Because The Body Politic has had complaints from some readers that the content of the paper is too urban with its emphasis on Toronto politics, the bar and bath scenes, I am roused to report on lesbian life on a small island off the west coast of British Columbia. It has already been written up in Today Magazine, of course, but the reporter came on a rainy day in May when most of us were, in fact, in Toronto on some famous business or other. Audrey Thomas, our other island novelist, has since taken pains to set the record straight in Saturday Night. There really isn't another Lesbos out here in the Gulf Islands.
Most of the young people here are busy creating another Dog Patch. The chief float in the Summer Solstice Parade was Gordie's truck, hauling all the pregnant women and nursing mothers from Sturdies Bay to the school, which, contrary to the trend everywhere else, is expanding. Locally the population is divided between vegetarian potheads and meat-eating drunks, that is between the young and the old, though no one could deny that here and there, among a population of five hundred, there's an identifiable lesbian or ten. Since statistically there should be twenty-five of us, we are probably under-represented.
The tourists are another matter. I, for one, can't entirely blame Today Magazine for the summer invasion, since it includes some good friends of mine. All year long, in fact, a dedicated lesbian-spotter might sight a rare bird like Marie-Claire Blais, Mary Meigs, Kate Millett, Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin, Barbara Grier or Tee Corinne, and others who are out in all but print. Though this not the most popular island for the Toronto/Vancouver connection people, they do come to call. On a hot day, you might even see one of the gang from The Body Politic.
Those of us who live here are too busy with invited guests to entertain droppers in, so the real tourists have to make up temporary colonies of their own, either in the entirely inadequate camp grounds or in the few heavily booked tourist cabins. There are two restaurants on the island. One of them opens only two evenings a week and must be booked four months in advance at the height of summer. All one might be able to report from such a holiday is two other women, half a mile off in a row boat, too busy salmon fishing even to wave.
Yet there was one untypical night in the spring when we were taking three guests up to the north end restaurant. The place seats between twenty and twenty-five people, only one sitting a night. When it's full, one party is usually put in a small side room which can be reached from the back deck. An hour or so before we were to go, the restaurant owner phoned and said, "We've got a problem. A radical lesbian therapist has a party for ten from Victoria. Two women from LA who claim to be fans of yours are coming. There's your party of five and a foursome of the squarest meat-eating drunks on the island. Do we protect them or you?" "Us," I said without hesitation.
Our guests, an old college classmate and two young things whose dress-up shirts had forest ranger badges, took exception to my choice. Though there was a full bathroom off our private dining room, the youngsters insisted on cruising out into the main dining room and through to the other washroom every ten minutes or so, reporting back on the lesbians in therapy and my two fans. By dessert, the restaurant owner confided that the fans, two very attractive women, were sure I was in here somewhere, and since they'd made an appointment to call later in the week, it finally seemed silly to go on cherishing privacy as much as I do.
I went out into the main dining room, introduced myself to them and hoped they were enjoying their dinner.
One leaned forward and said, "Have we died and gone to heaven? Surely this can't be a lesbian restaurant at the north end of this little island?"
"Only on certain nights," I explained.
Then I greeted the four square meat-eating drunks.
"Funny night," they said. "You're the only person we know."
If our American readers don't know where Toronto is, don't know where Calgary is, let's hope they don't know where the Gulf Islands are either. This is neither a travel piece nor a geography lesson. It's just a report on how bad things are in the country.