Conference Adventures: Not exactly worthy of nightmares

Constance Crompton and I recently ventured South to the States for the Women in the Archives Conference at Brown University. Adventures were had, microbrews were enjoyed, architecture was admired, archives were discussed. We had some free time after the conference, and one of the conference organizers suggested we use it to visit Swan Point Cemetery. There were lots of old gravestones, she noted, as well as many bird-watching opportunities. Finally, she pointed out that H.P. Lovecraft was buried there and that his fans were always leaving “weird stuff” by his grave. Well, I am never one to turn down the promise of “weird stuff.” I have never even read H.P. Lovecraft, but I had created quite a vision of what might be there. I was imagining his grave might look like something along the lines of this:


Or this:


Or even this (we were in a university town, after all):

University Cthulhu

Sadly, after marching around in a freezing cold drizzle of rain for an hour while scrutinizing a cemetery map that would probably more accurately be described as Kafkaesque, rather than Lovecraftian, what we found was this:

H.P. Lovecraft's Grave

Oh. How understated. No wonder we couldn’t spot it from the car – I was looking for some sort of monstrous obsidian pyramid, possibly topped with some tentacled beast, possibly with a vortex opening in the sky above it. This rather pedestrian gravestone wasn’t WEIRD at all. The best effort towards “weird” was made by whoever left the toy dinosaur:

Toy dinosaur atop Lovecraft grave

We made our own “weird” offering of a Canadian penny. Sadly, Cthulhu did not make an appearance in order to thank (or eat) us.

Rage: The Toronto Bathhouse Raids

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Track Two, a 1982 documentary on the Toronto bathhouse raids. After nearly being lost to time and decay, the film has finally been digitized and made available in its entirety for free online, thanks to the generosity of Xtra! and the Pink Triangle Press.

The screening took place at Buddies in Bad Time Theatre and was sponsored by Queer Ontario and Xtra!, with proceeds benefiting the 519 Community Centre’s Seniors program. In attendance were two of the filmmakers, Gordon Keith and Jack Lemmon, as well as The Body Politic‘s Ken Popert and Gerald Hannon. It was a truly amazing experience to share a room with so many of Toronto’s gay liberation activists, without whom queers such as myself wouldn’t have all the rights we have today.

After the screening, I spoke with the filmmakers, who wanted to know how I, as a woman, felt about the movie. They said they had tried very hard to show lesbian contributions to the fight, and they were curious to know if they were successful. I told them that it was incredibly powerful to see the footage of lesbians taking to the street in defense of the men and the gay community as a whole. It was also thrilling to see interviews with some of my queer heroes, Pat Murphy and Chris Bearchell, and rousing speeches from Margaret Atwood and June Callwood.

Watch the entire film on YouTube, or read more about it and download a copy from Xtra!

Originally published on the Shameless Magazine blog, March 30, 2011

International Women’s Day: Toronto Women and the Struggle for Equality

An Exhibit at the CLGACurated by Michelle Schwartz and Roberta Wiseman
March 3 – May 12, 2011

The Canadian Lesbian + Gay Archives is proud to celebrate the centennial of International Women’s Day (IWD) with an exhibit drawn from its own collection of posters, flyers, photographs, and ephemera. Focusing primarily on IWD activities held in Toronto from the 1970s to present day, the exhibit will trace the rise of the lesbian liberation movement, and its intersection with anti-racist, feminist, and labour activism. It will also illustrate the passion, determination, and sheer inventiveness of women in their struggle for equality.

Photos from the installation:

International Women's Day exhibitInternational Women's Day exhibit photoCurator Bios:
Michelle Schwartz is an archivist and writer from Brooklyn, New York. She has been conducting a love affair with Toronto since 2007 and has been a volunteer at the CLGA since 2009.

Roberta Wiseman is an archivist and anthropologist from London, UK.  She has lived in Toronto since 2003 and first began volunteering at the CLGA the same year.