“What does the future hold for Canada’s homosexuals? Will the time ever come when a gay couple can mix as freely in society as their heterosexual counterparts?”
These were questions posed in the epilogue of A Not So Gay World:
Homosexuality in Canada published in 1972 by McClelland and Stewart. The book, was the first non-fiction work about homosexuality published in Canada. Tellingly the authors “Marion Foster” and “Kent Murray” were pseudonyms for the real authors, a lesbian and gay man who remain unknown throughout the text except as good friends and social commentators.
The book received scathing reviews from gay activists at the time. Rick Bébout’s review in Canadian Reader exclaimed: “This is a work worthy of bug eyed tourists in a foreign country. The authors do well to keep their real names to themselves.” Ed Jackson, in issue #7 of the Body Politic wrote: “what we don’t need is yet another book delineating the ‘giant shadow’ of loneliness haunting the life of the homosexual.”
However, in hindsight the book has proved to be a critical time-capsule: capturing a transition in Canadian society with a depth that few other sources can match. A Not So Gay World explores the gay community on both sides of the 1969 ‘decriminalization of homosexuality’ in Canada. As correctly pointed out by interviewed activist George Hislop, the Criminal Code amendments were not all that dramatic, “when in fact it never was illegal to be a homosexual.” Yet they were hugely symbolic and greatly affected public attitudes, in a similar way that legalizing same-sex marriage has done in our generation.
One sees the clash of gay cultures between the homophile movement of the 60s and the gay liberation movement in the 70s which flowed from University campuses. The authors clearly feel some camaraderie with the former and write nostalgically about seedy bars, outrageous characters, and just-under-the-radar shenanigans. Ironically, these same high spirited characters and their more socially conservative peers are described as antagonists to the emerging gay liberationists. University of Toronto gay activist Charlie Hill explains that he gets mostly indifference from the campus community, but “I think we get more hostility from gay people themselves, because we are a threat to their anonymity, their carefully structured lives. They do not want to change because they are afraid of change.”
Canadian society did change thankfully, because of those stubbornly proud activists, and consequently we can answer Marion and Kent’s epilogue question: YES, our time has come.