KEEPING OUR STORIES ALIVE

Pride Before Pride

Pride Before Pride

Pride Before Pride

Where were the seeds of our Pride Month planted?  How did it start?

In June 2017, Pride Toronto held its second annual “Pride Month.” More than 2.1 million people attended programming that spanned 25 days. Today, there are 45 sponsors listed on Pride Toronto’s Pride 2018 page, and it seems like the third annual instalment of Pride month in Toronto will be bigger than ever. Pride however has its roots, as we all know, in much humbler beginnings. To celebrate Pride month, we wanted to take a look at the very first Pride in Toronto: when was it? What was it?

The date of the first “Official Pride” will continue to be debated among academics, scholars and activists. Regardless of this debate, the 1970s ground swell of grassroots activism, individual sacrifice, risk and the innovative community building of Toronto’s gay community must be acknowledged and heralded as the beginning of the national queer movement that is responsible for the rights we now cherish. The CLGA has a full collection of archival artifacts, vertical files, video and photography documenting the events and activism that infused this movement and the early iterations of Pride.

Jearld Moldenhauer, who spoke to queerstory.ca about CHAT’s involvement, detailed the first gay pride week held in 1972. In the former synagogue that housed CHAT at the time, Pride had “panel discussions, there was an art exhibit, there was enough space to have dances – everything.” But it wasn’t all fun and games. As the group of approximately 300 people marched up University Avenue, defying the city with their unsanctioned parade, Moldenhauer noted the  “unmarked police cars, with cameras, taking pictures…”.  George Hislop, cofounder of CHAT, and the first openly gay city council candidate, joined the younger activist for the inaugural march in 1972.

The first ever Pride picnic in Toronto was held on August 1, 1971, at Hanlan’s Point. It was organized by the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT) and Toronto Gay Action. This was followed by a Pride week held in the following year, featuring another picnic but also a small march in the city. An advertisement archived by the CLGA encourages folks to meet at Ward Island for the picnic, and to bring “your own lunch, frisbees, footballs or whatever else turns you on.”

white poster for picnic hosted by CHAT in 1971, with pink text “Toronto’s first Gay Picnic”
white poster for picnic hosted by CHAT in 1971, with pink text “Toronto’s first Gay Picnic”
a photograph from the picnic in 1971, with a group of individuals sitting at Hanlan’s point, holding a “Toronto Gay Action” poster
a photograph from the picnic in 1971, with a group of individuals sitting at Hanlan’s point, holding a “Toronto Gay Action” poster

Jearld Moldenhauer, who spoke to queerstory.ca about CHAT’s involvement, detailed the first gay pride week held by CHAT in 1972. In the former synagogue that housed CHAT at the time, Pride had “panel discussions, there was an art exhibit, there was enough space to have dances – everything.” But it wasn’t all fun and games. There were also, according to Moldenhauer, “unmarked police cars, with cameras, taking pictures…” of those participating in the march. Former Toronto city councillor and cofounder of CHAT, George Hislop, attended this very first Pride march in 1972 – but it wasn’t a huge event. There were only about 300 people in attendance in 1972.

a photograph from the 1972 march on University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, with individuals holding signs and speaking into loudspeakers. Photograph taken by Jearld Moldenhauer, http://www.jearldmoldenhauer.com
a photograph from the 1972 march on University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, with individuals holding signs and speaking into loudspeakers. Photograph taken by Jearld Moldenhauer, http://www.jearldmoldenhauer.com

Nevertheless, the community was getting louder. In 1974, the “Brunswick four” – Adrienne Potts, Patricia Murphy, Sue Wells and Heather Beyers – performed a parody of the song I Enjoy Being a Girl (their rendition was called I Enjoy Being a Dyke) in the former Brunswick House on Brunswick Avenue and Bloor Street and were arrested after refusing to vacate the premises. The arresting officers, who were later charged with assault, were acquitted – but this would not be the community’s last interaction with the police that attracted media attention.

Former Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae explains for queerstory.ca that “we were out opposing the police, the provincial government, protesting…” the oppression of the gay community, following the bathhouse raids in Toronto. The idea of holding a Pride in Toronto eventually grew out of these protests, but Rae says this event was decidedly a celebration, rather than a protest. Rather than opposing something, the 1981 Pride was a celebration of the community – though not one devoid of tension. “We marched from Grange Park down to Queen Street, from Queen Street over to Yonge. You weren’t allowed to march on Yonge Street back then…we took it anyway,” remembers Rae.

a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.
a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.
a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.
a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.

Susan Cole, feminist author and playwright, was at the event in 1981. “When you are in a historical moment, you really don’t know you’re in a historical moment,” she reflects on queerstory.ca. “We didn’t really understand the importance of what was happening at that time.”

The CLGA continues to document this history and those vital historical moments. We have archives of each of these porto-pride events, documenting our history to keep our stories of Pride alive.

We’ve Just Had the Best Pride Ever – It’s Time To Join the Archives To Keep Our Stories Alive!

Become a member of the largest, independent LGBTQ2+ Archives in the world. For as little as $15 you can become a member and know that you are supporting our communities, our past and our future.

Donate Now

Our mission is to collect, preserve, and share the histories of LGBTQ2+ people in Canada. We celebrate the diversity and richness of our shared history through archiving, exhibitions, and research – and we can’t do it alone. Our supporting members are instrumental in keeping our stories alive through their generous donations of time and financial gifts. If you are not a member yet, consider joining us at the CLGA so we can continue to preserve our past for future LGBTQ2+ generations.

Leave a reply

Connect with us...

Pride Before Pride

Pride Before Pride

Where were the seeds of our Pride Month planted?  How did it start?

In June 2017, Pride Toronto held its second annual “Pride Month.” More than 2.1 million people attended programming that spanned 25 days. Today, there are 45 sponsors listed on Pride Toronto’s Pride 2018 page, and it seems like the third annual instalment of Pride month in Toronto will be bigger than ever. Pride however has its roots, as we all know, in much humbler beginnings. To celebrate Pride month, we wanted to take a look at the very first Pride in Toronto: when was it? What was it?

The date of the first “Official Pride” will continue to be debated among academics, scholars and activists. Regardless of this debate, the 1970s ground swell of grassroots activism, individual sacrifice, risk and the innovative community building of Toronto’s gay community must be acknowledged and heralded as the beginning of the national queer movement that is responsible for the rights we now cherish. The CLGA has a full collection of archival artifacts, vertical files, video and photography documenting the events and activism that infused this movement and the early iterations of Pride.

Jearld Moldenhauer, who spoke to queerstory.ca about CHAT’s involvement, detailed the first gay pride week held in 1972. In the former synagogue that housed CHAT at the time, Pride had “panel discussions, there was an art exhibit, there was enough space to have dances – everything.” But it wasn’t all fun and games. As the group of approximately 300 people marched up University Avenue, defying the city with their unsanctioned parade, Moldenhauer noted the  “unmarked police cars, with cameras, taking pictures…”.  George Hislop, cofounder of CHAT, and the first openly gay city council candidate, joined the younger activist for the inaugural march in 1972.

The first ever Pride picnic in Toronto was held on August 1, 1971, at Hanlan’s Point. It was organized by the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT) and Toronto Gay Action. This was followed by a Pride week held in the following year, featuring another picnic but also a small march in the city. An advertisement archived by the CLGA encourages folks to meet at Ward Island for the picnic, and to bring “your own lunch, frisbees, footballs or whatever else turns you on.”

white poster for picnic hosted by CHAT in 1971, with pink text “Toronto’s first Gay Picnic”
white poster for picnic hosted by CHAT in 1971, with pink text “Toronto’s first Gay Picnic”
a photograph from the picnic in 1971, with a group of individuals sitting at Hanlan’s point, holding a “Toronto Gay Action” poster
a photograph from the picnic in 1971, with a group of individuals sitting at Hanlan’s point, holding a “Toronto Gay Action” poster

Jearld Moldenhauer, who spoke to queerstory.ca about CHAT’s involvement, detailed the first gay pride week held by CHAT in 1972. In the former synagogue that housed CHAT at the time, Pride had “panel discussions, there was an art exhibit, there was enough space to have dances – everything.” But it wasn’t all fun and games. There were also, according to Moldenhauer, “unmarked police cars, with cameras, taking pictures…” of those participating in the march. Former Toronto city councillor and cofounder of CHAT, George Hislop, attended this very first Pride march in 1972 – but it wasn’t a huge event. There were only about 300 people in attendance in 1972.

a photograph from the 1972 march on University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, with individuals holding signs and speaking into loudspeakers. Photograph taken by Jearld Moldenhauer, http://www.jearldmoldenhauer.com
a photograph from the 1972 march on University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, with individuals holding signs and speaking into loudspeakers. Photograph taken by Jearld Moldenhauer, http://www.jearldmoldenhauer.com

Nevertheless, the community was getting louder. In 1974, the “Brunswick four” – Adrienne Potts, Patricia Murphy, Sue Wells and Heather Beyers – performed a parody of the song I Enjoy Being a Girl (their rendition was called I Enjoy Being a Dyke) in the former Brunswick House on Brunswick Avenue and Bloor Street and were arrested after refusing to vacate the premises. The arresting officers, who were later charged with assault, were acquitted – but this would not be the community’s last interaction with the police that attracted media attention.

Former Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae explains for queerstory.ca that “we were out opposing the police, the provincial government, protesting…” the oppression of the gay community, following the bathhouse raids in Toronto. The idea of holding a Pride in Toronto eventually grew out of these protests, but Rae says this event was decidedly a celebration, rather than a protest. Rather than opposing something, the 1981 Pride was a celebration of the community – though not one devoid of tension. “We marched from Grange Park down to Queen Street, from Queen Street over to Yonge. You weren’t allowed to march on Yonge Street back then…we took it anyway,” remembers Rae.

a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.
a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.
a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.
a photograph from the 1981 Pride March. Image by Kyle Rae.

Susan Cole, feminist author and playwright, was at the event in 1981. “When you are in a historical moment, you really don’t know you’re in a historical moment,” she reflects on queerstory.ca. “We didn’t really understand the importance of what was happening at that time.”

The CLGA continues to document this history and those vital historical moments. We have archives of each of these porto-pride events, documenting our history to keep our stories of Pride alive.

We’ve Just Had the Best Pride Ever – It’s Time To Join the Archives To Keep Our Stories Alive!

Become a member of the largest, independent LGBTQ2+ Archives in the world. For as little as $15 you can become a member and know that you are supporting our communities, our past and our future.

Donate Now

Our mission is to collect, preserve, and share the histories of LGBTQ2+ people in Canada. We celebrate the diversity and richness of our shared history through archiving, exhibitions, and research – and we can’t do it alone. Our supporting members are instrumental in keeping our stories alive through their generous donations of time and financial gifts. If you are not a member yet, consider joining us at the CLGA so we can continue to preserve our past for future LGBTQ2+ generations.

Leave a reply

News Categories

CONTACT US


Telephone: 416-777-2755
Email: queeries@clga.ca

Street Address:
34 Isabella Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1N1

Mailing Address:
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
P.O. Box 699
663A Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

PUBLIC HOURS

6:30 pm - 9:00 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

1:00 pm - 5:00 pm Friday

NOTE TO RESEARCHERS:
Some of our materials are stored off site. Before visiting the archives, please send us an email at queeries@clga.ca listing in detail the topics and sources that you wish to consult and we will let you know when they will be available. We aim to respond to email inquiries within 4 business days.

CONSTRUCTION NOTICE:

As we continue our efforts to make the CLGA more accessible, we are now renovating the front of the house to add a ramp to the front entrance. The exterior construction started Monday, September 17, 2018 and will continue until late November. The first steps will be working to fence off the tree at the front of the house. Please note that there will not be any construction work done during public service hours. Should there be any disruptions affecting our access to the front door and/or work in the house during this process, we will post a notice as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we try to make the CLGA more accessible to all. If you have any questions/concerns, please contact the Executive Director, Raegan Swanson, at executivedirector@clga.ca

Update – Sep 27, 2018: The front door is currently not accessible due to construction. Please use the back door until further notice.


The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives is located on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

The CLGA strives to gather the stories of the unheard and silenced voices of the 2SLGBTQ+ first peoples of this land. We acknowledge that some stories have already been lost, and we aim to ensure that those that remain and those that are to come are preserved for the future.