On Sat, Jan 30, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre hosts the official launch party of Queer Ontario, a provincial activist group in the tradition of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO). A network composed of individuals and groups, Queer Ontario assumes its predecessor’s mission of challenging and reforming the social and political laws that affect gay and lesbian people in Ontario.
Since its 1975 inception, CLGRO was a leading force in the gay liberation movement in Ontario and Canada. Through protests and government lobbying, CLGRO was at the fore of many victories for gay people in Ontario over the past three decades, most notably the 1986 passage of Bill-7, which extended discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation protections under the Ontario Human Rights Act. CLGRO was likewise active in the fight to secure same-sex partnership benefits for gay and lesbian people and to pass Bill-5, which added “same-sex partner” as a legal term in Ontario and extended most common-law domestic rights to gay couples.
Although a number of factors contributed to its dissolution, Nick Mulé, a longtime member of CLGRO and spokesperson for Queer Ontario, cites a lack of funding and dwindling membership as reasons for CLGRO ceasing operations.
“There was a real decline in localized groups across the province doing political work,” he says. “There were less and less people involved, and it was hard to maintain itself.”
Mulé adds that CLGRO lagged behind in today’s age of internet-based rallying — something he believes Queer Ontario will be better suited to.
“The old way of doing things was to organize demonstrations and mail letters,” he chuckles, adding that by employing social networking tools like Facebook, Queer Ontario will awaken and mobilize virtual activists.
“We’re hoping it will attract a whole new generation of people interested in putting forth a political voice so that we do not disappear as a group,” he says.
Mulé insists that although times have changed, the threats of oppression and assimilation are alive and well, so the work of gay activists is hardly done.
“Social rights — people’s attitudes towards us — are the hardest issues to address,” he says. “As helpful as legislation has been over the years, it doesn’t necessarily change attitudes. That’s why we need a Queer Ontario. Queer Ontario will be focused on the social right — the right to be who you are as opposed to the legal right.”
The free Jan 30 event at Buddies’ will be hosted by Ryan G Hinds and Kristyn Wong-Tam and will feature performances by LAL, Kim Crosby, Hinds and Troy Jackson.
“We wanted to give [CLGRO] a big farewell and thank them for the work they have contributed,” he says, adding that guests will learn about Queer Ontario’s mission and how they can donate their time and, of course, their money. “Queer Ontario is a last kick at the can to see if anyone else is interested,” says Mulé. “This is something we must maintain. The importance of being vigilant will never go away.”