Although our queer communities are sources of great joy, they were forged in the crucible of adversity.
When my parents were young adults in the early 1960s, Canadian homosexuals were still subject to government surveillance and jail terms simply for expressing their sexualities.
By the end of 1971, George Klippert, who had been declared a dangerous offender and imprisoned indefinitely for admitting to his penchant for gay sex, was finally freed from a Canadian prison. That was only a few months before I was born.
In February of 1981,when I was nine, police raided four Toronto bathhouses and arrested more than 300 gay men. The following day, 3,000 queer people took to the streets in protest.
A few months later, the US Centers for Disease Control issued a bulletin that read, “Five young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at three different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died… The fact that these patients were all homosexuals suggests an association between some aspect of a homosexual lifestyle or disease acquired through sexual contact.”
It was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in North America and a whole new rash of hysteria and stigma against homosexuals. Because AIDS seemed peculiar to a marginalized fringe of society-gay men-it would be years before government and medical science would begin to address the disease in any meaningful way. Gay men would band together and out themselves in droves in a desperate attempt to save their own lives and the lives of their lovers while social conservatives openly told them they deserved to die.
In 1993, when I was 21, police in my hometown, London, Ontario, launched Project Guardian. It started as an investigation into something police spin-doctors called “child exploitation,” but it was a campaign of misinformation that conspicuously focused only on gay sex. By 1995, almost 500 charges had been laid and the police chief, Julian Fantino, would go on to lead Toronto’s police service.
Again, it was the gay activist community that took the risk to stand up in defence of all queer people.
In 2001, Vancouver’s queer communities came together once again in the wake of the murder of Aaron Webster.
But now, sex is (in most cases) not a crime, HIV is no longer a death sentence and is rarely referred to as a gay disease, bathhouses are open, most queer communities have reasonably good relations with police, and queer people can even get married to each other and have children if they choose to.
We’ve come so far and so many things have changed. But as we move forward, queer people are faced with a new question: where do we go from here? That question was the impetus for this, our Future of Queer issue. In it we’ve started to explore some ideas about how the life of our queer communities might evolve for the next generation. Where will we live? How will we grow? How will we preserve our hard-earned identities? How will we ensure that we don’t become even more alienated from the freedom to express ourselves sexually? How will we ensure that those who are marginalized even within our own ranks won’t be left behind?
These changes, as all changes, come with some degree of trepidation for many of us. But the future is undoubtedly bright. Queer people have always been highly adaptable. And for the first time in recent history we’re, at least on paper, free to defend ourselves openly.
Some of the ideas we’ve explored in this issue are whimsical and far-fetched. Male pregnancy and our fictional account of a post-apocalyptic Davie Village, for example, are more fancy than fact. Other ideas are rooted in observable trends in the here-and-now. The internet is continuing to change the way we interact with each other and express ourselves. Queer people of modest means are being pushed out of gay neighbourhoods across North America, including the Davie Village. We’ve achieved marriage equality, but sexual expression is still a target of irrational derision.
Our hope is that this issue will encourage some wider discussion on these issues. We hope you enjoy it.