Monday, November 08, 2010

Pioneers of 'It Get's Better'...

Following a string of recent gay teenage suicides that received national attention in the US and Canada the It Gets Better movement is attempting to assure LGBT teenagers that the prejudice they often encounter in high school does eventually ease up as one moves on in life. It's meant to assure them that they're not alone and that the pressures of life as a queer teenager will eventually ease. The movement began in the US (the website above is the American site) but has moved onto Canada...

It Gets Better Canada
YouTube "It Gets Better Canada"
CBC "Getting the Message Out"
GO Info May 1986
CBC 'Connect With Mark Kelley' "Support for Gay Teens"
CBC "Rick Mercer joins It Gets Better campaign"

So, the Gays of Ottawa topic is getting old, so this will be my last post on them.

This project reminded me of an early method of getting help and encouragement to LGBT persons. Gays of Ottawa (I've been told but haven't substantiated) had the first LGBT helpline (the Gayline)  in Canada that began in the early years of the gay liberation movement in the 1970's. Described as a peer counseling and information service rather than a distress line, the line continued until the groups folding in 1995. However, I'm sure a form of it continues in the organizations that are the product of Gays of Ottawa's work in the capital. Other similar help and counseling lines still exist today. I believe the Gay Line began cir. 1975, but once again because of lost files and missing issues of the online Ottawa Citizen archive I can't track the first time it appears in either paper. I have been able to find a few articles from both sources from the 1980's that at least show the nature of the Gay Line and its similar motives to the It Gets Better campaign.

Other such helplines would become a key tool for gay liberation groups across the country to assist people in their personal struggles with their sexuality and to spread information about the LGBT community. These anonymous phone lines often provided a first step for men and women coming out of the closet or trying to become acquainted with the open and visible LGBT community. 

April 1980
Ottawa Citizen Dec 15 1982
In an interview I did for my research the interviewee mentioned something about the Gayline that very much struck me. He noted that it was consistently listed in the Ottawa Citizen classified section. He spoke with emotion as he said that yes that Gayline was there as a counseling and information service but its real strength lay in the fact that week, after week, after week that number was consistently visible and showed, whether to LGBT persons or the wider community, that there was a visible queer community in Ottawa in a society still very much hostile to the gay fact. Indeed, it showed people struggling with their sexual orientation, even if they never called, that they were not alone.

Jordan Kerr
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