Gay rights movement honored

UTHA’s first president, Charles Hill unveiling the plaque at UofT

The first LGBT-related plaque in Ontario was unveiled on Nov. 2 at University College. It honors the University of Toronto Homophile Association (UTHA), the first gay rights activist group in Ontario, and commemorates sexual diversity activism at U of T.
The plaque is located on the east side of University College, where UTHA held its first public meeting on Nov. 4, 1969, shortly after U of T Students’ Administrative Council recognized it as an official student association.
Its recognition stirred controversy in the media, and after publicly defending the organization, Jearld Moldenhauer, UTHA’s founder, was dismissed from his position at U of T.
The backlash to its foundation in 1969 is not different from the backlash UofT Magazine received in 2009 after publishing Anne Perdue’s article about the birth of UTHA, “Out and Proud”.
“As someone who has been here for a quarter of a century these programs and initiatives have made this university a far better place,” said President David Naylor, while wearing a bright pink pin with the words “proud PFLAG dad” written across it.
PFLAG is a charitable organization founded by parents who want to understand their non-heterosexual children.
A research assistant in the physiology department at U of T, Moldenhauer, founded UTHA in October 1969 when he placed an ad in The Varsity seeking “anyone interested in discussing the establishment of a student homophile organization”.
UTHA’s goals, as stated in its constitution, were to educate the community, fight discrimination, and bring about social and personal acceptance of homosexuality.
These goals were achieved through discussion groups, plays, guest lecturers, dances, newsletters, protests, and the set up of an information table in Sidney Smith Hall which aimed to raise awareness of UTHA on campus.
On Aug. 28, 1971 Hill read “We Demand” at the first mass gay rights demonstration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
“We Demand” challenged government policies and looked to advance the rights of homosexuals in Canada. The demands included the right for homosexuals to equal employment and promotion, the right to serve in the Canadian Forces, a uniform age of consent for both homosexuals and heterosexuals, and the end to the RCMP interrogation and identification of homosexuals, among other things.
“On 14 October , 2011, 15 year old Jamie Humbley, an openly gay young man committed suicide after being bullied at school,” says Hill in a trembling voice “lesbian, gay, and transgendered youth are the most endangered [because] we don’t come from our own minority, and the fight to achieve self identity and self affirmation can be very lonely and very painful.”
The plaque celebrating gay rights activism at U of T comes soon after the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office faced near closure last month, creating concern and uncertainty among LGBT leaders and students.

If you like this story, I wrote a similar story for the Varsity. 


2 responses to “Gay rights movement honored

    • Hey Conner,

      I am glad you found the post inspiring. The men involved in UTHA 42 years ago were very brave in my opinion because (we have to remember) that people weren’t as accepting then as they are now. Even today there are people who do not accept, and worse, discriminate against non-heterosexuals. I think we have come a very long way since 1969, but i think we have a long way to go still. And I think it is important to know how we have come to enjoy the support and celebration of sexual diversity in Toronto. Personally, I think it is a positive thing that the sexual diversity activism movement is being honored or acknowledged. In my opinion these men came out, not only to their friends and family, but to the entire world, very publicly at a time when it was completely unacceptable and dangerous to an extent to be gay. And they didn’t stop there. They said not only are we gay, but we are human beings of equal status as the rest of you and we will be treated with the same dignity and respect. And they created a support group for themselves and other queer people. They created a safe place that provided acceptance, support, and education. They received a lot of public back lash. The community was certainly not pleased, in fact many were outraged. But these people persisted and with “We demand” they demanded equality rights for gays. And they deserve a plaque, and then more. They deserve the recognition that they made a difference towards the freedoms we enjoy today and that we appreciate their courage and the pains they went through to gain us those freedoms. I think it is also very important to see where we are now and assess where we have to go from here on. (I am currently working on a feature story to see what queer life is like in Toronto and see how far we have progressed since 1969 and how much further we have to go from here on)–> hopefully I will get this on the blog within a week or so as I am still in the process of interviewing people but look for it if you wish.
      In short, I personally think it is important to award recognition to those who have fought so that the rest of us can live in a better world socially or otherwise, and the gay rights movement does fall into this category 100%. So, I am glad. But maybe other people dont think it is a good thing. I do not know, I know that Charles Hill was very happy that the plaque was commemorating sexual diversity activism and UTHA.

      Thank you for reading my blog by the way 🙂

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