The summer of 1977 was a hot one in Toronto, made hotter by the unlikely linkage of Anita Bryant, a shoeshine boy and Toronto’s gay liberation newspaper The Body Politic.
It all began on Jun 7, when anti-homosexual crusader Anita Bryant, with her strategy of portraying homosexuals as child molesters, successfully campaigned to repeal a Florida ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Seven weeks later, Emanuel Jaques, a 12-year-old shoeshine boy of Portuguese descent, was lured from his spot at Yonge and Dundas, only to be raped and then drowned in a sink. His murderers hid his body beneath a pile of lumber on the rooftop of a Yonge St body rub parlor. The crime was portrayed as a gay murder — four men were charged and three were convicted.
On the day of Jaques’ funeral, 15,000 Portuguese-Canadians and sympathizers marched on Toronto City Hall denouncing gays and demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty. Not quite three months later, The Body Politic published an article by Gerald Hannon written earlier that summer entitled Men Loving Boys Loving Men, and bringing the simmering rage of Toronto The Good down on its head.
Men Loving Boys Loving Men addressed issues of youth sexuality and intergenerational sex through the stories of three men and their romantic and sexual relationships with boys. The article ended by accusing Anita Bryant and like-minded others of molesting homosexuals by interfering with their sexuality.
Until the publication of that article, The Body Politic had been a small, marginal newspaper anchored in the gay liberation movement of the previous decade. It now became a cause célèbre as events played themselves out with alarming speed:
Nov 21, 1977: Men Loving Boys Loving Men is published in The Body Politic.
Dec 22 and 27, 1977: The Toronto Sun publishes six items on The Body Politic, including an editorial and two columns by Claire Hoy entitled Our taxes help homosexuals promote abuse of children, and Kids, not rights, is their craving.
Dec 28, 1977: Hoy claims to have lobbied members of the Ontario cabinet, urging action against The Body Politic.
Dec 30, 1977: Police search The Body Politic offices and seize 12 cartons of material, including subscription lists.
Jan 5, 1978: The Toronto Sun calls The Body Politic, “a crummy, dirty publication without a redeeming feature.” Charges are laid against The Body Politic and its publisher, Pink Triangle Press which today publishes Xtra West.
Jan 15: Anita Bryant speaks at People’s Church in North York, Ontario.
Then, as the wheels of justice began to turn-and as any reader of Dickens’ Bleak House can tell you, the wheels of justice may grind small but they grind slowly — the tempo slackened, with the case finally coming to trial in the Ontario Provincial Court in January of 1979.
After an acquittal, an appeal, an order for retrial, an appeal of the order (all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada), a second trial, an acquittal (“sick” declared Hoy) and a threatened appeal of the verdict, the affair petered out. It had lasted five years and nine months, cost The Body Politic $100,000, and made the newspaper one of the most visible homosexual institutions in Canada.
But its decline had already begun; in 1987, Pink Triangle Press, which had launched Xtra (Xtra West’s sister publication in Toronto) three years previously, decided to cease publishing The Body Politic, bringing to a close a pioneering phase of gay and lesbian journalism in Canada.
The repercussions of the Men Loving Boys Loving Men court case can still be felt to this day. It effectively put an end to any serious debate about intergenerational sex within the homosexual community in Canada; and as late as 1997, an Ontario man on trial for possession of child pornography had a copy of Hannon’s article in The Body Politic entered as evidence against him.