean, Africa and India, edited by Nicol and Siirala; premiered at Imagining Home: Resistance, Migration, Contradiction, curated by Karen Stansworth, Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, June - October 2014.
Nancy Nicol is a frequent contributor to international conferences in the areas of LGBT human rights, social movements, and art and activism. Nicol’s recent scholarly publications include: forthcoming (2017) book: Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights: (Neo)colonialism, Neoliberalism, Resistance and Hope, Nicol, Jjuuko, Lusimbo, Mulé, Ursel, Wahab and Waugh, (eds.) University of London, UK; “Envisioning LGBT Refugee Rights in Canada: Is Canada A Safe Haven?” (2015) a research report written by Gamble, Mulé, Nicol, Waugh, Jordan, and Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; “Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights: Strategic alliances to advance knowledge and social change”, (2014) by Nicol, Gates-Gasse and Mulé, Scholarly and Research Communication, Special Issue: Community-Based Participatory Research, Vol. 5, No 3; “Sexual Rights and the LGBTI movement in Botswana”, (2013) by Monica Tabengwa and Nancy Nicol, in: Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, Corinne Lennox and Matthew Waites (eds.) London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, London, UK. Earlier publications include: “Politics of the Heart: recognition of homoparental families”, (2009) in Who’s Your Daddy? And Other Writings on Queer Parenting, ed. Rachel Epstein, Sumac Press; “Legal Struggles and Political Resistance: Same-Sex Marriage in Canada and the U.S” co-written by Miriam Smith and Nancy Nicol, Sexualities Vol 11, Issue 6 (Sage Publications, December 2008, pp.667-687); and “Politics of the Heart: recognition of homoparental families”, (2008) Florida Philosophical Review: Journal of the Florida Philosophical Association, Vol 8, issue 1 (University of Central Florida Department of Philosophy.
Other documentaries on queer histories by Nicol include: Dykes Planning Tykes: Queering the Family Tree (2011, directed by Nancy Nicol and M. J. Daniel) on the groundbreaking family planning course for lesbians and queer identified women in Toronto; and One Summer in New Paltz: A Cautionary Tale (2008), on the civil disobedience same-sex marriage movement in the USA. In 2009, Nicol completed her award-winning series From Criminality to Equality on the history of lesbian and gay rights organizing in Canada from 1969 to 2009 which includes the films Stand Together (124 min. 2002), The Queer Nineties (90 min. 2009), Politics of the Heart (68 min. 2005) and The End of Second Class (90 min. 2006). Her work on lesbian and gay history also includes a number of shorts: Pride and Resistance, and Proud Lives. This body of work has received a number of honours including: short-listed for the Derek Oyston CHE Film Prize, 23rd London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, London, UK; Elle Flanders Award for Best Documentary, Inside Out, Toronto, 2007 and 2006; Honourable Mention for Best Canadian Female Director in the shorts category, Inside Out, 2007; the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary, Image + Nation, Montréal, 2006; the Audience Choice Award, Making Scenes, Ottawa, 2002 and the John Bailey Completion Award, Inside Out, 2002. Nicol’s films, including earlier works from the 1980s, are available at Vtape.

Mirha- Soleil Ross

  • Person

Mirha-Soleil Ross is a transsexual artist, activist, and sex worker best known for her video and performance art, and her role as editor of the zine GenderTrash from Hell.
Ross was born in and spent her childhood in a working class francophone neighborhood of Montréal. In the late eighties, she attended Université du Québec à Montréal for theatre studies, and began working in the sex industry under the names Jeanne B and Janou. She began documenting her experiences in sex work with video diaries at this time, and it is from this period that her first extant film, “Adventures in Tucking with Jeanne B,” originates.
Ross moved to Toronto in the early nineties, by which time she was living and working openly as a transsexual woman. Before long, Ross and her partner Xanthra Phillipa MacKay began a period of intense activism and artistic output motivated by their experiences as trans women. This included the publication of four issues of GenderTrash From Hell -- a fiercely political zine that championed the rights of multiply marginalized groups like trans sex workers and trans prisoners and often included explicitly sexual creative work submitted by trans people -- as well as the documentary film “Gender Troublemakers.” Through the latter part of the nineties, Ross continued her work in film and performance, often in collaboration with her partner Mark Karbusicky. With support from Karbusicky and Mackay, Ross produced the first Counting Past Two film festival in 1997 in order to feature films and other creative work by transsexual and transgendered people.
In 1997 Ross also founded and served as the first coordinator for MEAL-TRANS at the 519 Community Centre, a “social services program for low income and street-active transsexual and transgendered people” which included a weekly drop-in vegan meal (Vegan Voice 10). While all of her creative work generally addresses some aspects of trans experience, some of her films also serve a more clearly educational goal, such as “Madame Lauraine's Transsexual Touch” (2001) -- a sexually explicit film produced in collaboration with Viviane Namaste and Monica Forrester in order to educate the clients of trans sex workers on safer sex practices.
As longtime vegan, Ross’s dedication to animal rights influences the entirety of her oeuvre, but is particularly visible in films such as “G-SPrOuT” (2000), the film/performance piece “Yapping Out Loud” (2002) and her work hosting the “Animal Voices” radio program on CIUT 89.5. When Ross was given the position of Grand Marshall in the 2002 Toronto Pride Parade, she used the opportunity to celebrate the previous 20 years of actions by the Animal Liberation Front (Vegan Voice 10), as documented in her film “Proud Lives.”
Ross returned to the Montreal, Quebec, area in 2008, where she continues to reside.

McMaster Homophile Association

  • Corporate body
  • 1973- 1977

The McMaster Homophile Association (MHA), referred to in some documents as the Hamilton-McMaster Homophile Association and the Hamilton-McMaster Gay Liberation Movement, was a student group based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The MHA was established in 1973 following a campus visit by George Hislop the previous year. The McMaster Homophile Association maintained a library, published a newsletter, hosted speakers, operated a crisis phone line, and organized dances and other events. The MHA was associated with (and its membership overlapped with) the Congeniality Social Club of Hamilton, a disco that also put on shows with go-go boys and drag performers. In September 1977, Dr. Shane S. Que Hee resigned from his position as Secretary/Treasurer of the McMaster Homophile Association, and the group subsequently disbanded.

Khush: South Asian Gay Men of Toronto

  • Corporate body
  • 1987- present

Khush: South Asian Gay Men of Toronto was founded in 1987. The group was first named South Asian Gay Association (SAGA) and was changed to Khush as they extended their membership to include both men and women. In 1989, Khush founded ‘Khush Khayal’, the first South Asian gay newsletter in Canada that was distributed nationally and internationally. They also produced a monthly community calendar of events called ‘Chhota Khayal’ that ran until 1993 and ‘Avec Pyar’, a quarterly zine, in 1996. Khush was a founding member of the South Asian Inter-agency Network which is now the Coalition of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), an advocacy group aimed at improving social services for South Asians in Toronto. Khush also founded the South Asian AIDS Coalition (Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention) which was the first initiative in Canada to address HIV/AIDS issues in South Asian communities. In 1993, Khush founded ‘Ahimsa’ – South Asian Men Against Violence (against women and children) in collaboration with the Coalition of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA). The organization ran a variety of queer South Asian community events such as ‘Salaam! Toronto’, a programme that celebrated diasporic South Asian gay and lesbian cultures and identities in 1989, ‘Desh Pardesh’, an annual festival that highlighted the art, culture, and politics of diasporic South Asians in the West which first began in 1990, and ‘Discovery ‘93’, the first International South Asian Gay Men’s Conference. In 1997, Khush changed its subtitle to ‘Queer South Asians’ to be more inclusive of all sexualities and reflect its diverse membership. (See Appendix A in Finding Aid for history of Khush)

Kathleen Brindley

  • Person
  • 1942- 2007

Kathleen Brindley was born in 1942 in Gary, Indiana, U.S. She worked in advertising in Indianapolis through the 1960s. In 1970, Brindley emigrated to Ontario, where she remained for the rest of her life, living in several towns until eventually settling in Toronto. Brindley was very involved in Toronto’s queer community from the 1970s until her death, appearing on a 1972 CBC special, All About Women, that was censored before it could air, in part because of its discussion of homosexuality. She was a passionate grassroots activist with an interest in queer visibility, anti-racism movements, and community-based harm reduction work. She was also an artist who frequently exhibited in Toronto’s first commercial queer art gallery, the O’Connor, as well as operating her own gallery, Artcetera. Brindley was an avid biker and belonged to the Amazons, an all-female motorcycle club.

James Egan

  • Person
  • 1982- 2000

For a complete biographical sketch see Challenging the Conspiracy of Silence: My Life as a Canadian Gay Activist by Jim Egan ed. Don McLeod, where this summary draws from. Additionally, Jim Egan: Canada's pioneer gay activist, writings of Jim Egan compiled and introduced by Robert Champagne

James Leo Egan was born in Toronto September 14, 1921 on St. George Street to Nellie (Josephine) Engle and James Egan, completing the family was Charles Egan, who was 14 months younger than James and also gay. Egan did not complete high school, instead worked on family farms around Peterborough. His army application was rejected in 1939 due to a corneal scar from a piece of glass he got in a car crash, and his choice to not have it removed by doctors which would have made him eligible. Instead he worked as a technician in the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto. Other zoology and medicine assistant jobs followed. In 1943 Egan joined the Merchant Navy as a seaman, a stint that lasted until 1947.

Egan met John “Jack” Nesbit in the summer of 1948, around this time Egan came out to his mother (his father died when he was thirteen). She had no issue with his sexuality, treating Nesbit as another son. Egan moved into Nesbit’s apartment at 164 Cumberland Street within weeks of meeting. While living there Nesbit took a hairstyling course, and then managed his own business. Egan was offered a job from someone he had met at U of T to assist with a biological specimens business. The couple moved to Oak Ridges (Richmond Hill), into the house that came with this job.

Between 1949 and 1951 Egan wrote letters to Coronet, Ladies Home Journal, Esquire, Parents’ Magazine, Redbook, Time and others protesting their homophobic language. These letters were not published. Egan’s first published letter in the mainstream press argued that Kinsey was bringing sex into the modern age (The Globe and Mail, May 16, 1950). He was first published in the tabloids in Flash in May 1950, then in October 1950 another letter appeared in True News Times, and then in December 1950 Egan’s article “I am a Homosexual” was published in Sir! under his pseudonym, Leo Engle.

In November 1951 Egan reached out to the True News Times (TNT) suggesting an article series concerning homosexuality. “Aspects of Homosexuality” was published from November 19, 1951, for seven weeks. In 1952 after writing for TNT Egan took a hiatus, writing little.

In May 1951, Justice Weekly published several letters by J.L.E.. Egan then proposed a series similar to TNT, writing “Homosexual Concepts” between December 1953 and February 1954. Another untitled series of 15 columns followed until June 1954.

From 1954-1959 Egan was on hiatus from his activist work, suffering the effects of inhaling formaldehyde from specimen preservation. The couple sold their house in Oak Ridges and moved to a working 200 acre farm in Northwestern Ontario, near Chesley in 1954. To supplement earnings Egan started embalming cats for an American company, while Nesbit managed a hair salon in Chesley. Egan’s mother lived with them on the farm.

By mid-1956 they were not making money with the farm and Jack was unhappy. They moved to Beamsville and rented a store that used to be a pet shop, which they reinvigorated. They also started a seed supply business, and continued their specimen and embalming business. They dubbed it “The Nature Shop” and were known as “The Nature Boys” by locals.

They moved back to Toronto in 1964 and rented 1052A Bloor Street West. Early in the year Nesbit and Egan’s relationship ended when Nesbit gave Egan an ultimatum, either Egan give up gay activism or their relationship. Nesbit did not like the level of notoriety associated with activism and had a different view of activism altogether. During this period Egan was often arguing on the phone with local newspaper editors, and people were calling looking for a crisis line. They could not resolve Nesbit’s ultimatum so Egan moved into a one room apartment near Spadina and College, starting another specimen business.

In the first half of 1964 Egan was unhappily separated, disenchanted with being an activist, the lack of community support and their passive attitude towards gay liberation. Nesbit was also unhappy, his sister was angry at him for ending the relationship after 15 years and wanted the couple to get back together.

In May 1964 Egan reconciled with Nesbit commiting to end his activism. Nesbit wanted to leave Toronto believing Egan would return to it if they did not. They decided on British Columbia. In June they drove across Canada with their three chihuahuas, settling in Duncan and establishing the Jamack Biological Supply Company. They specialized in marine specimens, and their business thrived. Egan became involved in the environmental movement, joining the Society for the Prevention of Environmental Collapse (SPEC), becoming vice-president of the Cowichan Valley branch.

They moved to Thetis Island on Telegraph Harbour in 1968, where they built a lab and continued their business. In 1972 due to health issues and the manual labour required for their work, they gave it up and retired to Chemainus British Columbia. Egan engaged in environmental work and Nesbit with his gardens.

In 1974 they moved to Meriville, and built a two-thousand square foot stackwall house out of driftwood. Nesbit volunteered on the phone lines at Crossroads Crisis Centre and later was a marriage counsellor. Egan was a freelance carpenter and continued his environmental activism. In 1980 Egan became a member of Save Our Straits Committee, a group blocking a local sewage plant from pumping untreated sewage into the Strait of Georgia. The BC Ministry of the Environment granted a permit for this plant, but the Committee eventually convinced the Ministry to treat the sewage and the permit was overturned. Egan’s environmental work made him a celebrity and in 1981 he was elected as regional director for Electoral Area B of the Regional District of Comox-Strathcona, making him the first gay man living in an openly gay relationship to be elected to public office in Canada. He was re-elected twice but decided not to stand for re-election in 1993 at age seventy-two.

In May 1985 the couple moved to Courtenay where they met members of the LGBTQ+ community. They had had no significant contact with the LGBTQ+ community from 1964-1985. Egan kept his promise to Nesbit, disengaging in gay activism for 25 years, with the exception of some letters in 1973 to the Daily Colonist (Victoria). By 1985 Nesbit’s attitude to gay liberation had changed, and they started the Comox Valley branch of the Island Gay Society, holding monthly drop-ins at their house for eleven years. Egan was also involved in the North Island AIDS Coalition and was president in 1994.

When Nesbit was denied spousal pension benefits in 1987, their path towards their Supreme Court challenge began. They used the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to challenge the discrimination against pension benefits for same-sex couples under the Old Age Security Act. Their challenge was the first involving same-sex rights heard by the Supreme Court under the Charter with the goal to fight institutional discrimination and homophobia.

They wanted to force a high court to interpret section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation, giving homosexual couples the legal right to be recognized as “spouse” and therefore be protected from discrimination in all areas of federal legislation. Additionally, arguing that the definition of “spouse” in the Old Age Security Act was unconstitutional, and discriminatory towards gender and sexual orientation, contrary to section 15(1) of the Charter. The couple hired David Vickers of Vickers and Palmer who applied for their case to be sponsored by the Court Challenges Program which was funded by the federal government to support litigation costs in test cases based in equality rights under the Charter. They received funding and brought an action in the Trial Division of the Federal Court of Canada in December 1988.

The case was heard on May 28-29, 1991. On December 2, 1991 Justice Martin dismissed the action, ruling that even though “the Old Age Security Act did not define same-sex partners as spouses, it did not discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Martin stated that same-sex couples “did not fall within the meaning of the word ‘spouse’ any more than heterosexual couples who live together and do not publicly represent themselves as man and wife, such as brother and sister, brother and brother, sister and sister, two relatives, two friends, or parent and child.” Martin concluded that Egan and Nesbit were not the sort of couple Parliament had in mind when the Act was passed in 1975, that “...the relationship is a different one than a spousal relationship and that the parties to such relationship cannot expect to share the benefits accorded to those in spousal relationship, not because of their sexual orientation, but because their relationship is not a spousal one.” (McLeod, 100-101).

Egan and Nesbit appealed this ruling in August 1992 with their new lawyer Joseph Arvay of Arvay, Finlay and Associates, who agreed to represent them pro bono when The Court Challenges Program was cancelled by the Mulroney government. They lost again in April 1993 when the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the judgement 2-1 that there had been no discrimination due to sexual orientation.

In 1992 they appealed to the Supreme Court with the re-instated Court Challenges Program, and were heard in November 1994. On May 25, 1995 the appeal was dismissed in a 5-4 decision. “Despite the court agreeing 5-4 that the current spousal definition was discriminatory, which was the first time the Supreme Court ruled that the failure of federal legislation to recognize same-sex relationships [was] discriminatory” (McLeod, 102). All nine justices also stated that “sexual orientation” must be classed in the Charter as discriminatory, to match existing grounds such as race, gender, and religion. However, the “Court also ruled 5-4 that the discrimination was justified under section 1 of the Charter. Four justices ruled that section 15 does not extend to same-sex relationships.” (102)

The aftermath of the ruling was captured in David Adkin’s documentary “Jim Loves Jack: The James Egan Story.” Nesbit suffered three stress-induced angina attacks. Despite the disappointment there was a positive outcome. EGALE noted the ruling meant that sexual orientation qualified as discrimination under the law, subjecting all Canadian statutes where same-sex relationships are classed as inferior to be subject to challenge.

In 1995 and 1996 their story was told by the media across the country. Jim was given a national human rights award by the Lambda Foundation for Excellence, and the couple were grand marshals at Toronto and Vancouver Pride in 1995. In September of 1997 for his community service Egan was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship, the highest award given by Rotary International.

The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary in August 1998.

Egan gave interviews and attended conferences until near the end of his life. Egan died on March 9th, 2000 of lung cancer at age 78 in Courtenay and Nesbit three months later on June 23rd four days before his 73rd birthday.

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