On the Origins of



The end
Issue 135, February 1987

BP #135, the final issue

The final issue:
Showing the first on its cover -- with "an obituary meant to sell":

This is how it began.

Two years after Stonewall a bunch of people got together to start a small gay tabloid. They didn't really know how to do it. But in a moment that felt fresh and exciting and new, anything seemed possible. They just knew they wanted to.

What they made was brash, inspiring, pig-headed -- and vital. It touched more people than they could have imagined in 1971. And it lived for fifteen years. This is how it ends.

The farewell issue of
The Body Politic


The Body Politic
Some sources on its people,
communities, times
(& times before)

Rick Bébout: Inventory of the Records of The Body Politic and Pink Triangle Press (Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives [hereafter CLGA], 1998). Details on TBP's works and workings; lists of collective members, writers, correspondents and other workers, nearly all unpaid, more than 500 named here. And that wasn't all of them.

The Body Politic and Visions of Community. A 1995 essay on changing notions of "community" as seen by TBP over 15 years.

Promiscuous Affections: A Life in The Bar, 1969 - 2000. Tales of TBP when I was there after 1977, and some earlier bits.

Donald W McLeod:  Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A Selected Annotated Chronology, 1964 - 1975 (ECW Press and Homewood Books, 1996). Click the title for info.

Ed Jackson and Stan Persky, eds:  Flaunting It! A Decade of Gay Journalism from The Body Politic (Pink Triangle Press and New Star Books, 1982). The best of TBP's first 10 years, with a chronology less complete than Don McLeod's but covering more years and available online: Victories & defeats: A gay & lesbian chronology, 1964-1982.

Gary Kinsman:  The Regulation of Desire: Homo and Hetero Sexualities (2nd ed, Black Rose Books, 1996). See a review, Regulating Desire, on the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives website.

Tom Warner:  Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2002). A hugely comprehensive resource, Canada-wide (so eschewing "Torontocentricity," paying TBP attention mostly as the movement's "newspaper of record"). Tom was an early member of its collective, still sharing its passion for true gay liberation (beyond "gay rights").

Ann Silversides:  AIDS Activist: Michael Lynch and the Politics of Community (Between the Lines, 2003). The life of a key player at TBP (and well beyond), covering much of the paper's life too -- and the odd ways of working, living, and loving that made it possible.

False starts; fodder for history

I have made more than one attempt to tell the story of The Body Politic. I finished none of them.

I started simply compiling notes, then tried to shape them into a fairly traditional sort of history. Traditional and, it turned out, laboured and dull. I abandoned it. Then I tried focussing on just a single year, 1982 -- but soon saw I'd have to tell people how the paper got to 1982. So I went back to its founding, wrote most of two chapters taking the story up to late 1974 -- and then abandoned that, too.

Writing Promiscuous Affections (where a rather different focus let me sail happily through three decades), I inevitably told tales of The Beep (as we Beepers sometimes called it): for nearly a decade it was my life. But that decade began in 1977; only from then do I say much about the paper -- which was born in 1971. I could imagine people reading through those three decades and wondering just how TBP, so central to the story, actually came to be. And got to 1977. So I have rescued some of that abandoned work.

What's here is the remains of those first chapters of that second attempt -- revised, condensed, annotated, updated, and broken into five parts. They are listed below, their contents noted with key events, organizations and people shown in bold. Each title is a link to its text, in which key names also appear in bold. The file size (approximate word count and number of images) is shown for each.

But this doesn't tell the whole story. The true history of The Body Politic has yet to be written. And I hope someday someone will. Or many someones.

There is fodder here for many histories of Toronto's gay communities, even Canada's. For scads of studies, from the economics of alternative publishing to the politics of a workplace, and even households, collectively run. There are biographies waiting birth, scores of them, on people who helped shaped gay life and thought in the '70s and '80s, even beyond. Those people did it all for love (and, nearly all of them, for free), working for themselves, for each other, and for generations yet unborn.

Those stories will, I hope, someday be told. Notes on sources used for this piece appear at the left, as a beginner's guide (it just skims the surface) to whomever may end up telling them.

Rick Bébout, January 2000
(Slightly revised, June 2003)

From the 1950s (even before) to September 1971
(4,900 words, 7 images)

From 19th-Century homosexual emancipation, to "an absolute tidal wave" of gay mags in Weimar Germany, to Toronto's Jim Egan, one-man gay movement in the '50s (all lost history until later reclaimed). Canada's first gay group, Vancouver's Association for Social Knowledge (ASK), 1964; its first gay mags, Gay (1964 - 65) and Two (1964 - 66). The social earthquake of the late '60s births modern gay liberation. In August 1969 Canada decriminalizes homosexual acts (or some of them), shamed by the case of jailed Everett George Klippert -- and We Demand much more sweeping reforms in the pioneering August 28, 1971 Ottawa demo.

Conception & birth
September & October 1971
(5,500 words, 6 images)

Jearld Moldenhauer (initiator of the University of Toronto Homophile Association, 1969, Charlie Hill heading it; founder of Glad Day Books in 1970) invites members of Toronto Gay Action (radical spin off of the Community Homophile Association of Toronto) to help start a mag of their own -- unhappy with (if often working with) the counterculture rag Guerilla. Many respond, key among them: Peter Zorzi and Charlie Dobie, David Newcome, Alan Falconer, John "Twilight Rose" Forbes, Tony Metie, Paul Macdonald, Herb Spiers, Brian Waite and others named in the text. Over just a few weeks they hash out ideas; in just days put it all together -- and don't name it until forced to put something on the cover.

Coming out
October 28, 1971
(2,200 words, 5 images)

Off to press (the printing bill paid out of their own pockets), 5,000 copies delivered October 28 and hawked on the streets right away. Most notably, Yonge St on Halloween, notorious for drag queens braving barrages of eggs. They'd done it -- but what exactly had they done? A look at what was (and was not) in TBP's Issue 1 -- dismissed as "pages and pages of political harangue" by some; seen by others as "the taking into our own hands of our destiny."

Baby steps
Late 1971 through 1974
(8,000 words, 19 images)

Hard years, if seeing the people who would shape TBP's (and their own) destiny for years to come: Gerald Hannon, Ed Jackson, Hugh Brewster, Don Bell, Merv Walker, Tom Warner, Robert Trow, Jim Steakley, Ken Popert, Ron Dayman, Gary Ostrom, Kirk Kelly, Michael Lynch and Tim McCaskell. All would be on The Body Politic Collective then or later -- as would others who left too soon. But these people stayed on, some for a very long time.

From 1974
(4,100 words, 8 images)

Practices born in the early '70s that also go on for years: collective control (no boss); non-profit ownership (no personal owner); advertising (and its discontents); ever increasing frequency (and too many deadlines). Most of all people -- hundreds of them, working for passion, not pay. With a bit on Pink Triangle Press today.

Go on to Genealogy

Go to Promiscuous Affections: Intro or Contents page

Go back to my Home Page
This page: http://www.rbebout.com/oldbeep/intro.htm
January 2000 / Last revised: September 22, 2003 / Minor fix: August 11, 2007
Rick Bébout © 2000-2003