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Gay places that matter

Suggestions from Vancouver's gay archivist

Ron Dutton has been archiving the gay history of Vancouver since 1976 and can name countless locations with historical ties to the community, but three places stick with him as having a special impact on the gay liberation movement in our city and beyond.

(1) Vancouver Art Gallery: Almost 40 years ago, the first Canadian gay demonstrations took place in two places simultaneously. One was on Parliament Hill, the other was at the then-provincial courthouse in downtown Vancouver (now the Vancouver Art Gallery). The demonstration was called “We Demand.”

“It’s a pivotal moment because out of that flows all the current rights,” says Dutton. “That one event is huge in the overall history of the last 40 years for the gay and lesbian community.”

(2) Association for Social Knowledge (formerly located at UBC): The first gay organization in Canada started in the early 1960s when a group of UBC students began to meet as the group ASK. ASK eventually formed a community centre/club with a membership of approximately 400, according to Dutton. The group gave many people their start at coming out and being publicly identified as gay.

(3) Vancouver Lesbian Connection (formerly located at Venables & Commercial): The first lesbian centre in Canada is enormously important in the history of the women’s community here and across the country. Dutton explains that they did everything from social events to legal advice to counselling.

“They were highly politically active for about a 10-year period,” says Dutton. “They became the template for lesbian community centres in other cities.”