When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The Body Politic was a seminal lesbian and gay liberation journal that published monthly between 1971-1987. Produced in Toronto, it became a formative voice in the emergent lesbian and gay liberation movement in English Canada. It is a rich body of knowledge that has been thoroughly excavated to explore the lives and experiences of gay men and erotic masculinity during the period. There is a common misperception that queer women were absent from the journal and the movement more broadly. In this dissertation, I argue that they were far from absent, though certainly absented. The grand narrative of the liberation period posits two polarized groups: a gay movement seeking freedom from state regulation of sexuality versus a women’s movement seeking state protections to secure women’s freedom, with the two camps coming to a head over key issues, including intergenerational sex, SM, pornography, and sex work. This dissertation examines women’s contributions to the journal and the larger ArQuives, to reveal a group, whom I term activist lesbians (as opposed to gay liberationists or lesbian feminists), who navigated these seemingly oppositional movements. Throughout, they remained true to the radical liberatory roots of the gay liberation movement because they continued to incorporate and push for an intersectional feminist praxis. This dissertation identifies defining moments that are often overlooked in queer history. The analysis grapples with the legacy of The Body Politic, questioning the progress of queer liberation.