NAMBLA in Toronto

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By: Bill Andriette

The University of Toronto skipped nary a beat as 800 lesbians and gays representing 18 nations descended upon the campus June 30 to July 6 for two concurrent conferences: Smashing Borders/Opening Spaces, the International Gay Association (IGA) 7th annual gathering; and a gay history conference, Sex and the State: Their Laws, Our Lives. NAMBLA was well, and maybe over, represented. The IGA meets annually as the UN General Assembly of the gay world to discuss, monitor, argue, credit, and condemn. Actually, it is more akin to the Security Council, given the predominance of the first world, though rather less contentious. Conferees agreed to condemn, among other things, the Salvation Army for its campaign in New Zealand to preserve a seven-year sentence for sodomy, a call by a Brazilian newspaper for the extermination of gays as a remedy for AIDS, and the video surveillance and entrapment by Canadian vice police of gay men cruising public toilets. The conference was punctuated by the fiery suicide of a married suburban Toronto man caught and publicly shamed for washroom sex.

Some Disagreement

Conferees disagreed as to whether the IGA should cast its net wide, or narrow, and deal only with clear-cut gay issues. In an unfortunate triumph of the latter tendency, the IGA failed to take position against US intervention in Central America. But the IGA nearly passed a resolution that would have sounded like music to any NAMBLA's ears. As first conceived by the IGA youth section, the resolution called for the abolition of age-of-consent statutes. But under feminist pressure that was changed to a call for the equalization of ages of consent for gay and straight sex, and the eventual abolition of such statutes when young people were deemed sufficiently protected from abuse. NAMBLA's was the lone dissenting vote, but even in its compromised state the resolution is supportable.

We Are America

About 10 NAMBLA members attended the conferences. Additionally, we had four delegates representing NAMBLA's single vote in the plenary. According to the Byzantine rules of the IGA, we could have had two votes if 1) NAMBLA were an all-male organization or 2) the women in NAMBLA had sanctioned one of our male delegates in attendance or 3) that one of the two votes were cast by a female. Despite losing one vote, NAMBLA was, as far as can be told, the only voting organization from the US at the conference. This correspondent found some of the IGA plenaries a tad wearying, so revelled instead in the lectures and discussions that were part of the history conference. George Chauncey, a grad student in history at Yale University, gave a fascinating account of the now-forgotten post-War child abuse panic that peaked around 1950. Linking the panic to tensions in the post-War nuclear family, Chauncey described how the 'helping' professions used the government and media for self-aggrandizement by exaggerating and distorting a real but small problem to crisis dimensions. Sound familiar?

NAMBLAns Speak

David Thorstad spoke on the role of boy-lovers in the German homosexual rights movement in the early 20th century, and argued that boy-lovers have always been a part of gay liberation. Dan Tsang, editor of The Age Taboo, spoke about the ongoing state crackdown on man-boy love and erotica in the US. Bob Rhodes pieced together a video that offered a good portrayal of the American media's handling of the child abuse issue. It also showed how NAMBLA fought back during the 1982 Etan Patz scam. Also noteworthy were presentations by historian James Steakley on the early homosexual activist Magnus Hirschfeld, and the plight of lesbians and gays in the holocaust. Allan Berube gave a fine presentation on the American homosexual experience in World War II. The London, England Gay Youth Movement sent a spirited video they helped make about themselves. It displayed intelligence and insight and was infused with a healthy political anger typically lacking in the American counterparts. The conferences ended, for me anyway, with a fitting mixture of politics and lust. A Sunday-morning picket was organized at a Toronto Salvation Army church to protest Salvation Army church, offering me a perfect pretext to leaflet a bevy of altar boys, shining and scrubbed and suited in Sunday best.

source: 'NAMBLA in Toronto' by Bill Andriette; NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 6, n. 6; July/August 1985