What Did They Say About Gays?


191 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 1-55022-235-X
DDC 082'.08'664






Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is assistant director of libraries at the University of
Saskatchewan and président, La Troupe du Jour, Regina Summer Stage.


Journalist Allan Gould states upfront that he is heterosexual and a
“late-bloomer” to awareness of homosexual issues. His stated purpose
in creating this handbook was “to put as many key, important,
insightful, and relevant comments, laws, insults or defences about or of
homosexuality made by heterosexuals as [he] could between two covers, so
that people could finally, finally see who their enemies were (are), and
who their friends were (are), and how times have (or haven’t)
changed.” Gould avoids selections from fiction since it is difficult
to fathom the true intent of any particular passage.

This compilation demonstrates both the delights and the drawbacks of
all list books. On the positive side, the collection brings together a
wide variety of selections that span from Babylon times to the present.
Gould often gives an exact citation, as well as a short note identifying
the author or source. On the negative side, the contexts from which
quotations are drawn are not always apparent, and frequently the source
for attitudes attributed to a person is a secondary source or biography.
The compilation also suffers considerably from its lack of a table of
contents and an index.

Having chosen not to include acknowledged homosexuals in the
compilation, Gould tellingly concedes: “And I may well have included a
gay or two, without knowing it. This in itself is a comment about how
necessary gays have found it to hide their sexual identity.” If one
selection could be chosen to encapsulate the panorama of issues in this
collection of fascinating and sometimes appalling opinion pieces, it
might well be the thoughtful reflection of the popular cartoonist Lynn
Johnston on the reactions to a character’s coming out in the comic
strip For Better or For Worse. Happily, the original set of cartoon
strips is also reproduced, giving readers a sense of what the
controversy was all about.


Gould, Allan., “What Did They Say About Gays?,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/985.