Long before activist Richard Hudler came across HALO (Homophile Association of London Ontario), he could only imagine what such an organization would be like.
“Coming of age as a gay man in Chicago during the 1960’s, it was clear that our favourite meeting places (gay bars) were owned by organized crime. I wondered why the money earned by these bars could not be used to better serve the 2SLGBTQIA+ community?” Hudler said in an electronic interview. “As I became a member of HALO in 1976, I realized that this is exactly what I had in mind.”
A website created in 2002 by Master of Library and Information Science students Ping Huang, Tarina Saysana, Yuanhang Wu, and Shuzhen Zhao outlines HALO’s history.
HALO was a place for Londoners part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to meet and gather on Colborne Street. Before HALO, there was the UWO Homophile Association (UWO HA).
UWO HA held its first meeting February 2, 1971 and the organization was established in October 1971. The social group for gay and lesbian students at the university came a year after the Stonewall Riots in New York. The UWO HA was an on-campus group, but eventually moved off-campus on Colborne Street starting in 1974 and got a liquor license to operate as a social bar.
“HALO eventually became known as the most successful organization of its type in Canada,” Hudler said. “It was listed in all the Gay Guides and received visitors from around the world. It served as a community centre and beyond the dances, it provided a launching space for other groups forming in the wider community. It also provided a gay line, library, and archives.”
In 2000, HALO sold the building and the organization closed due to a lack of funding, then disbanded in 2005.
Western University’s Pride Library
The Pride Library at Western University was the first 2SLGBTQIA+ research centre at a Canadian university. According to its website, the library was launched in 1997, in addition to the Hudler UWO Research Site for Gay and Lesbian Studies.
The Friends of Pride Library initiative kept the library going as well through donations, volunteer time, and support. The Pride Library has over 10,000 works surrounding the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
The Pride Library is independent from Western Libraries and doesn’t receive any financial support from the university, but through an agreement with the University Library Administration, it is considered to be a specialized information site. The President’s Committee on the Safety of Women on Campus also provided grants that helped with the Cataloging.
The Pride Library’s Hudler Archives are named after Hudler. The collection features materials from publications and organizations like the Sexual Assault Centre London (SACL, now part of Anova), Winnipeg Gay/Lesbian Youth, Sudbury Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario – Southwest Ontario Region 1982-86, and the Toronto Counselling Centre for Lesbian and Gays.
During Hulder’s time as president, he organized the HALO archives. When he resigned in 1995, he was told the new HALO administration planned to send all of the archived documents to the garbage. However, the organization and the university came to an agreement to send HALO’s library collection and archives to Western.
“Perhaps this is why when it was decided to make the archives a separate part of the Pride Library, they chose to name it after me. I appreciated that very much,” he said. “My first degree was in history, and I always felt the importance of the accurate preservation of history.”
Advocating for the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community today
Hudler served as a representative for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO), one of HALO’s founding organizations in 1975. The CLGRO made sure sexual orientation was part of the province’s Human Rights Code, and it has been since 1986.
In 2009, the CLGRO became Queer Ontario, which Hudler is now a part of as a treasurer. Queer Ontario advocates for a society where people who are sexually and gender-diverse can express who they are without systematic discrimination.
Hudler said that while HALO was successful and impactful, it also eventually “failed.”
“I’ve heard it suggested that HALO’s failure was the result of its success. Namely that the more the 2SLGBTQIA+ community was accepted by the general public, the less HALO was needed. To me, that means that HALO fell to the assimilationists,” he said.”There are still many of us who fall outside of what is acceptable for assimilation. As liberationists, Queer Ontario is focused on those people. If HALO were still around, that should also be their focus.”