My heart sank a few days ago when I learned of the death of longtime lesbian activist Chris Bearchell.
I remember seeing Bearchell on the streets at a demo back in the late eighties and being too timid to approach her. I was shy, and she was already a legend in political circles by then. One of the publishers of the seminal queer publication The Body Politic (TBP), she was writing there about dyke politics as far back as 1975. Along with the rest of the TBP collective, she was active in the massive protests about Toronto’s bathhouse raids in 1981, infamouly coining the chant that defined that moment of resistance: “No More Shit!”
Bearchell came up in the radical left and had a particular commitment to lesbians and gay men working together, at a time when many of her sisters were focused on separatist forms of community development. She hosted a collective queer household on Walnut Avenue in Toronto that incubated many new activists and served as a hotbed of local progressive politics. She was particularly committed to supporting queer youth, and sex-trade workers.
I walk down Walnut most days (it’s near my office) and my thoughts often turn to the many fruits of her labour. Rest in peace, Ms Bearchell.