Gay ac­tivist’s fight for equal­ity is first LGBTQ Her­itage Minute

Journal Pioneer - - CANADA -

Di­rec­tor Stephen Dunn says mak­ing the first Her­itage Minute about Canada’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity re­minded him of the count­less other queer sto­ries which have gone mostly un­told over the years. His sliver of his­tory de­buted Wed­nes­day re­count­ing gay ac­tivist Jim Egan’s work for equal rights, in what Dunn hopes will mark a small step to­wards putting some of those sto­ries on record for the en­tire coun­try. “Gen­er­ally queer his­tory isn’t re­ally well doc­u­mented for a num­ber of ob­vi­ous rea­sons,” the St. John’s film­maker said, point­ing out that gay sex wasn’t de­crim­i­nal­ized in Canada un­til 1969, which likely pushed many sto­ries into the closet. “I re­ally strug­gle as a queer per­son to find peo­ple through­out his­tory to look up to,” he added. The one-minute clip about Egan be­gins early in his ca­reer dur­ing the early 1950s when he wrote opin­ion col­umns in news­pa­pers try­ing to dis­solve neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of gay cul­ture in the main­stream. He even­tu­ally be­came one of the first openly gay politi­cians in Canada. But Egan gar­nered far more at­ten­tion when he launched a law­suit against Ot­tawa for the right to claim a spousal pen­sion un­der the Old Age Se­cu­rity Act. The case led to the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to deny him and his part­ner Jack Nes­bit spousal rights in 1995. Even though he was de­feated in the courts, Egan’s so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions helped usher in another gen­er­a­tion of ac­tivism, Dunn sug­gested. “What he was do­ing laid the ground­work,” said the 29-yearold di­rec­tor, whose semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal “Closet Mon­ster” won the 2015 Cana­dian fea­ture film award at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

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