Books By Heart: Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Communities
Review of Before the Parade: a History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Communities 1972-1984, by Rebecca Rose
Books by Heart is a new initiative to help humanize Nova Scotia hospital care, with a curated collection of ebooks and audiobooks available for free to patients, families, and staff. The reading platform and program are being tested out first at the University of King’s College, and we’ve enlisted some King’s student reviewers to help promote more engagement with the collection within the King’s community. Find out more about the project (and read this book for free if you’re a member of the King’s community!) at BooksByHeartKings.ca
By Jeremy Hull
Rebecca Rose understands the importance of the stories she tells, but she tries to have a little fun spreading the message.
“It’s always fun to scream about cruising for gay sex on Barrington Street,” Rose said.
Rose’s book is titled Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Communities.
“It’s about community and activism in the 1970s and 80s,” Rose said.
Rose was inspired to write Before the Parade following the death of Anne Fulton, a founding member of the Gay Alliance for Equality, Nova Scotia’s first gay and lesbian activist organization.
“Not enough had been said publicly about the impact she had,” Rose said.
That was how Rose’s book was born. Fulton’s story revealed the potential for a full account of the forgotten history of the fight for gay rights in Halifax.
“I realized that there were so many more people from that era whose stories had not been told,” Rose said. The project began as a series of articles honouring the elders from the community and evolved into something larger.
Rose said it is an interesting time to fight for LGBTQ+ rights because they are under attack.
“Sometimes we think progress is just a constant march forward,” Rose said.
Rose acknowledges the strides that have been made in the struggle for equality, but she points out that seeds planted by early activists have only just come to fruition.
“We only saw a federal ban on conversion therapy recently,” Rose said. “Some of the things we want are currently under attack, so we can’t take anything for granted.”
On April 2, Rose partnered with author Lezlie Lowe to promote their books on a walking tour through Halifax. Rose highlighted places that were important to the history of the LGBTQ+ community, some of which reflected the secrecy that was necessary for sexual minorities in a more repressive time. Rose explained the key role of cruising for a people that had to hide.
“Cruising was one of the only ways to be a community,” Rose said. She added that safe spaces are one thing the community still needs today.
“We’ve really seen a decline in queer and trans spaces,” Rose said. She envisions places where the community can meet, plan and discuss issues and actions, and eventually provide services.
“There are still protections and services that trans folks need,” Rose said.
Rose did more than 30 interviews with LGBTQ+ elders and combed archives for hours to reveal a hidden history of Halifax. Her book emphasizes the continuing nature of the story and the ongoing fight for equal rights.
In 1981, Fulton wrote about carrying the torch for gay and lesbian activists in Halifax. Today, Rose keeps the torch burning so we don’t forget the hard-won lessons of the elders who paved the way.
“We often feel like we have come so far, but there are so many echoes of what they were fighting for then in today’s world.”
Before the Parade is a Nimbus Publishing book.
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