To be Gay in Ward Seven
By Ron Dayman Seven News, June 1, 1974
Gay people probably constitute the largest minority in Canada. Although there are no figures available which relate to Canada specifically, the application to the Canadian population of statistics gathered in similar societies abroad suggests that Canadian gays number about two million.
These millions have voted for and paid taxes to successive governments which until August of 1969, virtually ignored their existence. At that time the government legalized what had always taken place anyways, that is, certain sexual acts between consenting adults in private. However, laws still remain on the books which permit or authorize discrimination against homosexuals in the areas of housing, employment and immigration.
Thus the government in effect stated that gay people have the right to express their sexual orientation, as long as they remain hidden “in the closet”. The end result of this is that although one in ten people you know are gay, it is highly unlikely that you know of any gay people.
And this despite the fact that Ward Seven probably has a higher concentration of gay people than any other area in Toronto. St. Jamestown and Don Vale with their single-unit dwellings are often referred to as the “gay ghetto” of Toronto.
Thus to be gay in Ward Seven is, for most homosexuals, to play a role, to pretend to be straight, to hide their sexual orientation. Why, you might ask, would homosexuals want others to know they are gay? Why? Because we ask to have the same human and civil rights as other citizens.
You might also ask how these rights are denied to us. That I am more than able to tell you, since I have lived as an openly gay person in Ward Seven for the past year. And I can assure you that to be gay in Ward Seven is not a particularly pleasant experience for me. For to be verbally and physically abused is, to be an object of ridicule, to be openly discriminated against on a daily basis is not particularly pleasant.
These are some of the experiences that I have undergone: Walking home one evening arm in arm with a friend and being mocked by a policeman in a passing car and having obscenities and threats of violence hurled at you by people on the street; getting into a car hand in hand with a friend and being surrounded by a gang of ten kids, kicking the car and screaming insults; and now that I am known as a homosexual, being called a “queer” a “cocksucker”, etc. every time I walk down the street or being kicked in the back by kids on bicycles; or when trying to rent office space on Parliament Street for the gay liberation newspaper for which I work, The Body Politic being told that they don’t want anything to do with that kind of thing and having the phone hung up on me. Are these things that happen to you as heterosexuals?
And what is worse, there is little we can do to counteract this blatant discrimination. We are denied most access to the media and to speak to citizens' groups and high schools, so that we are not permitted to try and change the anti-gay attitudes which are so predominant.
Legally we have no recourse. “Sexual orientation” is not a protected factor in the Ontario Human Rights Code so that we cannot take our cases of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and access to public services to court, as can other minority groups. In the particular case of the office space refused me, I have filed an informal complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, but all they can do is investigate and try to mediate.
Nonetheless, to be gay in Ward Seven, for me, is to be proud to be gay, to let others know that I am gay and to demand the same right to live my particular life-style as others. And to be straight in Ward Seven, should be to come to a realization that it is the community’s responsibility to ensure that gay people are treated with the same dignity and respect as other citizens and are offered the same civil and human rights as other individuals in this province.
This article was published in Seven News, Volume 5, Number 1, June 1, 1974