The little known history of the LGBTQ community

Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2019

Picture of the Lesbian organization of Toronto

Canadians know very little about the history and the heroes of the LGBTQ community even though the gay liberation was a militant, radical, and unapologetically brave movement; one that is at risk of being overlooked.

Led by Constance Crompton from the University of Ottawa`s Humanities Data Lab and Michelle Schwartz from Ryerson University`s Centre for Digital Humanities, The Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada (LGLC) project traces the gay and lesbian liberation movement in Canada.  

The LGLC is an online tool that allows all Canadians to learn about the events that led to the liberation of the LGBTQ community in Canada from the first homophile groups in 1964 to the start of the AIDS crisis in 1981.

The online portal consist of over 34,000 records of people, places, and events. It also includes some more social aspects of the LGBTQ history such as poetry readings, protests, legislative change and book launches. It also highlights the fact that the Gay liberation movement did not just take place in urban centers. There are 350 cities, 900 locations, and 3,430 people mentioned in the online database. The new site lets readers chart their own path through the movement, uncovering stories of a particular person, city, organization, or year.

Stories to remember

  • In 1965, Everett George Klippert was charged with several accounts of committing gross indecency involving non-violent acts with consenting adult men in private. He was later sentenced for an indefinite amount of time as a dangerous sexual offender. His case would lead then Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau to amend the criminal code in 1969, which led to Everett's release on parole two years later.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces Special Investigations Unit confronted Private Barbara Thornborrow with alleged lesbianism. She was told that it was a matter of national security because lesbianism would make her "susceptible to blackmail." Upon admitting that she was a lesbian, she was given the choice of psychiatric counselling or signing a form that would confirm her lesbianism and release her from the Forces. She was honourably discharged from the Canadian Armed Forces, effective June 24, 1977, for being a "sexual deviate" who was "not advantageously employable". Following this decision, Private Thornborrow went public with her story and gave numerous radio, television, and newspaper interviews across Canada. She also appealed her expulsion to the Chief of Defence Staff in Ottawa, but was unsuccessful.
  • On July 1 1981, Don Cormier was planning a picnic for the gay community in Moncton. Fearing an influx of homosexuals into the city, the Moncton City Council passed a by-law amendment forbidding organized groups of more than forty people from assembling in Centennial Park, where the picnic was to be held. In spite of this, about 100 gay men and lesbians attended the picnic, under heavy police surveillance.

The stories found in the LGLC portal remind us that Canadian LGBTQ activists were at the center of many human rights struggles, as well as lesser known but no less significant, stories.

For more information:

Karyne Vienneau
Media Relations
University of Ottawa
613 762-2908
karyne.vienneau@uottawa.ca

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