Sunday, May 29, 2005

This Memorial, On the Other Hand.... rather less inspiring.

From Canadian Press

TORONTO (CP) - A bronze statue of one of Canada's first gay public figures was unveiled in the heart of the city's gay village Saturday.

Hundreds of people were on hand to witness the first glance of the 2.5-metre monument of Alexander Wood, a 19th century city magistrate.

"Two years ago, we decided we wanted to do a public art project," said Dennis O'Connor, chair of the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area, the organization that decided to honour Wood as a forefather of the gay community.

"We chose him because he has a connection to our community, and this particular spot."

In 1827, Wood purchased a parcel of land in what is now Toronto's gay neighbourhood.

The statue is located in the area, on the corner of Church and Alexander streets, the latter of which is named after Wood.

At the time, many mockingly referred to the flamboyant Wood as Molly Wood, Molly being one of the era's derogatory terms for homosexuals.


Wood's place in Canadian history is relatively unknown.

He emigrated from Scotland prior to the beginning of the 19th century.

He established himself as one of Toronto's leading merchants and was appointed as a city magistrate in 1800.

Wood became the centre of a gay sex scandal 10 years later when he was accused by several young men of fondling them during a rape investigation.

A woman who claimed to have been attacked by a group of men told Wood she had scratched the penis one of the assailant, so Wood took it upon himself to investigate the suspects' genitals.

He was soon forced to flee to Scotland in order to avoid potential sodomy charges. At the time, homosexuality was an offence punishable by death.

Wood returned to Canada two years later, without charge.

It is disingenuous for homosexuals to claim Alexander Wood as a founding figure of their community in Toronto, and honour him for his association with scandal.

This monument does a great disservice to his memory, as it moves the focus of his legacy from his role as a leading figure in early Toronto to his sexual preference.

He would not want to have been remembered for a cause which did not exist in his day and which he likely would have found abhorrent.

No comments: