69 Positions: Decriminalization in the queer Canadian archive (1965-1981)

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69 Positions: Decriminalization in the queer Canadian archive (1965-1981)

69 Positions: Decriminalization in the queer Canadian archive (1965-1981)

A free, politicized workshop series by MediaQueer at the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives (aka ArQuives) to kick off a year of public events in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, in 2019.

It has been 50 years since Canada took the, globally, still rare step of starting to decriminalize sodomy and abortion.  The process of decriminalization for queers is contested practice of nationalism in Canada; in the context of resounding present-days calls to decriminalize drug use, indigenous resistance, and sex work, what does this half-century of so-called “decriminalization of homosexuality and abortion” meanfor the archive, for our communities, and for the next 50 years of this society? Coordinated by Jenna Lee Forde, featuring event and workshop facilitators Deanna Bowen, Tim McCaskell, Jamie Ross, and Lulu Wei, the “69 Positions” series is a free, unabashedly politicized, nosy, and nerdy look at an anniversary that will be celebrate by some in power, while many remain oppressed by various forms of needless criminalization.

We invite you to spend Wednesday evenings Feb. 20-March 13 at the ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, 24 Isabella Street, Toronto) to look at this history and its remnants. For a full list of events, please seewww.mediaqueer.ca/events

Please communicate with info@mediaqueer.ca if you have any accessibility requests. We are making efforts to subsidize childcare and provide live transcription or ASL interpretation for select workshops.

Workshops will be held on the second floor of the CLGA (34 Isabella Street, Toronto) on Wednesday evenings from Feb. 20 to March 27 (March 20 and 27 TBC) addressing such themes as the historiography of queer activism 1967-174 (Tim McCaskell, Feb. 20), “The Silent Stacks” a workshop on listening to the archives (experiencing the Sex Equality Anonymous archival remnants with Jamie Ross, Feb. 27), the criminalization of Black nightlife in Vancouver (Deanna Bowen, March 13), a conversation and archival dip into lesbian bar culture (Lulu Wei, March 6) and the unfinished work of abortion legalization, indigenous civil autonomy, and Black economic justice (Mikiki and Elwood Jimmy II).


69 Positions: Context and “non-text” 

“There is no room for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” So said Globe & Mail writer Martin O'Malley in a phrase that would be borrowed by P.E. Trudeau when he announced plans to decriminalize homosexual acts between two men (21 and over) in a sweeping set of legal changes grouped under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1968-1969. Although it would be decades before the government would apologize for prosecuting and entrapping its own employees and citizens, the 1969 Omnibus remains a watershed moment in the social, political, sexual, and artistic history of this country. Films by Canadian and Québécois artists and documentarians from the years before and after 1969 reveal the world from which this social shift emerged, and how it brought us to where we are now.

To commemorate and problematize the 50thanniversary of this milestone, the Queer Media Database Canada-Québec (hereafter, MEDIAQUEER) has planned an ambitious series of screenings and archival exhibitions entitled “69 Positions: Decriminalization in the Queer Canadian and Quebec Archive” in which we will screen landmark works of film in tandem with archival exhibitions about the history of (and around) this paradigm shift. The 1969 Omnibus Bill reflected the changing mores of the time, but was far from revolutionary. Gay and lesbian activists would soon have to face a dizzying array of challenges from homophobic police forces and the religious right – as shown in Gary Kinsman and Patricia Gentile’s Canada’s War on Queers (UBC Press, 2010), Thomas Waugh’s collection The Fruit Machine (Duke UP, 2000), and the forthcoming research creation/exhibition project “Afterhours at Madame Arthur” (Julianne Pidduck & Julie Podmore, Never Apart, Montréal, July-September, 2019), as well as Pidduck’s “Reading the Multimedia Archive Surrounding Montreal’s Post-War LGBTQ Bars: A Genealogical Return to Madame Arthur and Il était une fois dans l’Est” (Québec Studies, 60). 

MediaQueer thanks the Canada Council for the Arts, VIVO Media Arts, the SUM Gallery/Queer Arts Festival, Montréal Arts Interculturels, and the Archives gaies du Québec for supporting this project. A country-wide project involving standing exhibitions in Vancouver and Montréal this summer, “69 Positions” is the product of research by co-curators Jenna Lee Forde (Toronto), Jamie Ross (Montréal), and Kaschelle Thiessen (Vancouver).