Kevin Dale McKeown reflects on gay rights before induction to Q Hall of Fame
Kevin Dale McKeown, communications and special events director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, will be inducted into the Q Hall of Fame tomorrow night for his work as an activist and pioneer of LGBT rights.
In 1970, a then-19-year-old McKeown began writing a gay column in the Straight under the banner "QQ Writes", which he continued for five years.
"When I got notice that I was being inducted I sort of said, 'Oh,I didn’t really do anything other than write a gossip column and have some fun,'" said McKeown. "[Straight publisher] Dan McLeod said, 'I’ll give $20 a week if you want to write a queer column.' In 1970, $20 a week was good money."
Upon reflection, said McKeown, he's come to realize the impact that column had.
"I dug through some old stuff and I found a letter from a drag queen who was really the reigning diva in the '70s, a personality named Sandy St. Peters who died about 10 years ago," he recalled. "But when QQ wrote his farewell column after, I think, five or six years, I had this letter from Sandy saying how she cried when she read it, and she was so sad I was quitting. She said something that made me really understand, perhaps, the value of what I’d done. She said it was the first time in our lives we ever read about ourselves in a newspaper where we weren’t being made fun of or put down."
McKeown, who will be inducted alongside lawyer and human rights advocate Karen Busby and singer-songwriter k.d. lang, among others, said that despite the progress that has been made in LGBT rights, complacency was not an option.
"The battle is not over," he insisted. "To be perfectly candid, we have a Conservative government that is rife with right-wing evangelical Christian fundamentalists who would love nothing more than to turn back the clock on these sorts of issues. We must be vigilant and we must remember our own history. And that’s probably what this Q Hall of Fame thing brings home to us. We need to remember our history, and I’m proud and humbled to have been part of that."
The Q Hall of Fame was inaugurated last year. This year, it will induct 12 nominees, including McKeown.