Remembering the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids

Here’s what some of the men caught up in the raids experienced on that pivotal night, and in the protests after

In 1981, Toronto police raided bathhouses in the city’s gay village and arrested more than 300 men. It was at the time the largest mass arrest in Toronto’s history, but the raids were just another in a long line of police operations targeting LGBTQ2S+ people and institutions in Canada.

Thousands of people rallied in Toronto the night after the raids, demanding an end to police harassment and that the charges against the men be dropped. 

The protests marked a turning point for many in the LGBTQ2S+ community: “The demonstration—that’s where I think the lights went on for so many people,” activist and former Body Politic reporter Tim McCaskell tells Xtra. “They suddenly realized, ‘Shit, we’re powerful! We can do something about this!’”

Lito Howse (they/them) is a queer and trans/non-binary identified videographer, editor and producer based in Toronto. They previously worked for the CBC where they wrote TV stories, edited and control room produced for News Network. They also produced videos for CBC Radio and wrote web articles for shows like The Current and As It Happens, among other roles. They speak English.

Read More About:
Power, Activism, Video, Queer History

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