Monday, 25 June 2007

Sue-Ann is gay?

Sue-Ann Levy, the Toronto Sun's veteran city hall columnist, came out of the closet in the Sunday Sun.

We knew first-hand that the former assistant city editor had an irritating habit of popping her bubble gum all night long, but a lesbian? Who knew?

Would it have made a difference if we had known when she joined the Sun18 years ago? No.

Does it make a difference now? No.

In fact, our respect for Sue-Ann for sharing her experiences as a closet homosexual socially and at the Sun has just been raised a few notches.

Since the Toronto Sun was launched in 1971, reporters and columnists have written first-person stories about mental illness, alcoholism, battling cancer, living with ALS, coping with heart disease etc., but Sue-Ann is the first to come out of the closet in print.

We can understand her hesitance.

While the Toronto Sun was considered one of the Top 100 companies in Canada to work for in the glory days, for a period of time homophobia reared its ugly head.

One vindictive, homophobic political writer from the early Sun years created much of the "witch hunt" atmosphere within the Sun and his 1970's gay-bashing columns not only alienated the homosexual community, it incited a visible hatred of the tabloid.

The Sun became known on the street as an anti-union, anti-gay newspaper.

Before Sue-Ann's time, a Sun darkroom technician and an editor were a couple, but far from an open couple at work. Not in that early environment.

A reporter in the late 1980s became one of the first openly gay Sun staffers. He told his bosses he was booking days off to participate in Pride Week events.

When it comes to sexual orientation, the Toronto Sun has moved out of the dark ages into a more liberal age.

Sue-Ann must be feeling liberated following her Sunday Sun column. She has worked at the Sun for 18 years, all the while fearful of her "secret" becoming known.

What a waste of time and energy.

We are confident the majority of her fellow staffers support her openness, as should her true friends and her family.

Sue-Ann's sexual orientation will be noteworthy to us only when she is writing about related issues as a city hall columnist.

Much the same as we note that Peter Worthington comes from a military family and is a staunch Conservative when reading his columns.

Or noting that Andy Donato is Italian when he pushes the envelop with editorial cartoons about the Pope.

Sue-Ann's column brought back memories of another era.

In the early 1960s, this blogger hung out with two close friends, Angie and Sam. The Three Amigos. Shooting pool, trips to Buffalo when the drinking age there was 18 and 21 in Ontario. Road trips to Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley.

Angie, the son of a prominent downtown Toronto chef and the best looking of The Three Amigos, had a steady girlfriend.

During a weekend in Wasaga, Angie confided that he was a homosexual and he didn't know whether to commit suicide or come out of the closet. He told us first, then his family. We were all supportive, but his new lifestyle took him down a different path.

We lost touch. Sam called me at the Sun in the 1980s to say Angie had become one of the first in Toronto to die from AIDS.

Angie's debate within himself about suicide or coming out of the closet said it all about the rampant, dehumanizing homophobia of the 1960s.

Here we are almost 50 years later and sexual orientation is still an issue for many Canadians.

So Sue-Ann is a lesbian. That said, let's get everybody else out of the closet and move on.

1 comment:

  1. I read the piece on Sue-Ann Levy, who came out of the closet this weekend, as Gay Pride Week in Toronto was coming to a climax. Although Toronto is vibrant, diverse, and usually gay-friendly, the Toronto Sun was not always so. There were some hurtful people who worked there, and one in particular took delight in goading me, slyly accusing me of being a little bent because I didn't buy into the SUNshine Girl culture of trolling for women, talking them out of their clothes and boasting about it afterwards, like one of the
    well-known photographers in our group. This unnamed photo editor will never know how hurtful such comments were. I should have made a human rights complaint, but never had the nerve. All I wanted to do was continue being an award winning "news" photographer, the stuff of which we built the Sun's reputation in the early years.