Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Communities 1972-1984

Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Communities 1972-1984 by Rebecca Rose was published in 2019. I obtained it from the Vancouver Public Library as an interloan. I have just returned from a trip down east to Halifax and Cape Breton Island and I saw this book in all the retail stores.

The book started off with short biographies of all the people who were interviewed or profiled. It would have been better to place this section at the end. I read books as they are written, from cover to cover, and found that these five biographical pages, followed by a preface and an introduction, caused an unnecessary delay to the start of the book. A mystery I encountered often within those biographies was to the organization GAE. What did GAE stand for? There was no index and the bibliography had repeated references to GAE without explanation of its initials. I had to wait until page six to discover that the letters stood for the Gay Alliance for Equality, founded in 1972. Thus it would have been better to leave the biographical sketches till the end of the book, after we had already learned who these people were and what the abbreviations in their profiles meant.

Chapters dealt with early gay history in Halifax and the rise of political and social organizations like the Gay Alliance for Equality and APPLE (Atlantic Provinces Political Lesbians for Equality–an acronym that was explained in the biographies section). She had the annoying tendency to write out 2SLGBTQIA+ in full when referring to members of our community. How long does an abbreviation have to be before it is no longer considered an abbreviation? Will someone please SKOMK this unsightly and unpronounceable string of letters? I was happy to read the chapter about The Turret, the preeminent bar and dance club in downtown Halifax from 1976-1982. I walked past it–no longer a club now–on my most recent trip. Rose also gave plenty of space to lesbian history and feminist activism and did not shy away from writing about the divisions between straight women and lesbians within the feminist organizations. She talked about former gay cruising spots in Halifax, only one of which I was aware still is (Citadel Hill). Rose supplemented her book with plenty of black-and-white photos as well as a colour photo centre spread, which identified the people she interviewed and profiled. All the photos were from the historical time period in the title.

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