TBP 51

1979: Not guilty.
2003: Judicial absurdity?


Courts just love
Men Loving Boys

This "kiddie porn" is in libraries
across the country

Gerald Hannon, Xtra! May 29 2003

"It has been said that, if history repeats itself, what débuts as tragedy repeats itself as farce. With the judiciary the maxim is a little different: What begins as farce invariably repeats itself as Noh play, that Japanese exercise in the excitements attendant on whether or not an actor may actually move."
The things you don't know about yourself. As in: turns out I am a child pornographer. (Gee, and I live right next door to a school and everything.) And I've been this glamorously vile thing since 1997, the year a provincial court judge in northern Ontario found Narcisse Kuneman, a teacher, guilty of possession of several pieces of child pornography, among them the March/April 1979 issue of The Body Politic, which contained a reprint of an article I wrote called "Men Loving Boys Loving Men."

Kuneman is in jail. His case never made it to the media, and I would have remained unaware of my glam new literary stature except for one thing -- Kuneman decided to appeal his conviction, and the appeal landed in the lovely lap of lawyer Frank Addario, well-known in the community for his work representing the Pussy Palace defendants. Addario suggested I attend the appeal hearing, which took place May 15 at Osgoode Hall, before three judges of the Ontario Court Of Appeal.

Those readers younger than their mid-30s may need a gay history refresher course. Back, back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Xtra was as yet unborn, there existed a collectively-run magazine for gay liberation called The Body Politic. "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" was originally published in 1977, as part of an occasional series on youth sexuality. We were raided by the police in December of that year, charged in January 1978 with using the mails to distribute immoral, indecent or scurrilous material and -- after a long and sensational trial -- acquitted a year later. The Crown appealed, and won an order for a retrial. We were tried and acquitted a second time. End of story -- or so we thought.

It has been said that, if history repeats itself, what debuts as tragedy repeats itself as farce. With the judiciary the maxim is a little different -- what begins as farce invariably repeats itself as Noh play, that Japanese exercise in the excitements attendant on whether or not an actor may actually move.

Still, I wanted to see my baby, born in 1977 and charged with unspeakable crimes while still in diapers, toddle back into court at the ripe old age of 26. So I, at the ripe old age of 58, toddled back as well, in the company of the equally well-seasoned Ed Jackson, a co-defendant in the original trials (as was Ken Popert, now executive director of Pink Triangle Press, Xtra's publisher).

Flaunting It!

"Freely and legally circulated for more than a quarter century." Still part of "the ever diminishing canon of acceptable literature"?

I suppose I felt the requisite indignation -- here was an article, freely and legally circulated for more than a quarter century, available (as part of Flaunting It!, an anthology of Body Politic articles) in libraries and on Amazon and Indigo websites and taught at the university level, suddenly at risk because some backwater judge deemed it in violation of an absurd law.

Truth be told, though, what I felt more strongly was a certain perverse pride. The law against kiddie porn is so stupid, the minds defending it so banal, the impact on civil liberties so devastating that breaking it strikes one as both a civic duty and a positive pleasure. To be suddenly (if inadvertently) in the company of writer Robin Sharpe, that unsung hero of Canadian resistance to this foul law, was no small pleasure either.

Sitting drowsily in Osgoode Hall's courtroom 10, I couldn't help but think back to our first trial, in 1979. It was an entertaining expert-witness free-for-all of warring academics, loose-cannon journalists, unctuous clergy and nattering therapists, all played out before slaveringly attentive media.

On May 15, 2003, however, the case had indisputably reached the status of Noh. Addario was prepared, articulate and persuasive (the Crown none of the above), but the case played itself out with the glacial dignity that hopes to distract one from the realization that the system is forcing intelligent adults to the shame of dealing with questions like, "What is art?" as a strategic rather than a philosophical issue.

Mind you, there were some small pleasures in watching the three judges get pesteringly irritated by the fact that just about anything can get called art these days. And the dining room at Osgoode Hall is very pleasant.

At the end of the day, the judges reserved their decision. When they finally issue their judgment, they might uphold the trial judge's findings, they might disagree and return "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" to the ever diminishing canon of acceptable literature or they might order a new trial.

Officially, of course, I must hope that they do the right, reasonable and just thing and exonerate. There are librarians and archivists everywhere who will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief.

But unofficially? Perhaps stupidly, certainly romantically? If a law this ridiculous is going to remain on the books, I want to be in violation of it.

Gerald Hannon is a member of the board of directors of Pink Triangle Press.

Postscript: On June 20, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal, ruling in this case, set aside the 1997 conviction of that teacher, Narcisse Kuneman, for possesion of "Men loving boys loving men," saying it does not qualify as child pornography. (Kuneman remained in jail on other charges.)

But, as Gerald Hannon has since said: "It seems to me somehow that it's perhaps not not kiddie porn forever." The judges did order a new trial. That article could, again, end up in court. And, even if it does not, the issues it addressed surely will.

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June 2003 / Last revised: June 27, 2003
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