Scott Symons died on February 23rd in Toronto.
Scott Symons was a writer, artist and curator. A biting cultural critic, his books were always controversial.
His novel, Combat Journal for Place d’Armes: A Personal Narrative, published in 1967, was significant for its critique of Anglo-Canadian culture and in how directly it dealt with gay sexuality.
To say Place d’Armes was controversial is putting it mildly and it evoked a reaction that was also homophobic-one commentator of the day called Symons “the most repellant single figure in the recent history of Canadian literature”. Some believe that the reaction to his novel was one reason Symons fled Canada and went into exile, in exactly the same way gay and lesbian authors in other parts of the world still have to leave their home countries. Others recognize Symons as a major influence for a generation of new authors in Canada.
Scott Symons helped me appreciate the reality of my incarnation and the relationship of my sexuality to culture and politics. My personal coming out was shaped by his story. His political critique helped form my views, even when I disagreed with him. His courage to write honestly from his experience changed my life and the lives of many others.
Thank you Scott Symons.
Siksay said that he’d hoped to have a chance to rise in the House to make a statement to the fact, but that the timing just didn’t happen.
“It was really sad for me when I heard that he’d passed away on Tuesday because he was someone for who, even though I’d never met him, was really influential in my coming out. His novel Place d’Armes, it was sort of his coming out story, which he wrote in 1967 – I read it in the mid-seventies. It was very controversial for its day, lots of homophobic reaction to it, but he was a very sharp critic of Anglo-Canadian culture from an old, almost Family-Compact, old Tory kind of perspective, but I found it incredibly insightful, and his stuff about coming to terms with his sexuality was just the stuff I needed to hear when I was coming out.”
Siksay also told me that he tracked down a first edition copy of Place d’Armes, which he now proudly displays on his end table.