The ArQuives Digital Exhibitions

Browse Exhibits (24 total)

Johnny Abush and the Twice Blessed Collection

Colour photo of Johnny Abush in the Twice Blessed archive, standing in front of a bookshelf and behind a large opened catalogued binder.

Johnny Abush (1952-2000) was an active member of the Queer Jewish community in Toronto. He founded the Jewish GLBT Archives, known as Twice Blessed, as well as the Queer Jewish Culture Committee.

The ArQuives houses many materials regarding his activism and involvement within his community, while his vast archive was donated to ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries in California, who have published a finding aid of the materials in the collection here.

Click on the links to the right of the page for more information on various aspects of Johnny’s life and queer Jewish communities in Toronto during his lifetime, and click on images to enlarge.

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Pride and Remembrance Run: The Early Years

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The Pride and Remembrance Run was founded in 1996 as an annual fundraising event dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, with a specific focus on the historical and ongoing impact of HIV/AIDS in the community. This exhibition contains archival photographs, videos, textual records, news articles, t-shirts, posters, and oral histories documenting the history of the Pride and Remembrance Run.

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1971 We Demand March

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The We Demand March of August 1971 was the first recorded political action taken by LGBTQ2+ activists in Canada. The march coincided with the second anniversary of the passing of Bill C-150 which decriminalized homosexual acts in Canada between men over the age of consent.

Although the reform of the 1969 Criminal Code led to the decriminalization of certain homosexual acts, it did not have much tangible impact on the policing and surveillance of queers. 

The We Demand document drafted by David Newcome and Herb Spiers and was read out under the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa by Charlie Hill and consisted of calls for changes to the law and public policy regarding gay and lesbian rights.

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Jim Egan: Canada's First Public LGBTQ Activist

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James Egan was one of the earliest LGBTQ2+ rights activists in Canada. He is best known for his landmark Supreme Court Case, Egan v. Canada. Although he was defeated in this case, his fight for spousal benefits spurred the Supreme Court to add sexual orientation as prohibited grounds of discrimination to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Queer Liberation Theory Project

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The Queer Liberation Theory Project seeks to advance the public education and community development work being done in the name of Queer Liberation by resurrecting the principles of the historical Gay Liberation Movement, re-contextualizing them within contemporary queer discourse, translating the findings in theoretical terms, and disseminating them through various accessible multimedia platforms.

Ontario-based activists, academics and artists who engage in queer liberation theory and activism have been interviewed and an oral discussion and feature documentary created for public education and queer community development purposes. 

Created by Dr. Nick J. Mulé in collaboration with Queer Ontario through Dissident Voices Productions with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

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25 Years of YouthLine

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LGBT YouthLine is a Toronto-based peer-support phone line that started in 1993 and reaches across Ontario. This exhibit outlines and celebrates YouthLine's 25th year history, and the significant impact the organization has had on LGBTQ2+ youth in Ontario.

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Genderqueer in Canada

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While "genderqueer" may be a relatively new term under the queer umbrella, the sense of out-of-placeness within and without the gender binary has a longer history. To be genderqueer means that one does not comfortably fit within the binary of female or male, woman or man. A genderqueer person may exist somewhere between, or outside of it entirely as a third gender. There are many ways to inhabit this gender identity and there is no one label that suits all people and this exhibit explores that reality.

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Halloween Balls at the Letros and St. Charles Taverns

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The Letros and St. Charles were two of the first popular gay bars in Toronto. These spaces were a safehaven for drag queens and genderqueer people, as until 2017 in Canada there was no protection for men who dress in women's clothing.

Due to the lack of protection under the law, drag queens were regularly arrested and harassed by police. The exception to this rule was on Halloween, when men dressing as women was considered socially acceptable.

In the '50s, '60s, and '70s, the Letros and St. Charles Taverns would host annual drag balls, which attracted huge crowds. These crowds eventually became violent towards the drag queens and other patrons to the gay bars, making this gay-bashing an annual Halloween ritual.

The violent behaviour of Torontonians, the degree of police involvement, and the participation of the queer community in protecting their peers is very reflective of the politics and climate of Toronto during the height of the gay rights movement.

Language note: The terms to describe the patrons and performers at the St. Charles and Letros Taverns include folks who wear clothing that is gendered to the opposite of their sex assigned at birth. Additionally terms such as 'drag queen' and the act of cross dressing.

The ArQuives is committed to preserving all aspects of LGBTQ2+ history in Canada and beyond. Given that language is a constantly evolving construct, terms used in this exhibit may be considered offensive, inappropriate, or unacceptable by contemporary standards. 

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Queering Family Photography

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This exhibit explores the critical work that queer, trans, and two-spirited family photos do in documenting and creating queer modes of belonging, and how our emotional attachments to queer family photographs have also sustained LGBTQ2+ lives.

Photo credit:

Teo kissing her son, Matthew
Unknown photographer
Circa 2008
Toronto, Ontario
Gift of Teo Owang
Courtesy of the Family Camera Network and The ArQuives

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Gender Review

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Access to Gender Review, the newsletter of FACT (Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals, later the Federation for American and Canadian Transsexuals) with contextual information about Gender Review, FACT and trans-related medical and legal issues in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s.

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