If there were ever any doubts about the power of the queer press in Canada, they were laid to rest in the January/February issue of Masthead magazine, which named The Body Politic one of “Canada’s most influential magazines of all time.”
The Body Politic, the pioneering gay liberation magazine from Pink Triangle Press (the publisher of Xtra) was number 17 on the list compiled by Masthead, a publication devoted to covering Canada’s magazine industry. Pink Triangle Press (PTP) published the Body Politic from 1971 to 1987.
“I think it’s great that it made the list,” says Masthead editor Marco Ursi, who wrote the article on the top-20 list. “I think Canada has become a great country for gays and lesbians and The Body Politic was an important part of helping establish this country as a place where gays and lesbians can live freely and comfortably.”
A panel of five Canadian magazine experts compiled the list, the first ever of Canada’s most influential magazines. Other publications that made the cut include Reader’s Digest (first on the list), Maclean’s (third on the list) and The Walrus (20th on the list). Seventy-one magazines were nominated for the list in an online discussion forum, which was conducted from Oct 10 to Dec 1, 2007.
Panel member David Hayes says The Body Politic was a natural choice.
“As soon as it was brought up there was a general feeling that The Body Politic should be included,” says Hayes, a Toronto-based freelance writer who writes frequently about the media. “It was a political force as well as a cultural force.”
Ken Popert, executive director of Pink Triangle Press, agrees.
“I believe [The Body Politic] was the major engine for gay and lesbian politics to take root in Canada,” he says. “It was a device for mobilizing the gay and lesbian population and that mobilization has had an effect on Canadian society.”
Popert, a member of the original Body Politic collective that published the magazine, also notes the international influence of the publication.
“The Body Politic was influential not just within Canada but beyond our borders as well; at its height a third of its circulation was read outside of Canada,” he says.
Asked what being a member of The Body Politic collective was like, Popert calls it “a very consuming thing.”
“For a lot of us The Body Politic was somewhere in between a hobby and a life,” he says.
As for what he derived from the experience on a personal level, Popert had this to say: “Mainly what I discovered is that, [as] a group of like-minded people, we could accomplish more than any one person could. It was a very powerful feeling.”
Another original collective member, journalist Gerald Hannon, also reflects fondly on his days with the group.
“It was the most important job I ever had,” he says. “It brought me together with some of the smartest gay people of my generation. Its impact on my life can’t be under-estimated.”
PTP began publishing Xtra in Toronto in 1984, providing readers with lighter material such as entertainment listings, art reviews and community news. PTP phased out The Body Politic in 1987 and focused on developing Xtra. In 1993 the Press launched Capital Xtra in Ottawa and Xtra West in Vancouver, creating English-speaking Canada’s first and only national gay and lesbian media group.