Begins Publication Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

One of the most influential and controversial North American publications for lesbians and gays, The Body Politic, began publishing in November of 1971. After several police raids, criminal charges, trials, and acquittals, as well as financial instability and increasing police harassment of the GLBT community in Toronto, Canada, the paper ceased publication at the end of 1986.

Summary of Event

The history of the founding of The Body Politic starts with GLBT community activism and politics. To coincide with the anniversary of the passing of Canada’s Bill C-150 (which decriminalized private and consensual sex between those of the same gender) on August 28, 1969, Toronto Gay Action (TGA), an activist caucus that spun off the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT), organized a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (August 28, 1971). A letter sent to the federal government a week earlier stated that the 1969 amendments had “done but little to alleviate the oppression of homosexual men and women in Canada. In our daily lives we are still confronted with discrimination, police harassment, exploitation, and pressures to conform which deny our sexuality.” A formal brief, titled “We Demand,” accompanied the letter. [kw]Body Politic Begins Publication, The (Nov., 1971) [kw]Publication, The Body Politic Begins (Nov., 1971) Body Politic, The (periodical) Publications;The Body Politic[Body Politic] Media;The Body Politic[Body Politic] [c]Publications;Nov., 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication[0860] [c]Organizations and institutions;Nov., 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication[0860] [c]Civil rights;Nov., 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication[0860] [c]Government and politics;Nov., 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication[0860] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Nov., 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication[0860] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;Nov., 1971: The Body Politic Begins Publication[0860] Moldenhauer, Jearld

The front page of the first issue of The Body Politic, November-December, 1971.

(Hudler Archives ( Pride Library), University of Western Ontario)

Within a couple of weeks and back in Toronto, TGA members met in the basement of a counterculture hall on Sunday nights, invited by Jearld Moldenhauer (also a TGA member) to start a paper for gays and lesbians. Moldenhauer had written an article about the August 28 rally for the Toronto underground leftist tabloid Guerilla, but upon finding that the article had been heavily edited, he knew Toronto needed a distinctive gay voice, and its own periodical.

About two dozen people responded to the call for a meeting, and fifteen decided to form The Body Politic Editorial Collective, the political and (eventually legal) base responsible for the paper that was to be called The Body Politic, or TBP. The first issue, published in November, 1971, had twenty pages, sold for 25 cents, and was sold primarily through street hawking.

Significance

As the paper grew and gathered an internal reputation, it also gathered increasing scrutiny from the conservative provincial government and a local police force that, like many other law enforcement agencies, was not gay positive. In 1977, writer Gerald Hannon Hannon, Gerald penned “Men Loving Boys Loving Men,” "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" (Hannon)[Men Loving Boys Loving Men] Pedophilia an article that became the pretext for a police raid on the newspaper. Operation P, a joint Toronto and Ontario police unit set up to investigate pornography, raided the TBP offices on December 30, 1977, to collect evidence of an alleged crime. On January 5, 1978, the paper was charged under Section 164 of the criminal code: the “use of mails to transmit immoral, indecent and scurrilous material.”

Despite the charge, TBP was acquitted the following year, and the government appealed. In what became a raucous few years for Toronto’s gay and lesbian community, the police raided a number of bathhouses Bathhouse raids in 1978 and 1979. The largest raid came in February of 1981, which was a simultaneous attack on four bathhouses that saw the arrest of more than three hundred men. In May of the next year, the Toronto police’s morality squad again visited TBP premises with a search warrant. On May 12, they charged the editorial collective with “publishing obscene material” after it ran an article in the April, 1982, issue titled “Lust with a Very Proper Stranger.” Shortly after, there was a retrial of the 1978 charges, and, again, on June 15, TBP was acquitted. Later that year, TBP was acquitted on the May, 1982, charges.

Perhaps one of the largest victories for gays and lesbians in Canada was the passage of Bill 7 in the Ontario legislature in November of 1986, which added to the province’s human rights code a prohibition against discriminating on the basis of a person’s “sexual orientation.” Yet, this event also had suggested to some of TBP’s members that the long and protracted struggle to this highly symbolic event meant that the political battle, as it was understood to that point, had ended. What would come next? Who would define the agenda? The paper’s financial stability and political wherewithal were both in question. On December 16, 1986, the collective decided to cease publication. Its last issue came out in February, 1987. Body Politic, The (periodical) Publications;The Body Politic[Body Politic] Media;The Body Politic[Body Politic]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hannon, Gerald. “Men Loving Boys Loving Men.” The Body Politic 39 (December, 1977/January, 1978).
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jackson, Ed, and Stan Persky. Flaunting It! A Decade of Gay Journalism from “The Body Politic.” Vancouver, B.C.: New Star, 1982.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McLeod, Donald W. Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A Selected Annotated Chronology, 1964-1975. Toronto, Ont.: ECW Press, 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple"> Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Winchester, Mass.: Faber and Faber, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Warner, Tom. Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

1953: ONE Magazine Begins Publication

1967: Los Angeles Advocate Begins Publication

December 31, 1977: Toronto Police Raid Offices of The Body Politic

February 5, 1981: Toronto Police Raid Gay Bathhouses

January 1, 1988: Canada Decriminalizes Sex Practices Between Consenting Adults

April 27, 1992: Canadian Government Antigay Campaign Is Revealed

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