We are living through a period in which LGBTQ
activism is nearly dormant. Apart perhaps from the struggle over same-sex marriage, the queer
movement in North America has been lulled to sleep by the extension of human rights, at least to
certain segments of the community, and by the pacification of queer people in the embrace of
consumer capitalism. This stands in marked contrast to the 1970s through to the mid-1990s when
LGBTQ people, along with feminists, people of colour, and anti-imperialists, were at the
forefront in the struggle for progressive social change. While this was only a few decades ago,
popular memory of what was initially called the gay liberation movement has faded from view.
This assignment is designed to bring the heady days of liberation back to life.
There are two parts to the assignment. The first part is a book critique of AIDS Activist: Michael
Lynch and the Politics of Community (BTL, 2003). The book is essentially a history of gay
liberation in Toronto through the life story of Michael Lynch, one of Canada’s prominent gay
activists, as pieced together by journalist Ann Silversides, using Lynch’s diaries and other
sources. As you know from reading the book, Lynch was the
founder of and/or involved in a wide range of sexual politics
organizations through the 1970s-1990s. Your critique should
address the over-arching themes of the text, such as the differences
between human-rights and liberation approaches to LGBTQ politics,
the potentials and pitfalls of the notion of ‘community,’ ‘identity’
etc. You should also zero in on a specific theme of the book that
interests you the most, such as AIDS activism, movement
journalism, queer parenting, issues of race or gender, etc.; the theme
you select will be crucial for part two of the assignment.
The second part of the assignment involves doing some primary
research in The Body Politic. The Body Politic was Canada’s
premier gay liberation journal. It published from 1971 to 1987, and
Michael Lynch was one of its many frequent
contributors. With your chosen theme in mind, read
through The Body Politic and locate at least three
substantial articles (as opposed to short new items) that
relate to your topic. Incorporate them into your paper by
discussing the ways they support, challenge, or
otherwise modify the topic as presented by
Lynch/Silversides. As a historian, you’ll also want to
include some reflection on the nature of your sources, in
this case, a community- or movement-based journal.
What difference does this make?
The assignment can be completed using just
AIDS Activist and The Body Politic. Of course,
there are secondary sources out there, including
articles on The Body Politic itself, which you are
free to also incorporate in your paper.
Avoid organizing your paper around the two main parts of the assignment – book critique
followed by discussion of The Body Politic sources. As we’ve discussed before, it’s
always better to aim for a more complex structure in which you integrate the two
different parts throughout your paper and organize it around your own theme/argument.