When most queers think of important dates in the gay calendar, Pride is probably the first one that jumps to mind. Halloween is perhaps not far behind. But very few of us remember, or have ever heard of, the first official gay and lesbian holiday in Canada: Pink Triangle Day.
Declared at the 1979 conference of the long-gone national organization Canadian Lesbian And Gay Rights Coalition (CLGRC), Pink Triangle Day commemorates the first major legal victory for Canada’s queer rights movement. On that day in 1979, three officers of Pink Triangle Press (the company that publishes Xtra) were acquitted of indecency charges stemming from the article “Men Loving Boys Loving Men,” published in the Dec 1977/Jan 1978 issue of The Body Politic.
Today marks the 29th anniversary of Pink Triangle Day. So why aren’t we celebrating?
“Valentine’s Day has got a real stranglehold on people’s minds,” Harold Desmarais told Xtra back in 2004. He was a delegate at the ’79 CLGRC conference and is a stalwart supporter of the holiday. Although the hope was to reclaim Valentine’s Day for all queerkind, it seems that in the end hearts have trumped triangles.
“It was never meant to be a carbon copy of Valentine’s Day,” said Desmarais. “It was never tied to coupledom. It’s not just a note to the current hottie in your life.”
Instead, the day was intended to be a celebration of all sorts of relationships. “It’s an opportunity to tell all the people in our lives, our friends, who especially in the lesbian and gay community are so much more important because so often they have to take on the role of family as well. We don’t take the opportunity to say ‘We love you. We appreciate you in my life. I need to tell you this.’ That’s the whole point of Pink Triangle Day.”
Desmarais has been sending out custom-made Pink Triangle Day cards for more than 20 years now. “I used to colour in all the pink triangles,” he said. “But after my list reached over 200 it became a time-consuming thing.”
Not everyone on his list has clued in to the cards’ significance. “There are still those that say, ‘I really liked your Valentine’s card.’ And I say, ‘It isn’t a Valentine’s Day card, didn’t you read the fucking thing?’ It’s the ultimate in frustration. It’s like Sisyphus rolling the boulder to the top of the hill only to have someone send it to the bottom again.”