Defining (LGBTQ) Community

The Integral Role of the Homophile Association of London Ontario in Sustaining Community, 1970-2001

  • Geoff Bardwell


Historical research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities in Canada has overwhelmingly focused on communities in larger urban settings. This article builds on this research by examining the experiences, histories, and defining characteristics of LGBTQ community in London, Ontario. Qualitative interviews with twenty participants were completed to acquire in-depth perspectives on how LGBTQ community is defined and experienced in the London context. Additional interviews were completed with five key informants who had lived in London for over twenty years to provide more of a historical context to the study. Archival research was conducted at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives and the Hudler Archives at the University of Western Ontario Libraries. Research data was then analyzed using a priori themes and emergent categories. Four major themes of community were described by study participants: (1) support; (2) common or shared visions/goals; (3) physical spaces; and (4) LGBTQ-specific events. These resulting themes were applied retrospectively through an historical analysis of the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO) club. This research is important because it provides a localized definition of LGBTQ community and fills a void in the literature on LGBTQ histories in Canada by focusing on a smaller city. Furthermore, this research on HALO runs counter to arguments by other historians that suggest that homophile associations were short-lived, fragmented, and conservative. The history of the HALO club is a significant example of the ways in which community can be developed and sustained in a smaller city.