Media Releases

Ontario’s first lesbian and gay rights group honoured

November 3, 2011

TORONTO, ON – The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Homophile Asso­ci­a­tion, the province’s first group to ral­ly around les­bian and gay rights, was hon­oured yes­ter­day at a cer­e­mo­ny that marked their his­toric for­ma­tion in 1969.

Offi­cials from U of T, the Ontario Her­itage Trust (OHT) and three lev­els of gov­ern­ment com­mem­o­rat­ed the his­toric group’s for­ma­tion by unveil­ing a provin­cial plaque at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege – the site of the U of T Homophile Association’s first meet­ing 42 years ago.

“The U of T has been a proud sup­port­er of the pro­pos­al to install this plaque at the heart of our found­ing cam­pus,” says Pres­i­dent David Nay­lor. “We are also proud of the decades-long his­to­ry of cam­pus LGBT advo­ca­cy that has made the uni­ver­si­ty a bet­ter place.”

The plaque – spon­sored by U of T’s Bon­ham Cen­tre for Sex­u­al Diver­si­ty Stud­ies and the Ontario Her­itage Trust – is Ontario’s first LGBT-relat­ed provin­cial plaque. It was unveiled at a cer­e­mo­ny at East Hall in Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege and will lat­er be placed on the east side of the col­lege.

The U of T Homophile Asso­ci­a­tion, which was Canada’s first uni­ver­si­ty-based lesbian/gay orga­ni­za­tion, set the stage for sim­i­lar groups to form at oth­er Ontario uni­ver­si­ties in the late 1960s and ear­ly 1970s. The pio­neer­ing group spon­sored lec­tures from promi­nent inter­na­tion­al activists, chal­lenged dis­crim­i­na­tion against gays and les­bians in Canada’s pub­lic ser­vice, protest­ed police sur­veil­lance in Toron­to and high­light­ed prej­u­dice in the media.

Ear­ly mem­bers helped to shape activism across Ontario and in Cana­da. Jearld Mold­en­hauer estab­lished Glad Day Book­shop, the country’s first to spe­cial­ize in les­bian and gay lit­er­a­ture, and helped form The Body Politic, a mag­a­zine with inter­na­tion­al sig­nif­i­cance. The group’s first chair – Char­lie Hill –became a well-known com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­er and activist in Toron­to and Ottawa, and Ian Young, anoth­er key orga­niz­er, pub­lished a ground­break­ing book of gay poet­ry, Year of the Qui­et Sun.

The group dis­band­ed in 1973, but they act­ed as a pro­to­type for les­bian, gay and trans­gen­der activism across the coun­try and lent momen­tum to the equal­i­ty move­ment.

As Bon­ham Cen­tre direc­tor Bren­da Coss­man points out, “Hon­our­ing queer his­to­ry is essen­tial:  it reminds all of us that uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus­es play cru­cial roles in nur­tur­ing change, and that our abil­i­ty to do the kind of work we do in the present comes from gen­er­a­tions of coura­geous advo­ca­cy in the past.”

The idea to mark the estab­lish­ment of the U of T Homophile Asso­ci­a­tion came from a work­ing group at the university’s Bon­ham Cen­tre, who then sub­mit­ted the pro­pos­al to the OHT.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Bren­da Coss­man
Direc­tor, Bon­ham Cen­tre for Sex­u­al Diver­si­ty Stud­ies
Office: 416–978-8103
Cell: 416–819-1921

David Ray­side
Sex­u­al Diver­si­ty Stud­ies pro­gram
Office: 416–978-8087