"We Demand": sex and activist history in Canada gets spotlighted

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      You probably recognize Pierre Trudeau's famous quote, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." Trudeau said it prior to a historical act 42 years ago: a bill (introduced by then-Minister of Justice Pierre Trudeau) passed that decriminalized homosexuality in Canada.

      For the vast majority of citizens, this was interpreted as putting homosexuals on equal ground as heterosexuals.

      What you may not realize, however, is that for the Canadian queer community, the fight was far from over. There was more work to be done. It may sound cliché but rather than putting an end to the fight for legal equality, things had really just begun.

      A mere two years later, a group of about 100 or so queer activists traveled to and converged on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Another group in Vancouver held a simultaneous demonstration at the Court House. Both read out a list of 10 demands. They wanted to the Canadian federal government to eradicate systemic discrimination against gays and lesbians embedded in Canadian law. They wanted equal gays and lesbians to be legally treated the same as heterosexuals when it came to vast array of things like service in the Armed Forces, government and RCMP employment, immigration, child custody, age of consent, and much more.

      Unbeknownst to the activists at the time, the "We Demand" protest made history. It marked the first time that the gay and lesbian community had taken national political action.

      This weekend, a conference called "We Demand": History/Sex/Activism in Canada, organized the Canadian Committee on the History of Sexuality, will not only commemorate this event but also reexamine activism and sexuality in Canada since that time.

      It's being held here in Vancouver from August 26 to 28 at the Coast Plaza Hotel (1763 Comox Street) with a packed schedule of presentations and sessions. Among the numerous speakers are Little Sister's Bookstore manager Janine Fuller, lawyer barbara findlay, sexual rights activist Jessica Yee, Toronto Gay Action and The Body Politic founding member Brian Waite, Gay Alliance Toward Equality founding member Roedy Green, Halifax activist Jake Feldman, members of Quirk-e (an arts and writing group for elders), and an impressive host of academics from universities all across the country.

      But there's far more than just roundtables and panel discussions—there's even a special film series at the Pacific Cinémathèque (1131 Howe Street) as well that starts tonight (August 25) and runs until Sunday (August 28) with a retrospective lineup that includes everything from documentaries to dramas and comedies. (Check out this blog post for more details.)

      But after all that talking, listening, thinking, taking in information, and even more talking, listening, thinking, taking in information, there'll definitely be a need to celebrate and let loose. And what better way to do that than with a queer cabaret hosted by the ever-entertaining Cookie LaWhore (the alter-ego of Michael V. Smith)?

      After a banquet dinner (7 p.m.) on Saturday (August 27), a group of queer performers, including performance artist Amber Dawn, singer-songwriter Kate Reid, comedian David C. Jones, and transgender singer Jill Richards, will take the stage (8:30 p.m.) help everyone let down their hair (or extensions, or wigs, or whatever the case may be).

      While we're on the subject of conferences, keep in mind that the annual BOLDFest (Bold, Older Lesbians and Dykes conference) is coming up (September 8 to 11), also the Coast Plaza Hotel.

      Follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.




      Aug 25, 2011 at 6:00pm

      I oppose homosexuality. It is disgusting, immoral, & totally wrong. Now, demonstrate your so called "liberalism" by tolerating my differing opinion.

      a homo

      Aug 26, 2011 at 9:11am

      Well Razlo5000 the only thing that is "disgusting, immoral, & totally wrong" is your bigotry. I tolerate you posting your inane, baseless and hateful remarks on the internet - but I will fight till the end against the discrimination you are peddling.