Love's Gay Fool. Autobiography of John Alan Lee.


Chapter 19. Kairos: my own paradise


January 7. The Centre for Freedom and Sexuality held their day-long conference at Hart House this year. Johanna chaired. I found the speakers intolerably dull and resolved to liven things up with a provocative speech on creative uses of sadomasochistic sexplay to keep a marriage interesting. There were reporters present.

January 9. Claire Hoy’s column in the Toronto Sun demands my dismissal for corrupting youth:


"John Lee, a homosexual U of T professor, is one of that small but mouthy crowd of radical homosexuals.... Lee's speech offers all the proof you need that society has gone too far in allowing the dissemination of depravities.

"He should be fired on the spot, not allowed to proselytise such garbage for another minute, at least not at public expense.

January 12. At 6 AM I woke with no symptoms whatever and went to the toilet. I returned to bed wide awake, and began to plot my response to events of the past week.

My back froze in terror of the possible fallout. I tried to get out of bed again at 6.30 AM. Talk about psychosomatic symptoms! I had to crawl to the bathroom on hands and knees, pour myself a hot bath and fall in. I’m rigid with cramp and unable to stand.

First, I fear for my job. The Principal, Joan Foley, called me to her office to discuss Claire Hoy’s article. She and the President have received numerous calls. No threats of dismissal were made or implied, but the minister of education is harrying the university to do something about me.

Principal Foley was restive playing the scold. She unsheathed her usual wry humour toward the end of our painful talk: "I considered asking you to call me Sir when you came in" and as I left, she added: "Perhaps what you need is a good spanking."

Second fear, a possible loss of respect and affection from Ruth and Peter. Ruth called only hours after the Sun article appeared, and came over. She brought a cheque to refund the price of her Christmas gift! I tore it up and we had a long talk. It's clear she has never truly accepted my sexuality.

Dane's loyalty has never been in doubt, even though he is being associated with me at work. Someone put a copy of the Sun clipping on his desk, anonymously.

January 13. I’ve talked to Jean, who is not too shocked. Peter seems much less upset than Ruth. Indeed, almost stoic. No sense of anger or disgust in his voice. He's a mystery! What does he think about sex, about my lifestyle, about his life?

January 20. I've survived the flak, kept the lid on my classes, and got more invitations to speak out. Johanna and Frank are very supportive. Dane and I have enrolled in a self-defence course, just in case.

January 22. At my Intro Soc class I debated with Sev Isajiw: “Conflict versus functional approaches to the family.” Bob James moderated. I expected Sev to defeat me, even on my own turf. After all, he's the "star theorist" in the department.

Sev arrived late. He is a straw man, and I'm a more articulate intellectual than I give myself credit for. The students cheered me on. I've allowed myself to be derogated by professors like Sev who consider me a mere popularizer. I can play the academic game as well as most of them, and I’m not taken in by it, as they are.

February 3. Tonight Jean, Ruth and Peter were here for a warm and friendly dinner. They have not disowned me. What relief!

February 24. Tonight I enjoyed incandescent sex with Rory, so shapely, passionate, sweet, gentle, and impoverished. The bathtub in his illegal loft is perched on a table, with a hose draining it into a sink. He fills the tub by pail. How can I help? His pedestrian artwork is of no interest, and I'd embarrass him with a handout.

February 26. Dane has been on vacation for ten days, and not a word by phone or mail. I wonder what occupies his time so much that he can't call? We give ourselves as hostages to those we love!

March 3. My long life of publishing continues – I now produce the monthly newsletter of the CHFS.

March 9. A surprise blow has come by letter from Ruth, who is 20: "I have tried to tell you before, but I was fearful of hurting your feelings. Every time I see you I get emotionally disturbed. I have been sick now for four days. I find many of your views distressing and because you are my father I take them personally. For my own peace of mind I no longer wish to spend time with you. Please send my allowance cheques in the mail. Yours truly, Ruth."

March 16. Another blow. A letter from Joan Foley, in reply to one from me six weeks ago, drawing her attention to the fact that I've been invited to do more guest lectures than ever before. Foley says she "acquainted the President" with my letter. I suspect her letter has been carefully crafted over the weeks, largely by the President. It says in part:

"... the most serious concern is the question of advocacy of certain ideas within and outside the classroom... You have assured me that your interaction with your students does not entail advocacy and have reminded me that you have often invited visitors to your classes whose views are contrary to your own. I expect you to be meticulous in observing your responsibility in this regard....

March 11. Jean writes: "Hi - I have long been aware of the influence of the Students of Light on Ruth. She has regularly chosen it over family for the past two years. She has a right to choose. She is a good kid, and I am afraid it is time to let go."

My longterm companion “Dane” (not his real name) and I were out riding when a news photographer asked for this shot of Dane with our dog in his backpack.

April 4. The Attorney General has finally met with a gay delegation (including myself, Don and Clarence). He promised to maintain liaison through his deputy, and he will consider speaking to a conference on gay civil rights. [Comment: Liaison was never established and no conference took place. Instead, the Toronto cops soon made a mass arrest of gay men at the baths, perhaps with the AG's advance knowledge].

April 11. Peter's eighteenth birthday: Jean, Peter and I dined at the CN Tower’s revolving restaurant. It was a joyful and moving occasion. My son, rather than Ruth, might become the good friend of my old age. He was quite thrilled with my gift - a cheque for $1000 dollars, to acknowledge his contributions to the Logan renovations.

April 23. I had lunch today with R, a key colleague and ally. We talked until 6 PM! He wanted to know what makes me tick. In exchange he offered me inside information about the private life of several administrators. He spoke of the shock of the President and Principal over the Sun S/M affair, and noted how cleverly the Foley letter is worded. He shared my disgust with the rampant hypocrisy of the university– the chasm between pretensions and reality. [Years later I learned why this colleague was solicitous: he is a secret homosexual, amazed at the risks I took and the fact that I got tenure and continued to survive on the faculty].

April 28. I spoke at length with Johanna about the Foley letter, and her opinion (supported by R) is that I cannot let it pass unchallenged. I’ve asked the Faculty Association to grieve on my behalf, and in defence of academic freedom. The Association will act, on condition that in the meantime I make no more outrageous statements to the press. For the first time in my life, I’ve agreed to be gagged.

May 20. We're home from canoeing in Algonquin, at Proulx Lake. There were few bugs and we enjoyed delightful outdoor sex. Dane is getting used to camping but still reminds me: "I'm only doing it for your sake."

June 5. Ruth called yesterday in response to my letter suggesting it is time to stop being truculent. I conspicuously omitted the cheque she would expect. We had lunch, which was polite but distant. She calls my sexual activities "abominations."

June 7. Peter came for lunch today and helped with my project to fortify the house against break-ins. He is such a contrast to Ruth – pragmatic and skeptical . He's working at a seniors' home for the summer.

Ever since my children were very young I’ve had the policy: Ask me anything. I won’t lie to you. However, I’ve sometimes replied to a question with “Are you really sure you want me to answer that?” A few times, Ruth or Peter has reconsidered, and said “Well, maybe not.” Today when Peter arrived, Dane and I had forgotten to put away our “fucking board.” This sex toy makes anal sex more comfortable for two men. It’s a board mounted on two saw-horses, with a hole in the middle for the cock of the “bottom” to pass through, easily accessible for stimulation by the “top.” When Peter saw it he wondered out loud: “Dad, what’s that?” I queried: “Are you sure you want to know?” He did, and I explained. He grinned and went about his work.

June 9. I'm helping to organize a gay group for seniors: CODA, an acronym for Came Out Decades Ago. A coda is also the windup passage in music. There is little commonality among the members, and no notion of what activities might interest all or most of us.

June 10. When I was hired at U of T, it was still possible to opt out of the pension plan (now it's compulsory). I chose to opt out for several reasons. 1: I don't expect to live long enough to collect. A deep instinct tells me I'll die at 64. (Has the Beatles' song influenced me?). 2: I want all my money now, not a portion diverted to an uncertain future. I hope to live so that "the last cheque bounces." 3. I’m morally opposed to the way pension funds are often invested to exploit the poor in third world countries.

But just in case I live longer, I need a reserve. "Buy land," Twain advised. "I hear they've stopped making it." I need to move to a more expensive property. It’s time to sell Logan.

June 29. I'm back in my own bed after nine nights in a tent - our longest camping trip yet, in Quetico. Dane barely survived, but he did. Once he tipped the canoe while fishing and I had to swim to his aid. He still has a vestigial fear of sharks in the water, stemming from some Caribbean incident.

The weather was dramatic, including the most brilliantly lit thunder storm I've ever seen. We had great sex in the woods, no sight of humans for days, and good company from our dog, Delphi. There were hosts of mosquitoes and deer flies but also many loons. We saw a bear and cubs, elk and rabbits.

July 2. For our anniversary Dane gave me a poem, which I'll paraphrase: “All the things we shared in three short years would fill a dozen novels, but not my heart. With the strongest love and the greatest respect for you, my Friend and Lover.”

July 6. After only a few days on the market, the house is sold, for a price beyond my dreams. I feel a deep spiritual gratitude to Logan. After learning from city archives that it was the original farmhouse of the area, I restored it to historical glory and got it listed for preservation. Now the house in turn has helped me to move on.

The lucky Real Estate ad that led us to Kairos.

The grass terraces of Kairos before we began the gardens.

July 12. What an amazing fluke! I spotted a one-day ad in the newspaper, for a house that came back on the market after a previous sale fell through. We saw it and both of us liked it. The $160,000 price will double our housing costs.

It's a split-level on a double lot, five levels of house and three terraces of garden going down a hill overlooking the lake. Now I must wait for the deal to be signed.

July 15. The good news came at 8.30 AM, and the signatures a couple of hours later. Nancy Howell remarked on my impatience: "You won't take YES for an answer." She's right; life has been saying YES in love, at work, in health, with friends. I must learn to hear life's YES.

August 15. Peter came for dinner, his usual endearing self. He comes on his own initiative now, not waiting for an invitation. His affection compensates for the loss of Ruth's company.

August 19. Today I joined with other gay activists to lunch with some top police, in an effort to organize a police-gay conference. We agreed to start with new action at Hallowe'en, to keep gay-bashers under control.

August 28. Dane and I are camping, to get away from worrying about our big move. Everything in the house is packed. We'll eat out when we return.

September 3. Sitting in the bath, in one of the most renovated rooms in the house, I’m saying goodbye to Logan. Tomorrow we move. Peter came over to see the house one last time; so thoughtful of him. This journal book appropriately ends here, and a new one will begin at Glen Stewart.

September 5. Murphy's law worked overtime on moving day. Everything that could go wrong did. The lawyer for the vendor had a heart attack the night before, and didn't have his documents ready. My lawyer, David Ross, struggled all day to get the deal closed.

At Logan, our movers discovered that Dane's four-seater couch would not go down the stairs by which it came up to the second floor. When I renovated the bathroom, I extended it into the "waste space" above the stairwell. Waste indeed, until you want to move large furniture! We broke out a window-frame onto the verandah roof, and the movers lowered the couch from there.

Dane and I moved fragile and awkward stuff to our new house by car. When the movers were ready to leave Logan, I called David for keys to the new house, and he promised to get them. We all sat waiting outside Glen Stewart until 4 pm. I finally broke into the house, allowing the movers to unload and go home. David called at 6 PM to say he was on his way. "I'll get the keys tomorrow," I told him; "We're already moved in!" Once again Fate was kind.

September 6. At 6.30 PM last night a new neighbour rang the doorbell: "I'm having a cocktail party to welcome you boys to the neighbourhood." Actually, she'd planned her party before knowing our moving date, but when she saw the truck unloading, added us to her guests. It was a perfect opportunity to meet all our neighbours as a gay couple.

September 17. We have named our new home Kairos – the ancient Greek god of "the opportune moment." Good timing is one of the blessings of my charmed existence.

October 1. Sometimes Dane's anger stuns me. The positive side is that he feels safer showing his deep feelings now than he did in our first years (when he just sulked). The negative side is that his anger is wildly disproportionate to the alleged "provocation."

The most recent incident is his snoring. I asked him to wear a nightshirt with a hollow ball sewn to the back, so that he won't sleep on his back. Today he took a 17 by 22 film poster and on the back scrawled in blaring letters: "Your attitude is pathetic.” What really galls me is that he can sleep easily on anger. He often breaks the rule against "never letting the sun set on anger."

October 3. Dane has a hard time apologizing for his anger, but today he gave me a gift of exceptionally good chocolate.

October 28. My lawyer has drawn up a Deed of Trust giving Dane a right to a share of the value of the house, based on the proportion of house-costs he pays. That, in turn, is based on our relative incomes. At present, I earn about double his salary, and I pay two thirds of all costs: $900 a month to his $450. He enjoys life in an elegant house for much less than the cost of a bachelor apartment.

November 9. An endless joy is our view of the lake shimmering with a hundred shades of blue, grey, green.

December 10. John Lennon shot! Evil men like Kissinger walk about safely while this good, harmless man is gunned down.

No classes for almost ten months. I'm on sabbatical.

December 18. Tonight CODA had a social here – games and talk. They were impressed with the house. CODA draws mainly poor gays; the well-heeled don't need to join a group.

December 21. Winter solstice. We walked in the ravine by moonlight. The snowy ground was silver bright, the air sharp and clear. How wonderful to have a nearby woods, in the middle of a great city. This ravine was probably much the same a thousand years ago.

December 24. Troubles: 1) Dane fears Rory as a rival. 2) Our conversation is mundane; we have to work on that. I bring newspaper articles to the table to discuss. Dane doesn't read much and has few fresh ideas. 3) Vacations: Dane resents not having a lazy southern beach vacation this year, because his cost of shelter is higher than at Logan. 4) Dane is envious that I have ten months free of work, at full pay.

December 26. Under a poster hailing Bacchus, god of wine and dance, we held a dinner party for ten friends . Rory got drunk and I should have let him stay here, but I feared Dane's reaction. Clarence drove him home, but Rory was too drunk to say where he lived, and just got out of the car. The police picked him up and he landed in jail for the night.

It’s my fault Rory drank so much; he is obviously in love with me. With piquant irony, the evening did not end with Dane and me in each other's arms. Unknown to me, Dane invited his new pilot boyfriend to stay the night. I slept on my own.

December 28. Winter sunrise: a ruby-red sunball glows behind a black tangled web of ancient oak branches. This great tree dominates our eastern sky, its silhouette against the dawn. Our oak is more than 200 years old – alive at the time of Napoleon!


January 6. Sitting beside Dane, I'm flush with gratitude for the love he has shown me. I am not easily lovable and he gives a great deal. He's a good friend and companion, wonderful sex and above all, trusting enough to go on with an open marriage. Of course, he very much enjoys "having his cake and eating it too."

January 10. Hunches: Don't ignore them. All too often I tend to ignore my intuition. We discovered that a trick I brought home robbed us each of a ring (mine was my wedding ring). First there was a hunch last night not to bring him home. At breakfast I half-noticed the rings on his fingers, yet chose not to pay closer attention. I was stupid about letting him hang around the house without visual supervision.

January 15. Here's a great line: Take a sabbatical and become a midlife delinquent.

Darrell H the first time we met, in the garden at Logan. He was as stunning as Dane.

January 17. Today I met Darrell H, with whom I had a brief affair four years ago. I brought him home to try our new dungeon. As we were leaving the bar I passed another old trick, who grinned knowingly.

"I know what you're thinking" I smiled.

"Yes, how on earth do you keep on doing it?"

"I wrote the book,” I laughed.

"I know," he replied, "and I have a copy, signed by you, with love." O dear, I vaguely recalled his face but not his name.

January 27. The Faculty Association (my "trade union") took my grievance to the highest level and I’ve finally been vindicated. My college principal must destroy all copies of her letter a year ago that gave me so much anxiety. The union considers it a momentous victory for academic freedom of speech.

January 28. I'm really enjoying oil painting. I've neglected the artist in me for decades. Painting develops a new way of seeing light and shadow, and different values of the same hue.

Today I gathered a score of discarded Xmas trees and stuck them in the snowdrifts in the garden, moving them about to get an idea of where I will plant cedars in the spring.

February 3. Sunday we had a most delightful dinner and bridge game with Jean and Peter. How civilized life can be – ex-wife, son, and lover. Remarkable.

February 7. Double crossed. Saturday at noon I arrived at Buddy's bar to chair a meeting of the RTPC I’d arranged in response to the massive police raids on the baths earlier this week. I spent the week talking to various baths owners and gay activists, to promote civil disobedience as a response to the raids. One of the owners had already promised to open his much-damaged premises to the public, to prove allegations made in the press, that the police raiders had deliberately gone on a smashing rampage.

I arrived early at Buddy’s to set up the chairs, but one of the truly malevolent gay men I know, arrived even earlier. He moved all the chairs and tables to one end of the bar, and placed himself in the "chairman's seat." As people began arriving he invited them to join "his" meeting.

Some were "in on the secret" and joined him. Others sat with Don and me. Our oleaginous enemy initiated discussion of methods to raise funds for legal defence of the "found ins" at the raids. Don and I were as smoothly displaced from leadership as I have seen communist members of a trade union take it over.

The hijackers used the finest Leninist tactic – they entirely ignored our existence. Don and I consoled each other, and left. [The new RTPC spent the next several years raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay lawyers to defend owners and users of gay baths. The path of civil disobedience was utterly rejected. I got the lesson: politics in the “gay community” can be even more vicious than in academe].

February 23. Tonight I had a most convivial dinner with Harry Nishio and his new wife. Some colleagues really are allies.

March 3. Today I fly to Florida for two weeks of fun and research on aging, at the Fort Lauderdale gay hotel. This will be the longest time Dane and I have been apart since we moved in together. Dane has just returned from his Florida vacation and regaled me with stories of one Michael, a wealthy open-heart surgeon who squired him around. Dane's ego is much inflated.

March 6. From my field notes in Fort Lauderdale. Getting interviews from older gay men has not been easy. Most of the men staying at the Marlin Beach hotel are in the closet back in their northern cities. Covert interviews are the only option. I insinuate myself into little clusters of men lounging about the pool, and charm them into telling their stories bit by bit, by recounting stories of my own gay life. (This is known as the Jourard method). Later I slip up to my room to make notes.

The fun comes with the other constituency hanging around the Marlin Beach pool: cute young men looking for elder patrons. They swarm at tea-dance time, and again at the late night disco, hoping to find sponsors. Most live on the street or in cheap digs near the hotel.

March 14. I'm having trouble working out the ground rules with John K, a temporary boyfriend who is now sharing my hotel room. He has nothing but the clothes on his back, not even a wallet. John is strikingly goodlooking, smooth, slim, 19, and has conducted himself well.

March 15. Today's interview: Jim and Clarence met in 1933, at a beach. Jim was 18, Clarence 21. In 1941 Jim, college educated, was drafted as an officer. Clarence became a private. One served in the Pacific, the other in Europe. At Fort Dix in 1945, Jim was making a phone call to Clarence's parents to ask if Clarence had been demobilized yet. Clarence was standing in line at the same phone booth and saw Jim. They promptly went AWOL to make love at the nearest motel.

March 16. Today I bought John a new shirt. He sweetly objected to the high prices in the first shop and suggested another. He is lots of fun, and a sensuous animal on the dance floor. Tomorrow I head back to Toronto.

Before the gardens, first I constructed a deck, which is as large as the whole garden at Logan House!

Dane posing amidst our first crop of daffodils at Kairos.

April 12. No entries for weeks; I've been totally occupied with landscaping the garden. My very own paradise. I start by 8 AM, even before Dane leaves for work. I'm usually alone save for the dog. Peter may come by, the Bakers next door say hello, and Noreen (neighbour on the other side) has chatted a few times. I'm moving great mounds of earth, shifting many rocks, laying electric cable, underground pipe, paths and a stream. I’m building compost containers and a fence, and raising the stone retaining walls. Today Noreen gave me a straw coolie hat, simpering: “You must have worked on the great wall of China in a previous life.”

April 26. I've rekindled the addiction for physical labour I had years ago in renovating Logan, or years before that at Langley. My only daily activities are gardening and interviewing old men.

May 9. Last night I went to hear Nancy Pocock, a dear, lovable Quaker, the kindest soul I know.

June 8. My son brought his girlfriend over to visit us. I take this as a great compliment, an act of love and trust. Pippa is a splendid young woman, self-possessed and lively of mind.

June 21. Tonight we celebrated summer-coming-in with a garden party. I ate hash brownies, and was feeling quite trippy, yet always conscious of being on top of things and congenial to all. The drug caused me to look deeply into people, and wonder: "Who are all these people? Do I really care for most of them? Why do I have parties like this? Does it all really matter?”

still modelling -- a summer safari outfit for Globe and Mail fashion page.

June 23. Have I ever mentioned that one of my hobbies is occasional work as a fashion model? I look great in today's fashion section of the Globe and Mail, modelling a safari outfit.

July 5. Dane is proud and happy; he has won the competition for a new job in Personnel, quite a success since many know that he is gay. Dane is growing – going to classical concerts, more theatre, and actually reading books. I hope we are together long enough to see the time when I 'retire' and he is the master of the house.

However, he revealed today that he does not love Delphi, and would be happy to get rid of her: “I’m devoting all my energy to my job.” Dane scorns my lack of concern for “career” and "success." I’m satisfied to enjoy my midlife delinquency.

August 4. Last night I felt lucky, and I was. I met David F, of Halifax. We spent a delightful night, and went canoeing the next day. Our trip ended in a spectacular storm; we got back to the car just as rain lashed down. Tonight there’s dramatic thunder and lightning, and as I survey the lake from the deck, I hope David is OK, wherever he is. He owns only the clothes on his back. Yet he seems carefree, and made no attempt to exploit me. I gave him money to buy dinner.

August 19. Last night Bob James and Lois came for dinner. Bob is such a relaxed and accepting man, Lois a bundle of energy for good causes. Dane played his part making conversation. I owe as much to Bob James as to Bob Miller.


In our first year at Kairos, we terraced, built walls, steps, walks, arbour, and started some flowerbeds.

August 24. This birthday feels like the apex of my existence. At dinner theatre (Let my people come, which was suitably dissolute) Dane and I exchanged revelations of the best times in our life. Dane chose two: leaving home, and the day of my early return from Europe. Mine: the day Dane moved into Logan, and getting my present university job.

August 27. The Sociologists’ Gay Caucus held its party here last night – about 25 men and women of whom I knew only a few such as Barry, Steve, and Brian Miller, who was here with his new lover, Laud Humphreys. Dane went out, not eager to meet my guests. Today Jean moved her furniture into the house, for storage. She is going to England for a year. She’ll live here for her last two weeks in Canada, minding the house while Dane and I go wilderness camping. Now that's civilized, eh?

Dane claims pain somewhere in his body every time we go on a canoe trip and this time is no exception. To top it all, he started worrying that Jean still loves me. I did my best to reassure him, but at the same time I feel a deep loyalty to Jean, who has borne life most gracefully.

September 7. Lake Mijinemunkshing, north of Superior: We’re just experiencing a stupefying summer storm as we camp on an island. We huddle in our tent while the wind tears at us, thunder cracks, lightning flares, and the dog wails.

September 9. Autumn in Quetico: camping fills the hours –putting tents up and taking them down, searching for things in backpacks, cooking, eating, cleaning. There’s little energy to spare. Even the dog gets frazzled. My hands are rough and black with carbon. It is another world, entirely remote. We've seen no one for days.

September 11. I'm sitting on an unnamed island in the Pickerel Lake Narrows. The park is all ours. We're luxuriating in glorious sunny weather – an answer for my prayers to Hermes. All the portages are behind us, and only windy Pickerel Lake, long and open, lies ahead.

October 9. Some students ask amazing questions: "Sorry I couldn't be at your lecture. Did you say anything important?"

October 10. Out of a clear sky today, our neighbour Noreen joked that she would gladly buy Delphi. She has admired the dog from time to time, but this time I took her seriously. Sold! Yet we will miss Delphi.

December 25. We held our Sol Invictus party, with Clarence bringing trifle, Alan MacBeth a mince pie, John Grube a cake, and a friend of Dane's, vegetables. We roasted a turkey and served mulled wine by the fire. I cooked my favourite curried cranberry soup. Perfect!


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