Did I skip my usual Monday post? I totally did, didn’t I? Yeesh. Well, it’s been a stupidly busy week that kicked off with a drive back from Kinsgston (after establishing that the Mamas and the Spawn and the brand-new wriggling pink squeaky sweet Spawnlet would be just fine if we left), a 12-hour stop in Toronto, and a god-awful early-morning bus ride to Montreal. And I’m still fighting off the deep-lung cough from hell so I’m under the weather to boot. Three weeks and counting… maybe I should go see a doctor. The bois’ union did make a motion strongly in favour of that not long ago. And I admit I didn’t feel too good about taking coughing breaks during the workshops I gave today – though they seemed to go well regardless. I got to light someone on fire today, and poke needles in someone else. Whee! Who would complain about that, I ask?
Anyway, my apologies. I’ll get back on the ball next week. For now, I give you a Thursday night post.
Oh, before that – on a totally unrelated note – there’s a restaurant called Juliette et Chocolat on St-Denis St. a block or so north of Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal. They serve a dessert called the Balsamico, which is an absolutely decadent balsamic vinegar and raspberry dark chocolate brownie. It ranks in the top three desserts I have ever had the privilege of tasting. If you are the sort of person who, like me, can’t quite decide whether chocolate or sex is the higher pleasure, you must – MUST – go eat this dessert. There. I have said my piece. Let the sexual deviance continue.
*Here’s the second instalment of three, originally written in April 2007. I actually originally split this timeline into five pieces, but that was when I was posting on a near-daily basis. As it stands, at twice a week, longer and richer is okay in my books, hence the three-part split this time around.
Bear in mind that this list is particular to Montreal in some ways, in that I’ve focused on Quebec and Montreal history. Here’s another intalment, this one starting with Stonewall – because that is a pretty darned good place to start, all things considered – and covering the ’70s.
I also figure I should mention that I don’t think I’ve done an adequate job of including pieces of trans history in this timeline. Not because I don’t know anything about the history of transgenderism and transsexuality, and not that I haven’t included some dates… but it’s really complex and diverse, and varies greatly by geography and other factors. I could mention the emergence of sex reassignment surgeries after WWII, the creation of the Benjamin Standards, the publication of Stone Butch Blues, the Kimberley Nixon case, the death of Brandon Teena, and the founding of various trans organizations, but I feel like I would need to put a lot of thought into this to make sure I was doing it justice. I’ll endeavour to take that up as a project for a future timeline. In the meantime, I’ve included a few bits here.
Here are a few more juicy dates on my sexuality timeline. First, though, one thing I forgot to mention last time… at the start of the Vanier lecture I made a point of explaining two things. One: that I’m a staunch feminist, and that my particular preferred flavour of feminism is the sex-positive kind, which I define as follows.
“While sometimes the social, political, economic and interpersonal circumstances in which sex takes place are not ideal, sex-positive feminism is feminism which incorporates the belief that at its basis, sex in its many forms is a good thing.”
Two: that there’s a list of common issues that may be faced by people who fall into the bottom categories in Gayle Rubin’s sexual pyramid. Anyone who’s familiar with the queer coming-out process has probably heard of, or can easily imagine, most of these, but I believe they’re common to most sexual minorities rather than being particular to those on the LGBT spectrum. They include prejudice, violence, job loss, child custody loss, medicalization, pathologization, self-hatred, depression, drug use, higher risk for suicide, rejection from cultural and religious communities, etc. Of course, there are also advantages to being there: self-knowledge and self-discovery, freedom from mainstream constraints, love, sense of community/tribe and tradition, support, friendship, potentially progressive political views, and of course satisfying sex!
On to the dates… this time with some Canadiana starting to appear.
1928 Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness was published, with a foreword by Havelock Ellis on the topic of inversion and how the phenomenon should not be cause for hatred or offense. The book was banned. It is still in print today, and considered the first lesbian novel of all time.
1929 On October 18, women were finally declared “persons” under Canadian law. The historic legal victory was due to the persistence of five Alberta women — Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. The battle started in 1916. From Murphy’s very first day as a judge, lawyers had challenged her rulings because she is not a “person” under Canadian law.
1948 Alfred C. Kinsey published his first study – Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male – and in 1953 followed it up with Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female. The books were dense scientific text, the result of thousands of in-depth interviews all over the USA, and the information therein blew the lid of America’s ideas about sexual purity. The movie Kinsey (released in 2005) still upsets people today. Kinsey created the Kinsey Scale, where 0 is completely heterosexual, 6 is completely homosexual, and his belief was that most people fall somewhere in between.
1948 – 1959 John Willie published Bizarre, the first North American SM and fetish-oriented magazine. It contained letters from subscribers, art that’s still typical of SM outfits and fetish imagery today, and such gems as bondage photos guised as jiu-jitsu “don’t let this happen to you!” ads. (I just got my hands on a hardbound boxed-set reprint of the entire series, and it is indeed bizarre… and thoroughly fascinating.) The magazine’s publication coincided with the development of gay male SM communities in San Francisco, a major port city where many ex-military men settled after the war. These communities were often based on military codes, biker groups and strict hierarchy.
1951 The Mattachine Society (the USA’s first noted gay rights group) was founded. By 1960 it had only 230 members.
1955 The Daughters of Bilitis (the USA’s first noted lesbian rights group) was founded. By 1960 it had only 110 members.
1967 On December 21 the young Pierre Trudeau, acting as Justice Minister, introduced his controversial Omnibus bill in the House of Commons. The bill called for massive changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Trudeau made an appeal for the decriminalization of homosexual acts performed in private, telling CBC TV reporters (in a now-famous quote) “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” You go, girl.
1969 Beginning on June 28, shortly after the death of Judy Garland (the actress who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and a noted gay icon), the Stonewall riots were a series of violent conflicts between New York City police officers and groups of gay and transgender people that lasted several days. The clash was a watershed for the worldwide gay rights movement, as gay and transgender people had never before acted together in such large numbers to forcibly resist police. The riots inspired related protests all over North America… these demonstrations in turn led to the creation of Gay Pride celebrations worldwide. Nowadays, in North America at least, Pride season is about parades and parties, but their origin was as protest marches in sympathy with Stonewall.
1970 Canada’s first gay liberation group formed in Montreal, called the Front de la libération homosexuelle.
1972 Gay McGill was founded. The club began with only a few dozen members. It grew exponentially and is now one of the most influential queer groups in the city; it was renamed Queer McGill in 1998, to better reflect its current diverse mission.
1975 L’Androgyne, Montreal’s first gay, lesbian and feminist bookstore, opened with a collective government, many members of which were from Gay McGill. It closed in 2002, as many queer and feminist bookstores have done due to the expansion of Chapters, Amazon and other major chains – sadly, since queer bookstores are cultural institutions, not simply businesses.
1976 Gay Line is founded, and is still in operation today, 7-11 p.m. every night (514 866-5090).
1976 The first known case of AIDS is discovered in Africa – though there was no name for it at the time.
1976 Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality was published in French, (1978 in English). It is the most widely referenced text in queer theory today.
1977 Quebec becomes the first province to legislate prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, thanks to the efforts of the Front de la libération homosexuelle.
1978 Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute was founded – in the same time period as many other women’s studies programs in universities and colleges all over North America.
1979 Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire was published – a book renowned for its explicit hostility towards transsexual women (former men) and rejection of them from women’s and feminist communities.