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What the We Demand protest meant for gay liberation

1 Out of the closets, into the streets


Some people did not attend the We Demand protest because they were afraid of being photographed and publicly identified as gay. The demonstration — and each of the protests that followed — showed that gay people could be out and proud.

2 An era of legal reforms

Many of the legal reforms proposed by the We Demand document have been adopted: equal employment, the end of RCMP surveillance, immigration reform, the right to serve in the military.

3 National coordination, national movement

The list of demands that formed the protest’s backbone was written by 12 gay groups from across the country, organizing under the banner of the August 28th Gay Day Committee. Following that, gays formed the National Gay¬†Elections Coalition, the first green shoots in a budding national movement.

4 First the feds, next the provinces

The We Demand protest specifically targeted national issues. But provincial organizations — like the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario — were needed to fight for issues related to health, education and other matters of provincial jurisdiction.

5 The birth of the gay press

Within three months of the August, 1971, protest the first issue of The Body Politic rolled off the presses. It became the premier communications organ of the gay movement for more than a decade. The Body Politic grew into Pink Triangle Press, which today publishes Xtra, fab, QueeriesMag, guidemag.com and runs HardTV and squirt.org.