Tenir le rocher de Sisyphe en place: L’Operation Outreach et la mobilisation des communautés gais et lesbiennes dans le nord ontarien

Au mois de mars dernier, j’avais le plaisir d’être invité par la Société historique du nouvel-Ontario (SHNO) afin de pouvoir présenter une partie de ma recherche. Au début, j’avais entièrement l’intention de parler de la relation entre les syndicats et les mouvements gais et lesbiennes du nord, mais comme ma recherche touche très peu sur cette région, et comme les mois précédent la présentation étaient en partie occupée par la préparation pour la grève du SCFP 3903 à l’Université York, j’avais décidé au-lieu de me concentrer sur un événement particulier qui avait eu lieu en 1980 : l’Operation Outreach. Ci-dessous, vous trouverez le texte de ma présentation (avec quelques petites corrections). Le présentation avait originalement comme titre « Au travail et dans la communauté : les droits des gais et lesbiennes, les syndicats et les communautés nord-ontariennes, » mais étant donnée de la concentration sur l’Operation Outreach, je vous la présente ici avec un nouveau titre.

An english-language version of this text is available here.

Continue reading “Tenir le rocher de Sisyphe en place: L’Operation Outreach et la mobilisation des communautés gais et lesbiennes dans le nord ontarien”

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Locating the Past through Images

In recent years, a number of projects have appeared with the intention of allowing the people to link their present-day surroundings with the past through the use of photographs and other images to track the evolution of landscapes and cityscapes over time. Whether it’s because we like to feel nostalgic or have a deeper fascination with the ways that our neighbourhoods and communities have evolved over time, the explosion of websites are an indication that the public has a much deeper interest in history than most of us might suspect.

As someone who spends more time on the internet than I should, I’ve always gotten a kick out of websites such as historypin.com and facebook pages like Vintage Toronto (which, at the time I am writing this, has over 50,000 followers) for the simple reason that I love to see how the neighbourhoods I know today looked like in the past. I’ve sometimes even felt a bit envious of those who, in the course of their research, get to work with images of the communities and cities they study. Although I do come across some interesting images in the course of my research, none have ever really provided me with the opportunity to explore the evolution of space. So, when I came across a picture of a group of lesbian activists picketing outside of a convenience store in London, Ontario in 1978, I decided to try and locate that store. While I have spent a bit of time in London, I wouldn’t say that I’m very familiar with the city. All I had to go on was the name of the convenience store (Master Variety) and the road on which it was located (Central avenue). No address. Luckily, Central avenue isn’t a very long street and I was able to find the building in only a few minutes.

london variety store

Master Variety in 1978 (photo credit: Heather Ramsay and Body Politic) and Victory Variety today (photo from Google Maps). Click to enlarge.

On the left is a picture of members of the London-based Gay Activist Group for Equality and London Lesbian Collective picketing what was then Master Variety. They had gathered to protest the recent firing of Lyn MacDonald, a former employee of the store who was fired when her employer discovered she was a lesbian. On the right is a look at what the store looks like today. While the comparison doesn’t really reveal anything too interesting, other than that it seems the owners decided to add some windows and move the door, I still thought it was pretty cool to finally be able to find the location where this picket took place.

(I should add that the current owners of Victory Variety probably aren’t the same people who fired Lyn MacDonald 35 years ago, so there’s no reason to hold it against them. If you’re in London, try stopping by. I’m sure they’re friendly people. Plus, buying from local shops is always better than buying from the big ones.)

I don’t expect to be using any of this in my dissertation, but this kind of work is something that is fun and relatively easy to do. It’s also given me pause to consider that there might be some potential for integrating this type of work into the ways in which we teach history. I have no doubt that asking students to locate current sites of historical events or buildings through the use of images could make the prospect of writing an essay a much more interesting one for a number of students. As I move forward in my teaching, it’s something that I’ll definitely have to keep in mind.

EDIT: As a recent comment left on this site from someone identifying herself as the former owner of Master Variety points out, the owners disputed Lyn MacDonald’s claim and stated that she was fired for reasons other than that she was a lesbian. My goal in writing this post was not to side with either party. Rather, it was simply to highlight some of the potential uses of images in the researching and teaching of history.

an introduction

Hello!

I’m a PhD candidate (ABD) in the Department of History at York University. I hope to use this website as a means of sharing my research as well as some of my other projects.

My dissertation, which is tentatively entitled ““Natural Allies”: A History of Organized Labour’s Relationship with Gay and Lesbian Movements in Ontario, 1945-2000″ examines the ways in which gay and lesbian movements in Ontario integrated organized labour into their strategies. It also explores the working-lives of post-war gay and lesbian workers and the strategies used to cope with workplace discrimination and maintain their livelihoods.

I hope to use this site to highlight some of my research and writing, as well as any pictures or ideas I come across in the process of completing my doctoral studies.