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Lesbian Organization of Toronto

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The Lesbian Organization of Toronto (L.O.O.T.) was a multi-faceted lesbian organization founded in 1976 and disbanded in 1980.[1] The group was that Canadian city's first openly lesbian feminist group, and its members elected to opened Canada's first Lesbian Centre.

HistoryEdit

L.O.O.T. grew out of an October 1976 meeting convened in the C.H.A.T. (Community Homophile Association of Toronto) offices on Church St. Fiona Rattray, an original member, estimates the meeting was attended by 30-60 lesbians.[2] Members present at this meeting decided to rent part of a house (342 Jarvis St), to develop a multi-use Lesbian Centre.[2] The Lesbian Organization of Toronto shared the building with two other compatible organizations; The Other Woman, One of Toronto's longest lasting feminist newsmagazines, and the Three of Cups Women's Coffeehouse. L.O.O.T. moved into the House Feb 1, 1977.[2]

PurposeEdit

Member Gay Bell referred to the lesbian centre as a "crucial locus of (the lesbian community's) development ... in Toronto".[2] One of the group's earliest public statements explains that it hopes to "serve as a bridge to unify various existing groups who can provide services to the lesbian community."[3]

Organizers also believed that an available physical space for lesbians would "raise the profile of lesbians in the city, and make it possible for them to come out of the closet in the company of other lesbians without fear of reprisals."[2] Collective member Nancy Adamson is quoted in Becki L. Ross' history of L.O.O.T., The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation that the organization gave lesbians in the city a much-needed "safe place in the world"".[2]

L.O.O.T.'s first newsletter described its purpose as "an umbrella organization for lesbians. It serves social, recreational, personal, cultural, political and educational purposes for the lesbians involved. Mostly, it simply allows a lesbian to meet and get together ith other lesbians who share her interests."[4]

In Rites (magazine), a Toronto Gay and Lesbian newspaper, journalist Megan Davies emphasises some of L.O.O.T.'s social aspects, referring to the group as an important resource for countless lesbians in Toronto, offering a safe, lesbian-positive environment in which to come out and meet other lesbians.[5]

ActivitiesEdit

The organization regularly provided peer support, telephone counselling, dances, social & political activities, a lending library, a newsletter, potluck socials, brunches, concerts and performances by well-known feminist and lesbian musicians like Ferron, Alix Dobkin, Mama Quilla II, and Beverley Glenn Copeland.[6]

In 1979, L.O.O.T. members, in collaboration with the International Women's Day Committee, organized that year's Bi-National Lesbian Conference on the University of Toronto Campus.[7]

ClosureEdit

The Lesbian Centre at 342 Jarvis closed May 1, 1980.[8] Lesbian Historian Becki Ross refers to the factors leading to the organization's closure as "multiple and complex" and notes that they included political differences, fragmented membership, volunteer burn-out, inflated expectations, lost organizational focus and changing political climate.[9]

After the closure of the Centre, L.O.O.T.'s telephone peer counselling functions were taken over by the Lesbian Phone Line, who continued to offer this service in the city until 1984.[10]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Ross, Becki L. The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802074790 p11
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ross, Becki L. The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802074790 p64
  3. LOOT Organizing Collective, Statement The Other Woman, Nov./Dec. 1976
  4. First LOOT Newsletter, Canadian Women's Movement Archives, Toronto
  5. Davies, Megan. Culture is politics is unity: LOOT and the growth of lesbian feminist consciousness, Rites 1988, 4 (9 Mar) pp12-18, quoted in Stone, Sharon D. Lesbians Against the Right, in Women and Social Change: Feminist Activism in Canada, eds: Wine & Ristock, Lorimer and Co. Publishing, 1991, ISBN:1550283561
  6. Ross, Becki L. The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802074790 pp142-147
  7. Ross, Becki L. The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802074790
  8. Ross, Becki L. The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802074790 p198
  9. Ross, Becki L. The House that Jill Built: Lesbian Nation in Formation, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802074790, pp199-200
  10. Warner, Tom. Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada, 2002, University of Toronto Press, ISBN:0802084605, p179

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