Desmarais, Harold

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Desmarais, Harold

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Harold Desmarais has been an active LGBTQ community advocate and organizer since the 1970s, starting with Windsor Gay Unity, which he chaired in 1973. He experienced years of homophobic harassment while working as an Inspector at the Ford Engine Plant in Windsor, where he was openly gay, however the United Auto Workers union (now Canadian Auto Workers) prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation giving him job security, and allowing him to advocate openly. In 1975, Desmarais became one of the founders of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay rights in Ontario (formerly Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO)), and became their first paid employee in 1980. In 1978 Desmarais started University of Windsor’s Gay Students on Campus. In 1980 Desmarais moved to Toronto and became CGRO’s executive secretary and fought to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include sexual orientation, which after multiple attempts was changed in 1986. Desmarais became part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Toronto as Sister Atrociata von Tasteless where he worked to fight shame and advocate for safe sex during the early days of AIDS. Desmarais was a prominent member of the Gay Community Dance Committee and the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal (now the Community One Foundation) which both raised money to support queer friendly organizations. In the 1990’s Desmarais was actively involved with the AIDS Committee of Toronto and the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. Recognized for his work for Canadian Human Rights Movement, Desmarais was inducted into the Q Hall of Fame in 2013, and in 2003 he was inducted to the CLGA’s National Portrait Collection.

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