"The thing I am most proud of is my family. That we never went into the closet in order to preserve our daughter’s feelings or to protect her that way. That wasn’t the right example to set for her, to set up a life of deception even though she went through her hard years because of it, no doubt. We kept being who we are all through her life and she came through the hard years. She actually became a queer activist in high school and started the first gay/straight alliance in her high school. … She really moved from being seriously in the closet when she was younger to being an activist. And now she couldn’t be more proud of who we are and what we’ve done, so I’m proud of her, I’m proud of my family for being an out and proud lesbian family."
Photograph by Aimée Haskell
Annette Clough: The thing I am most proud of is my family. That we never went into the closet in order to preserve our daughter’s feelings or to protect her that way. That wasn’t the right example to set for her, to set up a life of deception even though she went through her hard years because of it, no doubt. We kept being who we are all through her life and she came through the hard years. She actually became a queer activist in high school and started the first gay/straight alliance in her high school. … She really moved from being seriously in the closet when she was younger to being an activist. And now she couldn’t be more proud of who we are and what we’ve done, so I’m proud of her, I’m proud of my family for being an out and proud lesbian family. Select clips from interview: Heather Bain: Can you tell me about yourself? Annette Clough: I was born in 1941 in Jamaica and I came to Canada in 1960 to go to what was then Ontario College of Art. And I went to UoT for a couple of years and decided to immigrate, which I did in 1967. Can you tell me about when you came out, and what it was like at that time? I came out in the mid to late 70’s; I was already in my mid 30’s. It was in the context of lesbian feminism and I had a really smooth ride. I can’t say it was a traumatic experience for me to do that. I may have lost some people along the way but I gained far more in terms of friends and so on through that era. That was the era of the LOOT House (Lesbian Organization of Toronto), the Fly by Night Bar, the Three of Cups Coffee House. This was vintage lesbian Toronto. …Politically, at that time, I wasn’t involved in any lesbian organizations but I was involved in a group called Women Against Nuclear Technology, which was all dykes at the time. Was there anything specific about being a woman of colour that was unique to you coming out in the 70’s? I didn’t know any others. …I missed the 80’s, which is when there was a really big explosion of people of colour. Makeda Silvera, Debbie Douglas, Courtney McFarlane, Doug Stewart: all those people were becoming really visible as queers of colour and becoming activists. I missed that because I moved to Vancouver in the 80’s. Can you tell me about some work you’ve done in LGBTQ communities? …We were in the first wave of lesbians having babies. We were in a group that we called The Lavender Conception Conspiracy (in Vancouver), which was a group of lesbians planning to have babies. We were in that group for about two years, going through all the issues that we had no one to teach us about, so we were making it up as we went along - going through all of these issues of how do we deal with our families, how we deal with the kids going to school, do you know the donor, do you not know the donor? All those issues we were going through for the first time. There was one book from the States and that was it, so we were pioneers. Little did we know what would happen afterwards, but we had our daughter in 1986. I’m not sure when I got involved in SOY, it was probably in the 2000’s. ...But for those who don’t know about the mentoring program, it was an opportunity to match youth with gays and lesbians and I’m not sure how many trans people in the early days, to offer mentorship, support, friendship to young people struggling with coming out and usually a multitude of other issues. So I actually did that for several years. I mentored two young women. How have you’ve seen LGBTQ communities change over the years? Certainly a lot has happened in terms of queers of colour becoming more visible… If I look at archival stuff, from the beginnings of the queer movement in Toronto, I see a sea of white. The early marches and demonstrations, the early Pride, that’s the hugest difference that I see when I go to Pride now. And of course I’ve seen legal changes over the years too. From what Krin (my life partner) was doing in 1986 to get same-sex benefits from the Vancouver School Board, through to my being able to adopt my daughter in the 90’s, through all the legislative changes that we’ve seen since the 80’s to now, it’s extraordinary. What LGBTQ projects have you recently worked on, or what groups have you recently been involved in? I go back easily 10 years doing LGBT training and education with Dick Moore, working with people who work with seniors, not only in seniors homes but we worked with a number of organizations that provide staffing for seniors homes or for people who worked with seniors in their homes. So we did a lot of work over the years with a number of organizations and seniors homes. I did actually work at The 519 in the LGBT seniors Drop-In for a while. I was involved in the Inside Out Queer Video Mentorship Project three years ago… I’m part of what’s called a supportive writing group that’s for queer seniors. This is the third time I’ve done it. We get together and just write together and give each other feedback… we’ve produced two chapbooks from two courses that we did.