How to sum up 30 years in publishing? You can’t.
You pick, you choose. You boggle at the volume of words, shudder at the insight, the passion of conviction – and the bullshit, too. Then you notice the tremendous cultural and legal changes that have paralleled the life of Pink Triangle Press since 1971 and think: This can’t have been a coincidence.
BIRTH OF QUEER NATIONS
* Nov 1, 1971. The first issue of The Body Politic goes on sale.
* Mar 10, 1984. The first issue of Xtra is published.
* Nov 1, 1990. The Press launches its telepersonal chatline service, eventually creating Xtra’s talking classifieds and Cruiseline.
* Aug 27, 1993. The first edition of Xtra West, PTP’s Vancouver paper, hits the stands.
* Sep 24, 1993. Ottawa’s Capital Xtra monthly is born.
* September 1999. Squirtpersonals.com the Press’s foray into interactive web content, gets its first hit. Squirt.org, where users can swap cruising info, was launched in April 2000.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
* Gillian Rodgerson. Rodgerson worked with the press from 1981 to 1985 on things ranging from international news with Tim McCaskell to co-ordinating classified advertising. She moved to London, England in 1987 and worked at Gay Times magazine, edited the weekly newspaper Capital Gay and has been editing Diva magazine since 1987.
* Gerald Hannon. Hannon spent 15 years writing for The Body Politic and went on to be a freelancer. Hannon was for a time a journalism instuctor at Ryerson until he told his class he was a prostitute. Hannon sits on the Press’s board of directors.
* Ed Jackson. He was involved with The Body Politic from issue number 2. He was part of the team that came up with the concept for Xtra. After The Body Politic collapsed, Jackson went on to work as education director for the AIDS Committee Of Toronto for about seven years. He now works with the educational publisher, Thomson Learning.
* Chris Bearchell. A collective member from the mid-’70s. When The Body Politic collapsed, she went on to edit the short-lived Epicene magazine. She now live on Lasqueti Island in British Columbia, gets her mail general delivery and posts on a “pro-individual rights” Internet listserve.
* Mariana Valverde. She was involved with The Body Politic from late 1979 to around ’83 and spent two or three years on the collective. Since then she’s taught women’s studies and is now a professor with the criminology department of the University Of Toronto, doing work on the sociology of law.
GREAT IDEAS, SHORT LIVES
* The Right To Privacy Committee. The committee – created in the late 1970s in response to police harassment of Toronto bathhouses – wasn’t a project of the Press. But there was an large overlap of volunteers, and the Press printed the committee’s newsletters. When the 1981 raids of several bathhouses resulted in the arrest of almost 300 patrons and staff, the size of the RTPC mushroomed. When the cases cleared the courts in 1988 (with more than 80 percent of those charged acquitted), the committee faded away.
* XS. With the 1987 demise of The Body Politic, editors created the XS supplement in November 1989 to give Xtra a more serious side, with longer articles about the arts, national and international issues. It continued for 43 issues until 1993.
* Canadian Male. The Press bought the Ottawa-based contact magazine Malebox in 1994, in an attempt to reach the magazine’s readers in smaller centres across Canada. Two years later, Malebox was transformed into Canadian Male. CM had a glossy cover, sexy photos, ads, raunchy fiction and politics. It ceased publication in 1998.
* The Church-Wellesley Review. Launched in 1990, this annual literary supplement featured established writers like Timothy Findley and Jane Rule alongside emerging writers. It ceased publication in 2000, but its archive lives on at Xtra.ca.
* Go Big magazine. The national glossy semi-annual had more pretty pictures in its three issues than the entire history of the Press put together. It was published from May 2000 to May 2001.
* Nov 21, 1977. The issue of The Body Politic containing the article “Men Loving Boys Loving Men” goes on sale; On Dec 30, 1977, the provincial pornography squad raids the offices, seizing material and subscriptions lists. After many trials and appeals, the case ends in victory for the Press Oct 15, 1983.
* Feb 5, 1981. The police raid four Toronto bathhouses, arresting 266 patrons and 20 staff. The Body Politic comes of age covering the fallout.
* May 12, 1982. Police charge all nine members of The Body Politic editorial collective with publishing obscene material, related to an article about fist fucking.
* Dec 30, 1988. For the first time Xtra publishes a year-end AIDS memorial page called Proud Lives.
* Jun 25, 1999. Xtra publishes a news flash to warn gay men that police raided The Bijou porn theatre. After several raids, police charge 18 men. The charges are dropped several months later.
QUOTES FROM THE VAULT
“Have you met the faggot or dyke who is thrilled to the marrow when someone pays him or her the ultimate compliment: ‘I never would have guessed!’?”
– Chris Bearchell in The Body Politic, June, 1978
“Sexual attraction depends on both partners accepting basic inequality. Inequality in casual relationships, where love is not an issue, may seem more tolerable.”
– Jane Rule in The Body Politic, February, 1980
“There are two ways of fucking, of being fucked (Surely there are more.)
– Michael Riordon in The Body Politic, October, 1980
“A publication of The Body Politic… has once again printed an interview with a ‘sexually ambiguous’ entertainer. We would be delighted to find writing in TBP or Xtra that questioned the centrality of sexual orientation in our self-definitions – but we don’t think we have yet.”
– letter from Brian Pronger, Gerry Oxford and David Sanders in Xtra, May 19, 1984
“I loved it. I loved getting the story out and trying hard as hell to get it right. It took its toll though. I reached a point where I couldn’t face the news desk without wanting to cry.”
– Gerald Hannon in the final issue of The Body Politic, February, 1987
“War encourages prejudice. It will start with Iraqis, move on to anyone of Arab descent, then the dark-skinned, followed… by any dissenting voices, marginals and easy targets (that’s us girlfriend!).”
– Column in Xtra, Jan 25, 1991, during the Persian Gulf war
“I am surprised by how little sex there is in gay literature and the gay press. After all, the only thing that connects all male homosexuals is our desire for cock, ass, cum, saliva and sweat.”
– Garth Barriere in Xtra, May 28, 1993
“Most of us didn’t need AIDS to learn about responsibility, maturity and compassion. That’s how we’d built a community in the first place: We knew how to organize; we knew how to talk sex; we knew we had to take care of each other – because no one else would.”
– Rick Bébout in Xtra, Jun 9, 1995
“You drooling wombats on the front lines of the gay agenda make me want to puke. I spurn you like I would spurn a rabid dog. Fortunately, the dog can be put down – too bad we can’t do the same with the likes of you!”
– Unpublished anonymous letter writer, 2000
How to sum up 30 years in publishing? You can’t.