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Wilson, Douglas (1950-1992)  
 
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Realizing that he would not be able to teach openly as a gay man, Wilson dedicated his life to human rights activism.

Organizing in Saskatchewan

Frustrated and disappointed, Wilson dropped out of his studies, opting instead to spend the next two years organizing in the community. He served as the fourth president of the Gay Community Centre of Saskatoon, helped to found Metamorphosis, the prairie gay and lesbian festival, and the Saskatchewan Gay Coalition, a provincial group for gay activism.

Sponsor Message.

One of the goals of the Coalition was to create a network for gay men and lesbians living in rural and small-town Saskatchewan. It considered itself a feminist organization, giving women a voice and supporting feminist issues. Its newsletter, Gay Saskatchewan, was read by subscribers across the country, as well as readers in the Midwest and Northeast of the U.S.

In 1978, Wilson was hired as Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Association on Human Rights, a non-governmental organization focusing on human rights issues across the province. He remained in the position for four years, working towards many of the goals identified by the Coalition, while broadening his understanding of discrimination in the Saskatchewan context.

The Quinlan Sisters

Wilson met the love of his life, Peter McGehee, while in San Francisco for the annual gay pride celebrations in 1979, the same year that the University of Saskatchewan banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. McGehee was a struggling writer and performer from Arkansas who found in Wilson the political perspective he would embrace in the songs he composed for his singing group, The Quinlan Sisters.

McGehee moved to Saskatoon to be with Wilson in 1980 and together they were the brains and the beauty behind the witty social, political, and sexual satire of the third and most successful incarnation of the Sisters, which McGehee formed in September 1981. The a cappella trio sang "like a punk barbershop quartet minus one, like the Andrew Sisters minus good taste, like the Osmonds without Mom, Dad and God." They ranted against the right and rallied for the disenfranchised. Wilson was manager and for the first six months found venues close to home for McGehee's musical revue that were open to their positive human rights message.

In 1982, Wilson began organizing tours for The Quinlan Sisters, including a first tour to the west coast. Two trips across Ontario gained them legions of fans and cult status in arts and gay circles. These early contacts created a network of support for all McGehee/Wilson ventures over the next nine years.

A tour of small-town Saskatchewan in August received sponsorship from the Saskatchewan Association on Human Rights and the Secretary of State, a federal department that promoted cultural policies and programs built on Canada's diversity. It was yet another way in which Wilson continued the dialogue around human rights throughout the province.

At the end of 1982, Wilson and The Quinlan Sisters moved to Toronto. The Sisters had gained some attention and they wanted to see how far they could take the group. Not long after the move, Wilson and McGehee were separated when McGehee was deported. He had been outed by his own musical revue: his immigration officer in Saskatoon saw The Quinlan Sisters singing on a cable television program. The immigration officer realized that McGehee was gay and that his marriage to a friend was not legitimate. McGehee moved to Rochester, New York, in late October 1983.

Despite McGehee's relocation, Wilson remained dedicated to managing The Quinlan Sisters. In the summer of 1984 he secured a Canada Council of the Arts touring grant that enabled the Sisters to tour Ontario and the prairies one last time before they disbanded.

In 1984, after moving to New York, McGehee married another Canadian woman. He applied to return to Canada but stayed in the U.S. until his papers were final.

Once back in Canada, he and his Quinlan Sister, Fiji Champagne Robinson, decided to put a new act together, The Fabulous Sirs. Due to other commitments, Wilson declined to be their manager.

Activist in Toronto

Toronto was a fertile ground for Wilson's interests. It had a large and diverse immigrant population, a strong women's movement, and a large, well-organized gay community, all of which needed advocacy work.

Wilson's first opportunity was working for the Toronto Board of Education in its Race Relations and Equity Office in 1983. The goal of the office was to provide equitable education to the city's diverse student body by attempting to deliver anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti- education. Wilson produced the Board's Focus on Equity newsletter and coordinated its anti-apartheid conference.

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