“But it’s the tallest freestanding structure in the world…”
Hearing myself say it, I realized how utterly inconsequential was the Toronto landmark’s convoluted claim to fame. Still, I could not comprehend that no one in London had ever heard of the CN Tower.
I had moved to England in the late ’80s, just after coming out, having decided to create my new gay self unencumbered by familiar surroundings.
British homosexuals had but one point of reference for Toronto: The Body Politic (TBP), a gay liberation journal, had been published there. All were heartbroken by its demise.
It was the first I had heard of that publication – though I had seen its offspring, Xtra – and not the last I would hear of its international influence.
The magazine set the tone, framed the debates, defined the issues and – most importantly – inspired and energized the gay movement for its generation. Its influence eclipsed that of larger gay media, those with workaday mandates to harness an under-served niche market or advance our civil rights.
TBP aspired to articulate the previously unwritten ideas and feelings of gay people, and by collectively exploring them, to envision and ultimately help create a new world for ourselves. A lofty, even flaky idea, yet one which not only endures, but explains the success and unique position of Pink Triangle Press.
As the Press’s lone periodical until Xtra appeared in 1984, TBP delved deeply into unexplored territory. Porn-swilling fags and dykes debated the role of smut with anti-porn feminists. SM afficionados wrote about racially based power fetishes.
Others wrote frankly and famously about paedophilia and fist-fucking. A story on each of these topics resulted in raids and criminal charges on our offices, followed by much publicized trials. In the end, the Press exposed how vicious the police and courts can be when responding to those deemed unpopular or offensive. And the Press leaves as a legacy two of the most significant freedom of expression victories in Canadian history.
When Xtra, Xtra West and Capital Xtra came along, they added the power of mass appeal to TBP’s punch. The three papers now enjoy an audited circulation of nearly 100,000 copies. That’s a lot.
Even as mainstream and gay media outlets clamour for gay stories, it’s difficult to find genuine exploration of the more distinctive aspects of lesbian and gay culture.
At its worst, the mainstream press sensationalizes (think of the National Post’s sordid tales of the slurp ramp at The Bijou cinema). And at best, the media translates gay culture to their straight audiences. Too often, through well-meaning but false analogies, the effect is to shoehorn our exotic gay hoofs into into a pair of all-too-familiar loafers. More worrisome, gay media try to pass what’s known as the coffee table test. As in, is the magazine sufficiently whitewashed that you could leave it on your coffee table when your mother comes over? (Poor woman. Hasn’t she suffered enough without seeing your vapid consumer porn?)
Xtra explores our issues on our own terms and in our own language, with the goals of charting our own course and being true to ourselves. And so it is that we get to the heart of gay sex, or transgenderism, or barebacking, or party drugs and hedonistic club life.
The same approach defines Squirt, our cruising website (www.squirt .org). Squirt is immensely popular, drawing over 30,000 people each day. Cruising remains like much of gay life was in the days of TBP – it’s pervasive, yet reviled, sensationalized, misunderstood or ignored by mainstream society.
Squirt is devoted to exploring and nurturing gay sex culture, and helping it stay its own course as the outside world inevitably begins to peek in.
Pink Triangle Press has survived the life and death of various projects, and growth so rapid that we were named one of the fastest growing companies in Canada. Now, we are transferring our savvy for engaging our chosen communities to new media, and carefully blending it with our acquired business success and management expertise.
After 30 years, we continue to help transform our communities and the societies around them, near and far.