Gerald Hannon, who documented the struggle of Toronto's LGBT community, dead at 77

Toronto journalist Gerald Hannon, a key figure in the early days of Canada's gay rights movement, died on Monday at the age of 77.

Hannon had been battling Parkinson's disease

Toronto journalist Gerald Hannon, seen here in 1996, died on Monday at the age of 77. (

Toronto journalist Gerald Hannon, a key figure in the early days of Canada's gay rights movement, died on Monday at the age of 77.

According to his website, Hannon had been battling Parkinson's disease, complicated by pseudobulbar affect — a neurological condition that causes outbursts of uncontrolled or inappropriate laughing or crying.

A friend of Hannon, Ed Jackson, told CBC News that he "chose to end his life with medical assistance," and was surrounded by close friends when the end came.

Hannon worked as a writer and photographer for the monthly magazine The Body Politic — one of Canada's first significant gay publications — documenting the gay liberation movement of the late 1960's to mid 1980's.

The photographs taken by Hannon document a period that saw police raids on gay spaces and protests in Toronto's Gay Village. 

"The times felt strangely urgent, as if all this bubbling activity might vanish and be forgotten if my camera wasn't there," Hannon told CBC Podcast Uncover in 2019.

The Body Politic collective household at 48 Simpson Ave. in Toronto's Riverdale neighbourhood in 1976. Front row, left to right: Gerald Hannon, Robert Trow and Ed Jackson. Back row, left to right: Herb Spiers and Merv Walker. (Courtesy of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives)

On Feb. 5, 1981, police raided Toronto's gay bathhouses and arrested 250 men. Hannon was there the following night when thousands took to the streets in protest.

Hannon didn't just document the politics of the period. He also amassed a large collection of photographs of the everyday lives of  gay people.

"The personal is political," Hannon told Uncover.

"That's why my many photos of [demonstrations] and meetings were supplemented by portraits of friends and colleagues — men and women unafraid to state, through the public release of their images, that they were gay or lesbian."

Toronto police officers strike and attempt to detain a protester during a June 20, 1981 demonstration, following a second round of raids on bathhouses. (Gerald Hannon/CLGA Archives)

Hannon was a longtime board member of The Body Politic and Xtra Magazine's publisher, Pink Triangle Press.

"Through [Hannon's] work in The Body Politic, he was part of a group of courageous activists and journalists who paved the way for the freedoms that we enjoy today as Canadians," Pink Triangle executive director David Walberg said in a statement confirming Hannon's death.

"We continue to be inspired by his honesty and curiosity, his pursuit of journalistic excellence and impact, and his belief that ordinary people working together against injustice can achieve great things," said Walberg.

In July, 1976 dozens of people stage a 'kiss-in' at to protest the arrest of two young men for kissing in public. (Gerald Hannon)

After working for The Body Politic from 1972 to 1987, Hannon did freelance work and held a part-time position teaching journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).

Hannon received a one-month suspension in 1995 when he told the Toronto Sun that he also worked as a sex worker for extra income. 

"Much was written about me, particularly after it was revealed that I supplemented my income from teaching and writing with the wages of sin as a sex worker," Hannon wrote on his website.

Gerald Hannon was suspended from his teaching position at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) after admitting to working as a sex worker for extra income. (

Hannon's contract at the university was not renewed the following semester. He filed an appeal and was ultimately awarded a cash settlement, according to an article published in the Toronto Star in 1996. 

Hannon's memoir, Indecent & Scurrilous: The Making of an Unrepentant Sex Radical, will be published this summer by Cormorant Books.

Gerald Hannon, pictured at the Body Politic office in Toronto, in the late 1970s. (Uncover/Submitted by Gerald Hannon)