On 5 January 1974, during amateur night at the iconic Brunswick House tavern, Adrienne Potts, Pat Murphy, Sue Wells and Heather (Beyer) Elizabeth were forcibly ejected by the bar manager and police officers after heartily singing their own original lyrics, “I Enjoy Being a Dyke,” to the tune of the 1950s Broadway ode to femininity “I Enjoy Being a Girl.”
While in police custody, the women were subjected to verbal harassment and denied the right to phone a lawyer. Potts claimed that she was punched and violently thrown to the ground by a police officer. Various charges were laid for disturbing the peace, obstruction of justice and obstructing police. At trial, all of the charges were dropped, with the exception of the disturbing the peace charge against Potts, who was convicted.
The Brunswick House incident and subsequent police actions outraged the lesbian and gay community, which had long suffered harassment by Toronto police. A public meeting was organized at which a legal defense fund was launched to support “the Brunswick Four.” The Brunswick Four’s resolve to fight back and the community’s condemnation of the charges and police actions were significant events in the history of lesbian and gay liberation in Canada. They signaled a radicalization of Toronto’s gay and lesbian communities and their determination to militantly resist discrimination and police harassment.
By Tom Warner