LGBT+ rights activists have claimed that a new Canadian gay rights coin due for release later this month is celebrating a “myth.”
The gay rights coin is being released to mark 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in Canada.
However, activists with the Anti-69 group say that the $1 coin—which will depict two overlapping human faces along with the dates 1969 and 2019 and the word “equality”—ignores harsh realities for LGBT+ people in the years afterwards, according to CBC.
Historian Tom Hooper—who researches LGBT+ history—said that the coin commemorates a “myth” as changes to the Criminal Code in 1969 only decriminalised gay sex between men aged 21 and over in a private setting.
Gay rights coin: group says gay people were still persecuted after 1969
Hooper took issue with the use of the word “equality” and said those who argued for the changes at the time believed homosexuality was a “mental disease.”
He works with the Anti-69 group which provides a forum for scholarly and activist work that is critical of the limitations of the 1969 Criminal Code reforms.
Other members of the group echoed Hooper’s view about the gay rights coin online. Gary Kinsman, a queer author and researcher, tweeted: “Homosexuality was not decriminalised in 1969. Oppressive sexual policing escalates after 1969. And certainly in no way was the 69 reform about equality for LGBTQ2S+ people.
“It only partially decriminalized two offenses if engaged in ‘private’ between 2 people 21 and over,” he said.
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“Homosexuality was not decriminalised in 1969. Oppressive sexual policing escalates after 1969. And certainly in no way was the 69 reform about equality for LGBTQ2S+ people.”
– Gary Kinsman, Anti-69 member
Details of the commemorative coin were released last December, although no images have been released.
CBC reported at the time that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the design.
Police raided four bathhouses in 1981, 12 years after decriminalisation
Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau—father of current leader Justin Trudeau—proposed changes to the Criminal Code in 1967. The eventual changes meant that gay men aged 21 and over could have sex in private places.
“I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter,” he said at the time.
However, the 1969 reforms did not end the persecution of gay men in Canada. In February 1981, police raided four bathhouses in Toronto and arrested more than 250 men in what became known as “Operation Soap.”
A crowd of around 3,000 people then took to the streets to protest the arrests. Several of those arrested had to appear in court, but most of the charges were either dropped or dismissed as a consequence of the community’s response.
Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders apologised for the arrests in 2016.
The following year, Prime Minister Trudeau apologised for the historic persecution of LGBT+ people under the country’s anti-gay laws.