Dissolution of CLGRO
Creation of a New Queer Voice in Ontario

Proposed by Nick Mulé
January 10, 2009

First formed in January 1975, known then as the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO), that went on to become the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO), this coalition has been made up of individual and group members, for the most part lesbian, gay or bisexual identified. Over its 34-year history, the Coalition has pursued social change for queer communities across Ontario via a liberationist perspective. Its current mission statement reads:

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) is an organization composed of groups and individuals who are committed to working towards feminism and bisexual, lesbian, and gay liberation by engaging in public struggle for full human rights, by promoting diversity and access, and by strengthening cooperative networks for lesbian, gay, and bisexual activism.

Despite having developed one of the most progressive voices on queer issues, not only in the province and country, but beyond, and having achieved numerous successes with its work, CLGRO has increasingly faced difficulties in sustaining itself as a coalition. This has recently led to discussions regarding the possible dissolution of CLGRO.

Reasons for Dissolving CLGRO
In facilitating a discussion on the future of CLGRO, the Coalition has put forth the following reasons for possibly dissolving CLGRO with related questions to consider:

Now that many legal rights have been obtained, is there a place for CLGRO in the future? This question is asked given the harsh realities CLGRO is faced with:

  • The CLGRO membership has dwindled over the past few years.
  • We no longer are a coalition of groups in the province, as most activist groups no longer exist.
  • Our active members are only a handful.
  • Activism has changed from lobbying and demonstrations to internet based.
  • The issues are not as immediate and thus it is hard to mobilize people in the community.
  • There are currently groups working on education, Trans issues, health and social services that continue the needed work.

In light of these realities, is there a future for CLGRO?

This proposal argues that CLGRO be dissolved as it currently stands for the following reasons:

  • Diminished membership is rapidly eroding its structural support
  • Integrity of the Coalition’s representational aspect can be called into question for it no longer is a coalition
  • The handful of active members are increasingly exhausted, feeling unsupported and questioning the relevance of its work
  • CLGRO has continued to operate utilizing what are quickly becoming outdated advocacy tools in today’s rapidly changing technologically driven world
  • CLGRO has struggled in asserting the liberationist voice for social justice over the attention the LGBT movement in general has received for its legal justice battles
  • CLGRO’s role as a catalyst in the development of specified issues and associated working groups has produced few return benefits for CLGRO itself

Reasons for Creating a New Queer Voice in Ontario
Should CLGRO ultimately decide to dissolve, serious questions are being raised by its members regarding the queer liberationist voice in Ontario, Canada and beyond. CLGRO has been noted to be ‘the last queer liberationist group in Canada’ and its progressive analysis, discourse and positions are unique across North America and throughout the world. There is an alarming risk of further silencing a liberationist perspective that individual activists and social thinkers alone can represent and propagate in the absence of an organizational collective voice. Also, because the LGBT movement has near exhausted the legal justice route in this country, this in fact would be an opportune time to be promoting and advocating for social justice issues via a queer liberationist voice.

Queer liberation is a perspective that is inclusive of a diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities beyond the dominant heterosexual and gender binary concepts. Queer liberation acknowledges the existence of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgender, two-spirit people, intersex, queer and questioning as well as the fluidity of people’s identities, behaviours and experiences regarding their gender and sexuality. Queer liberation also recognizes the intersectionality of sexual orientation and gender identity with other characteristics that affect privileges and oppressions such as age, race, ethnicity, class, religion, (dis)ability, etc. By centralizing sexual orientation and gender identity issues, queer liberation challenges heteronormative ideations that serve to marginalize and/or oppress the gender and sexually diverse. Furthermore, and most importantly, queer liberation calls for the creation of a society that is inclusive, respectful and accepting of the gender and sexually diverse populations, as those populations choose to define themselves and live their lives. Queer liberation commits its energies towards creating discourses and real life experiences that best meet the needs of gender and sexually diverse communities as they define it and not necessarily according to status quo, heterosexually-based equality models. (For further reading on queer liberationist perspectives see References at the end of this proposal).

To this end, a new queer voice in Ontario is proposed that would carry forth the legacy of CLGRO, maintain the integrity of queer liberation and operate and function entirely differently than CLGRO has. The purpose of establishing such a queer voice is to ensure a queer liberation perspective is present in this province and can be drawn upon in the future, as needed.

What This Would Look Like
This section outlines what a new queer voice in Ontario could look like and is presented as a proposal that is open for discussion.

Name: Queer Ontario. This is somewhat of a radical name that is within keeping of a liberationist perspective that avoids the LGBT… alphabet soup.

Entity: Queer Ontario for the most part would have a virtual existence via a website (possibly revamping CLGRO’s) that would showcase the history of CLGRO and a series of positions on contemporary issues affecting queer communities in Ontario. A regularly updated blog could also be created, a listserv for ongoing discussions as well as the possible use of podcasts. A Queer Ontario facebook page may also be set up.

Terms of Reference: An actual set of terms of reference will need to be devised by those that choose to be involved.

Operations: The operations of Queer Ontario would for the most part take place virtually allowing queers from across the province to connect and have input. Physical operational meetings would initially be regular to initiate the transformation from CLGRO to Queer Ontario with the goal to have such meetings kept to a minimum once the technological tools have been set up and are in place. Ongoing operational management of Queer Ontario’s virtual entity (website and related tools, potential grants) would need to be maintained at a minimum of cost and time.

Advocacy Activities:
Queer Ontario
 will be particularized in its approach, taking on only those issues it feels are important to take on (i.e. coming up with a position statement, posting it, then publicizing it). In other words, it can make itself available to provide a liberationist voice should serious issues arise affecting the queer communities.

Online petitions
Position statements
Calls to action
News releases
Questions for discourse
Directing (queer and/or mainstream) media to website updates

In Person:
Queer Ontario
 would provide a collective entity that individual activists could represent in public discourse and civil activities (i.e. at Queen’s Park) as outlined in its terms of reference.
Public Forums
Coffee House Discussions

Sustainability: This proposal asks that should CLGRO choose to dissolve, that it give serious consideration to committing its remaining assets (or a portion thereof) to the creation of Queer Ontario to assist in its launching and initial start up operations. Current CLGRO members would be both informed of this transformation and encouraged to support and become actively involved with it (voluntary time, donations). Key members of Queer Ontario would need to develop the technical skills required to maintain the virtual work of the website and related tools. A concerted effort would be made to recruit queer technically savvy people who would be willing to volunteer their time. The research/resource component ofQueer Ontario (including showcasing CLGRO’s legacy) would qualify the use of students and graduate assistants.

Conclusion: This proposal supports the dissolution of CLGRO as it currently stands, yet it calls for the creation of a new entity that will allow the queer liberationist voice to thrive. Although it could be argued that creating an entity such as Queer Ontario is in effect starting CLGRO up all over again, a careful strategic approach that streamlines activities to a virtual nature with minimal costs in finances and time would in effect be transforming CLGRO into a more modernized version utilizing technical tools in such a way as to influence public discourse, when needed, so that the queer liberationist voice is not further silenced in Ontario, this country and beyond.


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