picFrom 1990, when I helped to organize the Gay Games in Vancouver

Nathan Elling

In October, 2022 Nathan writes:

I always knew I was different but I didn’t think it was gay until another kid in junior high in Chicago kissed me behind the nurses’ station. From then I went to a few youth groups, a few juice bars (bars that didn’t serve alcohol and catered to teenagers) and was forced to go see a psychiatrist by my parents! But I lived a very bifurcated life with several girlfriends during high school (also in Chicago) at least two of whom I was in love with (one in high school and one in college - both of whom I’m still in touch with. They’re now both very happily married). Turns out I’m more of Kinsey 5 than a strict 6. I first joined GLAD in 1986 when I began studies at DalhousieUniversity. From that point on I was not just out but political and an activist.

One of the early requests for input from GLAD was from [the Province of Nova Scotia's] Social Services, asking us to send a representative to talk about what University life was like. I was the only person who would agree to speak in front of a crowd so I was chosen. Unfortunately not all the information had been conveyed to me so instead of a small informal group of social workers and therapists I was confronted with about 250 professionals from throughout Nova Scotia and had to ad lib some of my comments. Far from a deterrent though, I began to become engaged in the very political and volatile scene for GLBTQ+ rights in the 1980’s.

From GLAD I also joined “The Word is Out” at CKDU. I worked there until 1987 mostly in a technical capacity, helping to tape shows, splice segments, etc. and occasionally taking over as host when others were out sick or on vacation.

In 1987 I also joined GAE as treasurer. In some ways this was an attempt to “stack the deck” in order to get the resolution to move the current club Rumours (then on Hollis St) into the OldVogueTheatre. The resolution was passed and the move was made, although there was some controversy over it at the time. I had been convinced to make this move by the fact that I thought we could use profits from the club to fund a number of endeavours I thought were very important at the time, including Wayves (the newspaper) where I would help with layout duties, the GayLine and events like the AidsVigil (which I helped BobPetit organize and also gave a Hebrew prayer at).

I also took part in various education efforts around AIDS including both a pamphlet about safe sex practices (as we understood them then) for students at Dalhousie and an information session for the public held at Rumours where a doctor spoke about what we actually understood at the time about AIDS (TL;DR: "not much, make a will.") I was moved to these endeavours because I kept losing friends to the disease and then a personal friend, EricSmith, was outed as being positive and forced to leave his home and job on Sable Island. I hadn’t even known he was sick at that time. I don’t blame him, there was a lot of stigma, but it shook me. I even went on CBC and CTV and spoke about the unfairness of kicking someone when they’re down and how we weren’t asking for special Gay rights, just hoping to be treated the same as others.

The last group I was involved with was creating the 1988 Pride March which I also marched in.

Around that same time there was a lot of controversy at GALA (what GAE had become after the move to Gottingen St.) over the firing of ScottMacNeil (then, manager of the bar). I was the Vice-Chair of GALA at the time. I won’t go into much about that period because I liked Scott and we were still Facebook friends up until he died. Suffice it to say that although we’d worked together to try and make the bar a success (including attempting to get some big name stars to perform a special act there - Divine and Bette Middler were both discussed - in order to raise both funds and the profile of the bar as a whole), we were unable to resolve outstanding financial irregularities and I was forced to help fire him. In turn I was sacked from the board by the membership.

Feeling burnt out and rather unappreciated I followed a boyfriend to Vancouver in 1989 where I had a semi-successful career in hospitality (both hotels and bars), a reasonably successful career in real estate and a successful career in IT which brought me to Washington state and eventually to California.

In LA I transitioned to a very successful career as a chef and caterer both working for others and with my own company. In 2010 my parents became ill and we compromised on Las Vegas (they were in Ohio). I’ve lived in LV since about 2010, but just recently bought a place on the Fundy Coast near Morden and will retire here while I take care of my Mom. My Dad died in 2019 and Las Vegas has lost its glitter for me.

About the 1988 March

pic Nathan writes:1 So many faces in that picture I know. I went on a few dates with Dan (MichaelWeir's partner) before they met. We became friends but that was it. I still talk to David Backman on occasion. I was speaking to ScottMacNeil before he died, maybe a year before he passed. I'm the young Jewish man (of course) who gave the prayer, it was not Kaddish (the traditional prayer for the dead) but instead a prayer for remembrance of fallen comrades based off some of the Maccabee story in Hannukkah. I can't recall exactly which prayer I used but I think I included it for several reasons: 1) I think the AIDS vigil may have been held around Hannukkah that year. 2) Father Bob organized it and I know the book of Maccabees is also somewhere in the Catholic tradition (maybe the vulgate? - can't recall). Anyway I can recall discussing that with him. I wanted to be inclusive. 3) There was a political tinge to everything AIDS at the time, I think Eric Smith had just been kicked out of his home town and he was a friend. I really mad at how devastated he was and I think I wanted to say something more overtly political about standing up for beliefs and a person's rights to practice what they wanted (being gay was harder back then - can't imagine how hard they had it earlier).

I recall the interviews earlier. I think maybe Lynn was one of the people who encouraged me. Ultimately I think I decided to do it for Eric. I was so upset by how close minded his community had been. I think I got [[RoydenTrainor?|Royden Trainor]] to work with him on producing a "Sex" pamphlet (I may have even modeled for the cover. I know I did model for some kind of condom/sex thing at one point) and a series of lectures at other student unions. Anyway, as far as the interviews went, the first was with CTV and then CBC got into the act the next day. I had to ask (and come out to) my boss at Guaranty Trust, Carol, for permission because it was done during work hours. She was so great about, wonderful straight ally. I know she got flack from several people after and was even sort of sidelined to another branch but she never complained to me or said anything but positive things about it - miss her and her courage.

I was so nervous. It was cold but that certainly wasn't why I was shaking. I think we did "pickup shots" first (walking toward/away from the camera) then the interviews which were only like 2-4 minutes long, although it seemed like half an hour! Basically it came down to: "I don't want gay rights, I want human rights. Nobody should be kicked out of their home, especially when they're sick" (or something like that). I hadn't quite realized that the entire Province would be seeing it. I remember the sneer at work when I came in the next day, "saw you on tv last night...." to which I replied, "Oh yeah? Was I any good?" Never let the fuckers see you sweat. Plus, I am a smart ass most of the time. I got recognized for about a week after on the street. People would give me odd looks. It kinda freaked me out.


1. November 17, 2021 Message to DanielMacKay vua Facebook Messenger