Research Paper On Sexual Identity In Canada

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: LGBT, Homosexuality, Canada, Law, Social Issues, People, Psychology, Education

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2020/12/29


“In the twentieth century, nowhere on Earth was sex so vigorously suppressed as in America – and nowhere else was there such a deep interest in it.” These words by Robert A. Heinlein describe the modern situation of such notion as sexual identity in Canada and other countries. In the developed world, homosexuality is not treated as a crime. However, in a number of countries of the East, homosexuality, homosexual activity manifestations or even insinuation is a criminal offense that is punishable with imprisonment (as in the USSR) or with the legal killing, as in the West Asia, Yemen, and Somalia. However, a mitigation of the law against homosexuals is lobbied in many of these countries. In this essay, we will consider sexual identity in Canada in the light of the history of its persecution and the recent history of our time.


Sexual identity is one of the five components of human sexuality, defined as the individual’s self-identification with people who have a particular sexual orientation, sense of self as an individual with a given sexual orientation. For a long time, sexual identity in the countries of Canada and the United States, namely LGBT social movements, were persecuted not only by the law but also accompanied by persecution in society, causing bouts of homophobia among people. Canadian representatives of the LGBT community in the 1950s and 1960s faced with more anti-gay legal system than gay men and lesbians in some countries of the Warsaw Pact (Browne 333). In those days, even homosexual acts between consenting adults by mutual agreement, taking place in private homes, were a criminal offense across Canada. In Canada, there was a law under which any person could be detained on suspicion of homosexuality. In some cities, persons suspected of homosexuality could be placed in a psychiatric institution for life. In an attempt to cure homosexuality, psychiatrists used castration, aversion therapy, hypnosis, electroshock therapy and lobotomy. Homosexuals were forced to lead a double life, keeping their personal life as a secret from everyone (Gray 118).
Meanwhile, after the social upheavals of the Second World War, many people in Canada were keen to restore the pre-war social order and to refrain from change. US Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, inspired by the anti-communist sentiment in society, began a campaign of repression against dissidents (communists, socialists, anarchists, and so on.) in the government, the army and other government-funded US organizations and institutions. Homosexuals became the victims of the national hysteria. This wave swept the neighborhood Canada too. In particular, the Deputy Secretary of State James E. Webb noted in his report that those who were involved in explicit perverted acts did not have an emotional stability that should be inherent to normal people. Gays and lesbians were accused of propensity to crime and endangering state security. During this campaign, in the period from 1947 to 1950, 1.500 gays and lesbians have been denied in employment, 4.370 people were dismissed from the armed forces, and 400 people were dismissed from the government structure of Canada.
During the 1950-1960s, Canadian police made lists of famous gay people, institutions that have been supportive to them, as well as their relatives and friends. Canadian postal service followed addresses sent from materials of homosexual (Gray 119). The local governments followed these laws too: bars that were catering to homosexuals were closed, customers of bars have been arrested, and their pictures were published in newspapers the next morning. There was a number of clearings in parks, bars and beaches for gays that were passed by the order of the officials of the cities. It was prohibited to wear clothes of the opposite sex. Teachers who were suspected of homosexuality were dismissed from schools. Thousands of men and women were subjected to public humiliation and physical harassment. People were dismissed, imprisoned or forcibly confined in psychiatric hospitals. In 1952, the Canadian Psychiatric Association included homosexuality in the Guide to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders as a sociopathic personality disorder. In 1962, a comprehensive study of homosexuality was conducted again, so the CPA had confirmed its inclusion in a number of disorders and qualified it as a pathological fear of the opposite sex as a result of injuries sustained in childhood. This view has gained wide influence in the medical environment. Although still in 1956, psychologist and sexologist Evelyn Hooker conducted studies that showed no differences in mental health between homosexual and heterosexual men. Hooker’s studies became widely known in the medical community and brought her incredible popularity among gays and lesbians. However, despite this, homosexuality was removed from the list of diseases only in 1973 (Scheim 7).


In addition, one of the best examples of persecution of homosexuals is a Canadian system called Fruit Machine that was invented in 1962. The end of the 1940s and 1950s was spent in the persecution of communists and homosexuals in the West - the last were automatically listed in “red agents”. The reason for this label was the famous “Cambridge Five” - ​​high-ranking British who had been working for the USSR. Two of them were also homosexual. Relatively calm and free for those years Canada has not escaped the persecution of the homosexuals. In 1950, the secret police tracked down sexual minorities in order to list them in “black lists” of people, who suffered from denied accesses to the civil service, the army, intelligence and even in the highest humanitarian intelligentsia. However, the government was not satisfied with just those searches of sexual minorities. In 1960, it was decided to clean out all homosexuals from the public service. In 1961, a professor of psychology at Carleton University Frank Robert Wake developed a test, which could help identify quickly a homosexual person. The team under his leadership had developed a fruit machine - the machine that resembled a polygraph (LEE 265). An examinee was given the association of words, and also showed a series of images, among which were half-naked men and women. Wires from the machine sensors attached to various parts of the body should fix sweating, heartbeat, pulse, etc. At the same time, the device fixed the reaction of pupils to a particular image. Fruit Machine started its work in 1962. Of course, the examinees were not told that they had been checked on homosexuality, the examiners justified their testing as an “identification of stress stability” (LEE 243).
Consequently, the machine worked until 1967. During this time, there was tested 80% of civil servants and the military. Nine thousand gays were found among them. They were divided into three groups: explicit homosexual, “homosexuals-like” (from today would be called bisexual) and latent gay (Scheim 13). First (around 1500 people) under one pretext or another were dismissed from the civil service, the other were demoted, denied access to classified documents as soon as possible and tried to translate from the public service institutions to insignificant positions in the public sector (for example, conductors in public transport or forest inspectors). In 1967, the media found out about the fruit machine, and the government had to cover this program. At the same time in Canadian society (in fact, the first Western country), there was a civil campaign to decriminalize homosexuality. It ended with a success in the 1967-69s, when gay sex was no longer a criminal offense (previously, people could receive up to 2 years in prison for anal sex).
However, Canada has passed a long way yet to complete (not only criminal) decriminalization of homosexuality. The government was assuring that it had destroyed the test results of the fruit machine, but from time to time information about them surfaced, when it became clear that this or that person were fired or did not take the civil service under one pretext or another. Another resonant incident occurred in February 5, 1981 in Toronto, when police made the defeat of four gay saunas. Two hundred sixty eight homosexuals were arrested, 19 of them were sentenced to various terms in prison for “indecent behavior” and “inducing men to homosexuality” (MURRAY 142). This case in Toronto has set up finally the public opinion of Canada in favor of the completing the decriminalization of homosexuality. The political elite of the country was forced not only to fully recognize gay equal to others, but in the late 1980s to allow gay marriage. At the same time, the legalization of gay men occurred in most Western countries. Even in the US, the former bastion of the “struggle against sodomy” went to repeal the discriminatory law in 1990, according to which immigrants gays were barred from entering the United States (adopted at the height of McCarthyism, the struggle against the communist threat) (Jordan 13).


According to opinion polls in 1988, the study of 5514 college and university students under the age of 25 years found that 1% of the respondents considered themselves to be homosexual and 1% - bisexual. In 1998, the study on a stratified random sample of 750 men aged 18 to 27 years in Calgary included questions on sexual activity and sexual orientation. In this case, 15.3% of male respondents in the survey were enrolled in “varying degrees of homosexuality” on the basis of three (often overlapping) criteria of homosexuality. In 2003, the situation has changed considerably. The poll of 136.000 Canadians found that 1.0% of respondents self-identified as gay and 0.6% self-identified as bisexual. About 1.2% of men in this study self-determined as homosexuals, about twice as much as the percentage of self-proclaimed lesbian women: 0.7%. However, 0.9% of the women reported about their bisexual identity, which was slightly greater than that obtained in this poll percentage of bisexual men - 0.6%. Among men, aged 18 to 35, the percent of gay and bisexual men was 2.0%, but this percentage decreased to 1.9% in the age group of 35 to 44 years, and to 1.2% in the age group 45-59 years. Quebec and British Columbia showed higher percentages of prevalence of homosexuality and bisexuality in the population than the Canadian average: 2.3% and 1.9%, respectively. The idea of ​​equal rights for gays and lesbians with other citizens involves recognition of homosexuality as one of the embodiment of the psychological norms in accordance with modern scientific views and official documents of WHO (1993) (MURRAY 152).
In this regard, LGBT organizations, professional medical organizations, liberal politicians and human rights activists in Canada are fighting for the abolition of regulations and provisions defining homosexuality as a mental disorder, and for the adoption of official documents (national ministries of health at the level of states and at the level of national associations of psychiatrists and psychologists) that define homosexuality as a psychological version of the rules and prohibiting any “treatment of homosexuality” or “correction of sexual orientation” of healthy people, who are now recognized homosexuals. In Canada, the abolition of regulations and provisions defining homosexuality as a medical illness or sexual deviation, has already taken place (Scheim 10).
Moreover, the concept of homophobia as a social phenomenon emerged in Western European socio-cultural paradigm. European Parliament’s resolution “Homophobia in Europe” on 18 January 2006 defines homophobia as an irrational fear and aversion to homosexuality and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people based on prejudice and similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism- taking, so interpretation of homophobia had a social and cultural phenomenon, not a psychiatric syndrome. Gays and lesbians in Canada are often discriminated against and different attacks. For example, 90% of Canadian gays and lesbians say that they have experienced personal insults or threats, and about one-third of them were subjected to physical aggression. Gays also cite the following figures: the average American high school student hears homophobic statements about 26 times a day. About 31% of young gays and lesbians were subjected to physical aggression in school in 2005 (Jordan 15).
On April 29, 2004, The Canadian House of Commons passed a law (Bill C-250), which prohibits the promotion of homophobia. Svend Robinson, a member of Parliament from the party New Democrats, proposed to add to the list of restrictions sexuality law banning public expression of hatred in speeches, publications, radio and television. The vote passed with a score of 141 - "for" and 110 - "against". In contrast to Swedish law, the law of Canada stated specifically that the prosecution of hate speech towards homosexuals in public speeches are not subject to those who use them for religious texts or beliefs. Despite this, the adoption of the law caused a backlash among conservative religious groups. Homophobic propaganda as a socio-political phenomenon has certain negative effects on the part of the society against which it is directed. Therefore, Canadian clinical psychologist Don Clark argues that targeted scoring of negative attitude to the representatives of LGB community leads to formation of the so-called internalized homophobia that is hatred for his own sexual identity, with the result that homosexuals are various clinical manifestations, for example, increasing the consumption of alcohol, drugs and tobacco (RAYSIDE 221). Analyzing the long-term consequences of homophobia society, the scientists note that the self-esteem of gay gradually decreases due to the fact that every day society demonstrates unwillingness to recognize their human value and dignity, forcing them thus to turn the anger against themselves. This process has the character of a downward spiral and makes it impossible to obtain corrective emotional experience (Scheim 8).
However, the same-sex marriage is legal in Canada since the adoption of law on civil marriage on July 20, 2005. Meanwhile, before the adoption of the Canadian law, eight provinces and one territory, representing 89% of the Canadian population, already provided a legal basis for marriage between spouses of sex. Marriages of this kind of were legalized by the process of the establishment of the judges of the Old Law Marriage nearly in every region; limitation of the heterosexual couples was unconstitutional. In contrast to same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium, the pair do not necessarily need to reside in the Canadian province or territory to enter into marriage there. Canadians can recommend to their same-sex spouses (in fact, civil or legal) to provide the latest right to immigrate to Canada, which is regarded as a family reunion. According to a recent (July 2010) the report of the Centre for Sociological Research Angus Reid, 61% of Canadians support the legal status of same-sex marriage, this figure is higher than in the US and in the UK (36% and 41%, respectively). Furthermore, above the support level more than doubled among generation born after 1980 (81%) compared with those born in Canadian interval from 1965 to 1979 (35%) (RAYSIDE 214).
In addition, in January 2011, in response to a complaint by one of the listeners, Canadian Council for Canadian broadcasting standards forbade radio stations to play the full version of the song «Money for Nothing» by British band Dire Straits as it has inappropriate ethical standards. The complaint came from a man who identified himself as a representative of the LGBT community (Browne 327). When he heard on the radio one of the verses from «Money for Nothing», he found it obscene because it uses the word “faggot”. Subsequently radio stations across Canada were forbidden to play on the air the original version of the song. Not all radio stations followed prescription, two of them have been playing only this song for an hour as was considered as a protest.


Nowadays, the international community stated that the most tolerant country in the world in relation to sexual minorities is Canada; this is due to a number of reasons and factors arising from the following provisions. Over the last 15 - 20 years, there is an active growth of tolerance for same-sex love, especially among younger voters (18-24 years) and people that are more educated. It is registered in the US and Canada, and in countries mainly in Western Europe, as there are several cultural background above. The question of the sexual identity in Canada cannot be considered from one viewpoint only. The history of severe pursuits and persecutions has led to the current situation of fear and hatred in the rest population of Canada. The percentage of homophobes is decreasing nowadays, which shows that the new government program on giving homosexual people equal rights is the only right and intellectual way of the modern life of our society.

Works cited

Browne, Katherine, and Catherine J. Nash. "Resisting LGBT Rights Where “We Have Won”:
Canada And Great Britain." Journal Of Human Rights 13.3 (2014): 322-336.
Gray, Amy, and Serge Desmarais. "Not All One And The Same: Sexual Identity, Activism, And
Collective Self-Esteem." Canadian Journal Of Human Sexuality 23.2 (2014): 116-122. 
Jordan, Sharalyn, and Chris Morrissey. "On What Grounds?" LGBT Asylum Claims In
Canada." Forced Migration Review 42 (2013): 13-15.
LEE, EDWARD OU JIN, and SHARI BROTMAN. "Identity, Refugeeness, Belonging:
Experiences Of Sexual Minority Refugees In Canada." Canadian Review Of Sociology 48.3 (2011): 241-274.
MURRAY, DAVID A. B. "The Challenge Of Home For Sexual Orientation And Gendered
Identity Refugees In Toronto." Journal Of Canadian Studies 48.1 (2014): 132-152.
RAYSIDE, DAVID. "The Inadequate Recognition Of Sexual Diversity By Canadian Schools:
LGBT Advocacy And Its Impact."Journal Of Canadian Studies 48.1 (2014): 190-225. 
Scheim, Ayden I., and Greta R. Bauer. "Sex And Gender Diversity Among Transgender Persons
In Ontario, Canada: Results From A Respondent-Driven Sampling Survey." Journal Of Sex Research 52.1 (2015): 1-14. 

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