Gate : Gay & Black Glossary


G*A*T*E (Gay Alliance Toward Equality) was a gay lib group in Vancouver BC founded by Wayne Thompson in early summer of 1970 or 1971. He left about a month later fearing the publicity would ruin his career as an airlines executive. I became chairman, selected primarily because of my high visibility as author of A Guide For The Naive Homosexual. We were a small very active group doing a demonstration at every excuse we could think of without much planning other than preparing a handout or a press release to announce it. We also spoke at service clubs, schools, prisons, radio and TV stations, churches… and did newspaper and magazine interviews — anywhere we could get an audience. Being gay was a big novelty back then and it was trivially easy to get access to an audience. Most of our presentations had twice the number of people show up the hosting organisers expected.

We had a wide range of ages represented from teens to octogenarians, though unfortunately almost all male.

The utterly fearless Michael Roberts founded a chapter of G*A*T*E in Edmonton. They had a much rougher time since the region was very conservative, heavily influenced by right wing Christians and not as urban. There may even have been some small G*A*T*E groups on the prairies, though, if there were, they operated completely independently. The big break came in 1972 with the BC provincial Election. We went to all-candidates means and asked questions. The Christian-infected Social Credit party could be counted on to say something strange such as Bert Price’s immortal lines Some day we are going to castrate you all to keep you from reproducing your kind. and Homosexuality is OK, so long as you keep it in the family. Because the public had never heard from gay people before, our appearances were front page news. Simultaneously, the GAA (Gay Activist Alliance) lead by Dick Rulens did similar demonstrations at political rallies. They were quite horrified at the left-wing politics of some of G*A*T*E ’s members and often seemed to put more effort into suppressing G*A*T*E than they did into fighting bigotry. Years later Dick apologised for that. We had a big hug and he died within months of a heart attack.

On 1972-08-08 or 1973-08-08 we organised the first gay pride parade. We had a big turnout, but the attendees were unfamiliar with participating in demonstrations and became fearful they would be killed or beat up. They refused to march the parade route and marched a short distance to a tree in Stanley Park at second Beach for a picnic. I was so angry and disappointed I resigned as chair. The official first gay pride march in Vancouver did not happen until the summer of 1981.

Maurice Flood took over as chairman. His main accomplishment was forcing the Vancouver Sun to accept an advertisement for our gay liberation newspaper. G*A*T*E took this all the way to the supreme court. The Sun won, then accepted our ad. The Sun explained they were fighting for the principle for the right to reject ads on an arbitrary basis. They did not really have anything against our paper.

In those days, nobody wanted to be leader of a gay lib group. In my case, it meant about 350 abusive or threatening calls and 3 death threats a day. Leaders were conscripted, not elected.

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