Between 1976 and 1980, LOOT was a cultural, social, and political hub of mostly white, young, middle class women who identified as lesbians. LOOT was located in an old house at 342 Jarvis Street, and the rent was paid through fundraising at coffee houses, dances, cultural events, and LottoLesbian. An apartment on the top floor was also rented and provided some financial stability as well as ongoing on-site security and access.
LOOT was a place to come out, to find lovers, to discuss politics, and to hear and see various artists and performers like Rita McNeil. LOOT sponsored a newsletter, a weekly drop-in, Sunday brunches, monthly house meetings, a library, a peer-counselling phone-line, New Year’s dances, and political discussions and actions.
Membership was diverse in terms of communities and political activism: women who participated in LOOT activities were involved in the Lesbian Mothers Defense Fund, Women Against Violence Against Women, the Committee Against the Deportation of Immigrant Women, the International Women’s Day Committee, the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of Southern African Colonies, the Revolutionary Marxist Group, and Broadside (a radical feminist newspaper).
The house on Jarvis was shared with The Other Woman newspaper, (which stopped publication soon after LOOT was formed) the Lesbian Phone-Line, and the Three of Cups coffeehouse. Other groups that consistently used the space were Superbia Press (printing), Sappho Sound, and Mama Quillia II, a women’s band that practiced in basement.
LOOT co-organized the Bi-National Lesbian Conference held in 1979 in Toronto. The conference’s goal was to build a unified, visible, and radical Pan-Canadian lesbian-feminist movement. (See Bi-national Lesbian Conference.)
LOOT was hardly monolithic, but there are three moments when the majority of members who attended meetings agreed:
- The group response to the publication of Men Loving Boys Loving Men published in Body Politic in November 1977 was negative. LOOT members raised critical questions about intergenerational relationships and sex, and questions about power that flowed from their feminist analysis of violence against women.
- Members of LOOT were centrally involved in Anti-Anita Bryant organizing, defended freedom of the press, and specifically, the right of The Body Politic to publish, despite political disagreements.
- A lesbian who identified herself as a trans woman wanted to check out LOOT. A heated discussion ensued at one of the monthly membership meetings. 1980s Lesbian feminist orthodoxy won the day, and the woman was not welcomed into LOOT.
LOOT had difficulty maintaining and paying for the house. Many of its members were either poor or were working on the margins. It was also difficult maintaining a clear sense of purpose when the organization was trying to be all things to all lesbians.
At the beginning of 1980, a call went out to discuss the future of LOOT. At the meeting, it was decided to disband.
What did LOOT achieve? It was a social and political centre that created pride and resilience among the women who participated. It provided an important site of social connection, creativity, and political awakening. From LOOT sprung many activists and dynamic cultural and political projects. (See Lesbians Against the Right and Bi-national Lesbian Conference.)