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Toronto couple inspires WorldPride mural

Artists base Church Street mural on 30-year-old ad in The Body Politic

Dave Hingsburger and Joe Jobes with their foster grandchildren Ruby and Sadie. An ad placed by Hingsburger in The Body Politic more than 30 years ago was the inspiration for a new mural on Church Street. Credit: HG Watson

More than 30 years ago, Dave Hingsburger decided to commemorate his 10th anniversary with his partner, Joe Jobes, by surprising him with a celebratory ad in The Body Politic.

The two had met in the halls of their high school in Campbell River, British Columbia, and had followed each other across the country for university and work, eventually landing in Toronto in 1977.

Hingsburger decided on a simple half-page, black-and-white ad that stated, “Happy 10th anniversary Joe, from Dave.” He didn’t bother approaching any other newspaper, because he knew they wouldn’t publish an ad celebrating a homosexual relationship.

After the ad was published, Hingsburger took Jobes to Buddies in Bad Times and gave him a copy of The Body Politic to flip through. “I was thrilled,” Jobes says. “I wasn’t expecting anything like it.”

Recently, the couple found themselves once again surprised as they flipped through the newspaper.

A friend from their early days in Toronto contacted them to let the pair know that in the June 12 issue of Xtra — the successor to The Body Politic — a pair of artists revealed that Hingsburger’s ad had inspired a key piece of WorldPride artwork.

Platinum China Anniversary, which can be found at 522 Church St, on the north wall, is part of the Church Street Mural Project.

Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson, the artists behind the piece, were looking through archival issues of The Body Politic when they stumbled across the ad. “We took that Body Politic inspiration to be historically significant because, as discussed in the meetings with elders and important figures in the community, non-heterosexual classified ads were not allowed to be published in the mainstream newspapers,” Hatanaka told Xtra in an email earlier this month.

“We read that and thought, ‘Well, we’re that Dave and Joe,” Hingsburger says.

They’re now excited to be able to show their family and friends the lasting mark they will have on the neighbourhood. Pride is a big event for their entire family, which has expanded to include a pair of girls, Ruby and Sadie, that Hingsburger and Jobes refer to as their foster grandchildren. Every year they take the girls to get new Pride outfits and matching manicures.

The ad in The Body Politic almost didn’t happen at all. At the time, many in the gay community rejected marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Though Hingsburger and Jobes were not married, The Body Politic board still debated whether to include the ad, fearing it might promote an institution they did not support. Hingsburger argued his case and they eventually relented, and the ad was published.

The couple still has no plans to get married. “Now that they are willing to give it, I don’t want it,” Hingsburger says. After experiencing years of oppression, the couple does not feel that they need either church or state to legitimize their relationship.

“We needed you then,” Hingsburger says. “We don’t need you now.”

Their more immediate plans include getting ready for the Pride parade June 29, where Ruby will join Jobes for a fourth time, on a scooter he rides along the route.

Her favourite part of being in the Pride parade? Squirting people with her water gun — “but I won’t squirt doggies,” she says.

However, as both her foster grandparents note admiringly, last year Ruby soaked several police officers.