Monday, September 20, 2010

Queer Ottawa No. 1: The Beginnings 1971-1975

My research followed Gays of Ottawa and its GO Centre, the community/bar and administrative centre of the organization, and argued that as it moved into various locations around the centretown area of Ottawa between 1971 to 1995 it served as a performative catalyst (tweaking Judth Butlet's perfomativity theory) in the proliferation of both identity and identifiable spaces. It helped foster an visible gay community for those who participated in the public culture of the gay liberation and rights movement in Ottawa and hence also fostered the holding of LGBT nights at straight owned establishments and eventually full-time Queer commercial spaces. I traced the GO Centre and other LGBT spaces using the GO Info newsletter. Below is the front cover of the inaugural issue. From the beginning Gays of Ottawa situated itself as bi-lingual as the Ottawa and Gatineau-Hull LGBT communities was essentially one.

This series, because I only have photographs for the GO Centre, will focus on the movement of the GO Centre. Other commercial LGBT social spaces not directly affiliated with GO (Gays of Ottawa) were identified but won't be included. If you'd like to know the ones I identified simply contact me or Chris and I can send you a chronological list and of when they appeared/changed names. The essay was split into six chronological periods, so I'll include two per post. I would be happy to stand corrected on any information I put forward.

152 Metcalfe St. - St. George's Anglican Church

Gays of Ottawa first met at 152 Metcalfe St. in the basement of St. Georges Anglican Church. This photograph is from the first issue of GO Info (July 1972), the newsletter published by Gays of Ottawa. This not an official GO Centre but was the first central meeting place for newly formed the organization. I do believe the inaugural meeting was held on Sept 14, 1971 and was at the church. Below is a current photograph of St. Georges courtesy of Google Earth.

160 Chapel St. - Pestalozzi College

The first official GO Centre at Pestalozzi College at 160 Chapel St. (at Rideau) was described as , “...a liberation, information, and distress centre...(to)...serve as the headquarters of GO, a drop-in centre for the gay community, and a locale for organizing, printing...etc.” (from Aug-Sept 1972 issue of GO Info). LGBT dances were beginning to be held at the college while the group was meeting at St. George's and had not yet obtained space at Pestalozzi. Below, the high rise apartment is where the college was. I'm not sure, but I believe it's the same building as the college was more communal living than actual educational institution. However, I could be way off on that one. Whatever it was the fact remains that Gays of Ottawa had their first community centre there. The photograph is taken on Chapel St. with Rideau St. intersecting. Photograph also courtesy of Google Earth.


Jordan Kerr
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