Street Prostitution and Public Sex in Vancouver’s West End
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In 1977 the Vancouver Police Board prepared its first report for the Vancouver City Council solely concerning prostitution in Vancouver’s West End. This document titled ‘Street Prostitution in Vancouver’s West End’ could give the impression that this area was free of prostitution before 1970 and this is not the case.
It is the goal of this research to investigate the factors leading up to the publication of this report, such as the nine-month closure of The Penthouse in 1975 and briefly addressing how the West End became Vancouver’s ‘Gay Neighbourhood’. Further, I will explore what happened after this document was published, including the rising tensions between Vancouver’s Gay Community and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). While conducting my research, it is my understanding that the terms “Vancouver’s West End” and “Vancouver’s Gay Community” were used interchangeably, particularly in sources produced after 1970, thus I will do the same within the context of this paper, noting that this usage is debatable. I have chosen to focus my paper around this document as it is strongly focused on “transvestite” prostitutes and seems to conflate the identities of trans and street worker, an attitude and stigma not unique to this document (2).
AIDS, Concerned Residents Of the West End, CROWE, Cruising, Davie Street Business Improvement Association, Gay Alliance Towards Equality, GATE, Gay Community, Hustling, Loitering Laws, Prostitution, Red Light Districts, Society for Education Action Research and Counselling on Homosexuality, SEARCH, Transsexuals, Transvestites, Vancouver West End, Vagrancy Laws,
In 1977 the Vancouver Police Board prepared a report for the Vancouver City Council concerned exclusively with prostitution with [[Vancouver’s West End]] (‘[[Street Prostitution in Vancouver’s West End]]’). By this time the West End, bordered by Stanley Park, Robson Street and English Bay was well known as the centre of Vancouver’s gay men’s community, much as it is still famously .
That the West End became the Gay Man’s “capital" (a term used by city Planner Alan Herbert - Xtra west, August 19, 2004.) of Vancouver is due to a variety of factors, perhaps the most obvious being the concentration of gay bars and bathhouses along Davie Street. Bar culture and similar style social activities have long been considered identifying spaces, so gay bars and bathhouses present a place to explore sexual identity. Don Hann called the people and community he found through frequenting the bars on Davie Street an “alternate family system” in an article from Xtra west, August 2, 2006. With the friendly bar scene it is not surprising that the surrounding residential areas hold the highest concentration of gay men in the city (Bouthillette 71). Businesses, such as bookstores, cafes, restaurants, stores and bars in the neighbourhood are visibly queer-friendly displaying signage indicating gay content or individuals in order to cater to the residents and this cycle of social spaces, residents and businesses created and maintains the gay neighbourhood surrounding Davie Street (Bouthillette 82).
This paper explores is: (1) why did the gay community form around Davie Street (as opposed to in North Vancouver, to provide an arbitrary example); (2) a what else was happening in the city that the ‘Street Prostitution in Vancouver’s West End’ report was deemed necessary by city officials. Further, I will discuss the aftermath of this report, what it meant for prostitutes working in Vancouver’s West End and the community surrounding Davie Village more generally. Contemporaneously, prostitution is less visible in the West End than is was historically, as my paper will prove, however, public sex remains to be a part of the gay community in Vancouver (and elsewhere) and I will conclude with a brief discussion of this topic and its historical and contemporary manifestations.
The Construction of Housing in the West End
Before Vancouver was settled to become the biggest city in Western Canada, what is now known as the West End was an extension of the forests in [[Stanley Park]]. Mansions were then built here and aristocrats inhabited the West End predominantly because of its close proximity to desirable locations such as beaches, the shopping district and places to eat out. As Vancouver grew in the 1910s the aristocracy moved to Shaughnessy and their houses in the West End were turned into rooming houses (Bouthillette 54). The Shaughnessy neighbourhood was then a suburb of Vancouver and now is still known for its expensive and extravagant residences.
In the 1950s and 1960s the West End saw the creation of many apartment buildings and towers. Between 1950 and 1955, 90 buildings were erected (Gray, Keddie and Kwan 38). Prior to 1956, zoning limited buildings to being less than six stories, however, as most of the buildings were made of wood they could not be built taller than two stories due to city regulations (Gray, Keddie and Kwan 40). These are the 3 floor low-rise apartment buildings in the West End that are currently being snatched up by developers. This will result in less affordable housing in the area, the effects of which are already visible. In 1985, it was easy to find rent in the West End for around 250 dollars a month (Fairclough 31). The zoning changes in 1956 allowed taller buildings, but anything over 80 ft still required special authorization from the city, the result of these changes was the demolition of most single family and rooming houses to build apartment buildings, primarily of one-bedroom suites. (Gray, Keddie and Kwan 40-1). By 1966, the West End had 40% of the apartment suites in the city with only 23% of the apartment blocks (Gray, Keddie and Kwan 45).
High-rises of predominantly one-bedroom apartments presented a variety of possibilities to residents, including affordable housing, living outside the expectations of the nuclear family and a relatively anonymous relationship between landlords and tenants. It was in the 1960s, potentially in part due to these factors, that drugs, street youth and prostitution became visible in the West End (Bouthillette 55).
The 1960s, specifically 1966, marks the first report, that this researcher could locate, of (male) homosexuality being discussed by the officials of the city of Vancouver at all, no less as detrimental to the city’s morality. Using blatantly homophobic language, the report defines all homosexual men as drag queens, bearers of venereal disease, prostitutes and pedophiles. This report seeks to document and publicize where these ‘sordid’ characters can be found. Mundie, the report’s author, notes that police intervention into homosexuality usually happens at bars and private clubs where men were frequently found in clothing belonging to the opposite sex.
The Penthouse and the effect of its (temporary) Closure
[[The Penthouse]], famously known as Canada’s longest running exotic nightclub, has a notorious history with prostitution in Vancouver, and its nine-month closure beginning on Christmas Eve 1975 drastically changed the sex trade in Vancouver. “By closing the Penthouse the police precipitated the most tumultuous period in the history of Vancouver prostitution. In retrospect, everyone agreed that the closure was a massive mistake.” (Francis 8).
Though the precise reasons for the raid on the Penthouse are unknown, one speculation is the amount of attention the venue received in a report submitted to the BC Police Commission in September 1975 written by [[Monique Layton]]. Layton noted in [[Prostitution in Vancouver (1973-1975)]] that the club’s reputation for its ties to prostitution extended throughout Canada and beyond. Some police officers were regulars at The Penthouse and knew very well what was going on before the submission of Layton’s report, but the officers recognized that it kept workers off the streets and thus tolerated the illicit activities going on inside, “the hooker shop known as the Penthouse has been existing for decades. It has been known as one of the landmarks of the town, a minor league equivalent of the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.” (Fotheringham).
[[Alan Fotheringham]], columnist for [[The Vancouver Sun]] attributed the raid to the arrival of a new police chief, [[Don Winterton]] who took morality issues very seriously. [[Joe Philliponi]], one of the four brothers who owned and operated The Penthouse thought the raid was connected to a disagreement he had with the new head of the vice squad, Vic Lake. Author [[Daniel Francis]] reports in his book Red Light Neon, a history of (overwhelmingly heterosexual) prostitution in Vancouver that Bill Harkema agreed with Philliponi’s hypothesis, believing Lake to be reacting to the fact that Philliponi openly expressed discontent with police officers being in his club (89). No matter why The Penthouse was closed the effects would have been the same, many prostitutes who worked out of the club ended up working on the street, specifically in the West End. In 1975, approximately 100 men were arrested for having sex in public in the West End. ( Xtra West April 17, 2003.)
Street Prostitution in Vancouver’s West End
In her report, Layton estimated that Vancouver was home to 300 “streetwalkers” (103). By the time Forbes’s report was released in 1977, this number had jumped drastically, he believed there were as many as 650 prostitutes in the entire city, 300 working on the streets 200 of which were working in the West End and transvestites (10). Part of the reason for the need to clean up the West End were rumours of complaints from residents bothered by the noise and prostitutes around the “Fruit Loop”, the area running from Sunset Beach to English Bay (Fairclough 46).
Corporal Forbes first notes the rise in male prostitution since 1970, and of the 200 working out of the West End 50 were regularly found on Davie or south of Davie on Pendrell, Bute, Jervis and Broughton near gay clubs and bars (2). The remaining 150 worked in the bars, bathhouses, and massage parlours (3). Most of these prostitutes claimed to be straight and are just meeting the needs of their clients, charging $25-30 for oral sex and $50 for anal, though some will offer favours for room and board (3-4).
Likely the police force was not ready to admit to its mistake of closing the Penthouse at this time, and Forbes cites the reason for the increase in prostitutes because of the removal of vagrancy laws in 1972. Section A had allowed police to demand justification for a person’s presence in public, and Section C allowed for interrogating prostitutes specifically. On behalf of the police force, Forbes expressed that there was concern that the public viewed the police as lazy and because, since the removal of the vagrancy laws, there was less they could do about prostitutes. Forbes expressed concern that the public might think police officers were “getting a ‘cut’ for not getting rid of hookers” and thus were demoralized because of the increase in visible prostitutes. (12) The most likely solution to clean up the West End was to work with the gay community to get support and cooperation with the “prostitution issue.” (22)
The group that ended up working with the police immediately after the release of Forbes’s report was SEARCH, the [[Society for Education, Action, Research and Counselling on Homosexuality]], even though another organization based in the West End, GATE, the [[Gay Alliance Towards Equality]], accused the police force of being discriminatory the same year Forbes’s report was released (Fairclough 47). SEARCH was formed in 1974 partly by owners of clubs who wanted to gain liquor licenses including the owner of Zodiacs, BJ’s, and Faces as the police were frequently raiding and fining illegal bottle club owners (Fairclough 85). J. McRee Elrod was a board member of SEARCH in later years, and answered questions about the church and being gay from community members in the newsletter (SEARCH news 1978). Perhaps this group was selected because members had previous experience working with the city and providing services within the community, in the minutes of a SEARCH meeting from 1976 there is mention of “continued” work with police (Crane Fonds, 1982). In 1976, and beyond, some of the clubs affiliated with SEARCH would hold VD clinics for members of the community sponsored by SEARCH and run by a volunteer medical team. Anonymous testing was available and information concerning gonorrhea, genital warts, syphilis, hepatitis, pubic lice and other sexually transmitted diseases was provided. At these clinics, SEARCH promoted the use of condoms. Additionally, founding members were the owners of other institutions in the West End such as [[Richard’s Street Service Centre]], [[Playpen Central]] and [[Have a Gay Stay]], a company that facilitated gay-friendly travel arrangements for gay men visiting Vancouver (Crane Fonds 1978). (Malcolm Crane became involved with SEARCH through his involvement with the group ‘Gay People of UBC’ - Crane Fonds 1982.)
In 1978, SEARCH was getting lots of inquiries regarding gay rights and the law and the need for representation in the city from people in person in their office and via phone. The same year, SEARCH began to hold monthly dinners at Sir Edgar’s restaurant that featured a guest speaker and a question and answer period to determine what issues were of most concern for residents of the West End. Tickets for these dinners were available at Playpen Central, the Shaggy Horse and the SEARCH office. 1978 also marks the first year SEARCH was involved in Gay Unity Week. (Gay Unity Week was not officially recognized by the city until 1981. Vancouver’s current Pride celebrations are held in August, instead of June like many other cities festivities, because this was when Gay Unity Week happened historically - Courier July 28, 2006). Despite its activism and prime position to act as a liaison between the community and the police, SEARCH did little in terms of aiding to the control of prostitution in the West End. The group that (famously? notoriously?) actively sought to rid the West End of prostitution was [[Concerned Residents Of the West End]], spearheaded by [[Gordon Price]].
Concerned Residents Of the West End (CROWE)
Gordon Price began to take action against prostitutes in the West End in 1979 and was one of the founding members of CROWE that was officially founded in August 1981 in an apartment building on Pendrell Steet. Prostitution was not an issue in the West End until 1978 and did not become a “severe” problem until 1980 (CROWE Newsletter #2). When founded in 1981 CROWE was not a mass group: they sought to have small group, make a lot of media noise, and garner attention from the government rather than use time organizing rallies. Up until the formation of CROWE “West End etiquette is to ignore the issue” (Wiseman 1983). CROWE was responsible for the infamous ‘Shame the Johns’ campaign, which called for the community to take action against prostitution in the streets by harassing johns, taking pictures of transactions, and reporting license plates (CROWE minutes August and September 1981). Along with vigilante tactics, CROWE lobbied to various levels of government to increase the penalty for prostitution and put up more roadblocks in the neighbourhood. CROWE’s actions received attention and commitments from city councilors but federal justice minister and now former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was labeled by CROWE as ineffective as he states the issue is not a federal one, but rather relies on a supreme court ruling. Until then, legislation surrounding prostitution should be dealt with provincially (CROWE Newsletter #1).
In a position paper from 1982, CROWE identifies the stance taken by the government on prostitution and what, in their view, needs to change. They note that the Criminal Code of Canada covers prostitution in section 195.1 and questions at what point does ‘soliciting’ become prostitution. The city of Vancouver’s jurisdiction does not cover prostitution and loitering laws depend on impeding traffic or multiple noise complaints. Even then, the punishment for loitering is a fine, while CROWE advocates for imprisonment. In rare cases when prostitutes are charged, the cases are usually thrown out of court because of inadequate evidence. Thus charging prostitutes in ineffective and expensive. The conclusion of this paper is that laws need to be changed (CROWE Position Paper 1982).
In 1982, no longer content with the results of small group activism CROWE began soliciting support from a wider community. The organization divided into three sections, one to deal with membership relations, one to handle publicity and lobbying and one to strategize on potential solutions and actions. (CROWE Newsletter #1). At CROWE’s first press conference attendance was controlled in order to “assure the conference is not disrupted by persons of divergent viewpoints who insist on dominating for the sake of effect.” (CROWE minutes August 1981) At this conference CROWE expressed interest in large rallies to draw attention from the provincial and federal governments. CROWE ended up forging connections with the Progressive Conservative party, notably [[Pat Carney]], who was the Vancouver Centre MP and [[Bill Vander Zalm]], the Premier. The date of a protest march organized by CROWE in April 1982 was changed so that Carney could be in attendance. CROWE’s actions caused tensions and resentment within the West End while CROWE stated “It is not prostitutes who are being oppressed; it is we, the residents of the West End” (CROWE Newsletter #3). Federal Cabinet Minister [[Judy Erola]] spoke against changing prostitution laws fearing police would gain the power to demand why people (especially women) were present in public, like they could before the vagrancies laws were dissolved in 1972. Erola believed that being approached by prostitutes was less frightening than being approached by police while CROWE contended that Erola did not understand what its like to be approached by prostitutes (CROWE Newsletter #2). Some government officials were worried that supporting a bawdy-house system would mean that juveniles, homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals would be unable to receive licenses and would thus just end up back on the street (CROWE Newsletter #3).
Along with the prostitutes leaving the neighbourhood (and moving into Mount Pleasant) CROWE is charged with instigating the West End becoming gentrified. CROWE was about prostitution, not about being gay (though most of CROWE’s supporters were gay men) and this is why Price claimed to avoid [[AIDS activism]]. In 1983, when CROWE became a registered society, the zones of prostitution in the West End were bordered by Bute, Broughton, Davie and Nelson for women; Pendrell, from Broughton to Cardero for men; and the alley south of Davie between Jervis and Bute for transvestites (CROWE Newsletter #4).
Gordon Price went on to become a city counselor who remained focused on the issue of prostitution. Price’s tactics and agenda were often questioned by his colleagues, including [[Bev Ballantyne]] who believed Price was the source of public paranoia and panic (1984).
CROWE perceived prostitutes and pimps in the West End to be completely prepared to defend themselves against CROWE’s efforts “the hookers are organized to the degree that they have walkie-talkies, signals, back-up protection from pimps and organized territory established”. Also, CROWE thought that prostitutes were an economic threat to businesses in the West End (CROWE minutes September 17, 1981). Further, prostitutes and pimps allegedly threatened to burn down St Paul’s Anglican Church if they allowed CROWE use their space (CROWE minutes September 24, 1981). Though Price and CROWE were successful in reducing the visibility of prostitutes on the street in the West End, this was only a half victory as CROWE had the goal of criminalizing prostitution entirely, eliminating both outdoors and indoors prostitutes in the West End. CROWE was concerned with soliciting sex; public sex remains to be an important part of the gay community in Vancouver.
Public Sex in the West End
Since the 1990s the City of Vancouver has been actively managing the vegetation in the West End, making fewer “hidden” spaces. Other steps to “discourage undesirable activities” have been the addition of lighting to parking and vacant lots. (Courier August 5, 2004.)
In 1985, once Fairclough’s thesis became available it acted, along with Roedy Green’s handbook [[The Guide For the Naïve Homosexual]], as a resource to identify cruising sites publicly. The established places for homosexual cruising were [[Lee’s Trail]] in Stanley Park and the southeastern part of the [[lost lagoon]] during the daytime, and the “[[fruit loop]]”, as defined by Fairclough, at night. [[Wreck beach]] used to be a popular cruising destination before the 1970s, however it has toned down significantly due to its popularity and publicity (Fairclough 76). In the contemporary context, information or where to cruise is found mostly on-line on websites like craigslist and squirt.org.
In 2003, it was rare that the police would make an arrest due to sex in public, but would definitely stop it if a complaint was made or if it was “stumbled upon,” although an article mentions rumours of undercover police officers patrolling a popular cruising washroom in the West End (Xtra West April 17, 2003). [[Cruising]], including sex in parks and washrooms are a part of the culture of the West End which has its own etiquette based on discrete signals (Bouthillette 70). Green and Fairclough helped to institutionalize this conduct, in particular when in washrooms.
Jim Deva, who was president of the community policing centre in the West End and on the board of the [[Davie Street Business Improvement Association]] in 2004 was greatly involved in the 2003 article in Xtra West concerning cruising, providing tips to those cruising, and providing warnings of what would be tolerated and what would not.
I have attempted to provide a fairly even account of the rise and fall of visible prostitution in Vancouver’s West End. Though CROWE and its supporters can ultimately claim a minor victory reducing the visibility of prostitution in the West End, implications exist that the whole community did not support these efforts. In fact, that the ‘Shame the Johns’ campaign caused a fair bit of dissonance that I have tried to exemplify reading the Gordon Price fonds against the grain, highlighting what was recounted in meetings from their critics.
Another whisper that surfaced while conducting research was that the efforts of CROWE and supporters trying to eradicate prostitution from the West End, was that prostitutes just migrated to [[Mount Pleasant]]. In light of the very current issue of prostitutes going missing from the Downtown East Side simply displacing a [[Red Light District]] does not solve much. Prostitutes are still on the streets ‘offending’ people but more importantly they are very much at risk- physically and then not being followed up on by the police.
It will be interesting to see with the 2010 Olympics fast approaching in Vancouver what the city will do in attempts to ‘clean up’ the streets, an effort that will undoubtedly take place. Given the fact that it seems this attempt has been pursued on numerous occasions, may be this time mistakes will be learned from and some resolution will take place that works not only to the city’s advantage but also takes into consideration the safety of prostitutes. I am eternally optimistic, and skeptical.
Ballantyne, Bev. Letter to Mayor Michael Harcourt and Council Members (16/03/84). (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-2, File 4). Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, 1984.
Bouthillette, A-M. Queer Scapes: Patterns and Processes of Gay Male and Lesbian Spatialisation in Vancouver, BC. Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1995.
Crane, Malcolm. Newspaper Clippings. (Add.Mss.1229, Box 614-G-6, File 3). Malcolm F. Crane Pride Fonds. Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, 1978.
Crane, Malcolm. Gays and the Police. (Add.Mss.1229, Box 615-A-2, File 30, Police/Gay Liason). Malcolm F. Crane Pride Fonds. Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, 1978.
CROWE. Minutes (25/08/81). (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-6, File 1, CROWE Minutes) Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, August 1981.
CROWE. Minutes (26/08/81). (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-6, File 1, CROWE Minutes) Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, August 1981.
CROWE. Minutes (10/09/81). (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-6, File 1, CROWE Minutes) Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, September 1981.
CROWE. Minutes (17/09/81). (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-6, File 1, CROWE Minutes) Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, September 1981.
CROWE. Minutes (24/09/81). (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-6. File 1, CROWE Minutes) Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, September 1981.
CROWE. Newsletter #1. (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-1. File 5, CROWE Newletters 1-4). Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, February 1982.
CROWE. Newsletter #2. (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-1. File 5, CROWE Newsletters 1-4). Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, April 1982.
CROWE. Newsletter #3. (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-1. File 5, CROWE Newsletter 1-4). Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, September 1982.
CROWE. Newsletter #4. (Mss.1449, Box 973-B-1. File 5, CROWE Newsletter 1-4). Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, August 1983.
CROWE. Position Paper: How We Got to Where We Are or Who’s Responsible for This Mess?(Mss.1449, Box 973-B-1. File 5, CROWE Newsletters 1-4). Gordon Price Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, 1982.
Fairclough, T., The Gay Community of Vancouver’s West End: The Geography of a Modern Urban Phenomenon. Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1985.
Forbes, Corporal G.A. Street Prostitution in Vancouver’s West End. Report prepared for Vancouver Police Board and Vancouver City Council. Vancouver: Vancouver Police Board, 1977.
Fotheringham, Alan. The Vancouver Sun. 22 December 1977.
Francis, Daniel. Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver’s Sex Trade. Vancouver: Subway Books, 2006.
Gray, G., Keddie, V., and Kwan, J. Patterns of Neighbourhood Change: The West End of Vancouver. Report to the Ministry of State for Urban Affairs, Vancouver: UBC, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, 1976.
Layton, Monique. Prostitution in Vancouver (1973-1975): Official and Unofficial Reports. Report Submitted to the BC Police Commission, September 1975.
Mundie, J.I. Mayor’s Office- homosexual report (20/1/66). (Box 112-F-1, File 40). Vancouver (BC) Law Department, City Law Department Fonds, Vancouver City Archives, Vancouver, 1966.
SEARCH News. Plans for Gay Unity Week 1978 Announced. SEARCH News. 1(6)1. Gay Alliance Towards Equality Fonds, File 2-59, SEARCH. UBC RareBooks and Special Collections. Vancouver, May 1978.
Wiseman, L. ‘The End.’ Vancouver Magazine. July 1983: 30-35, 73.
My research started out in a very different direction. I was originally interested in looking at genderqueer female-bodied people in Gold Rush times, inspired by characters such as Margaret Henan in Jack London’s short story ‘Samuel’. Though I have not actually seen them, the National Archives of Canada has entrusted the Dawson City Museum in the Yukon with pictures from the Gold Rush including some of people similar to the brief description above. This would have been the perfect starting place to undertake such a project and should I have had the ability to travel to Dawson, this would have been an incredibly interesting project to pursue.
Working within the confines of Vancouver, however, proved to be just as interesting. My graduate work frequently overlaps with research on the sex trade in Vancouver so I felt this was an accessible place to start looking for a new potential research topic. When I picked up Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver’s Sex Trade and found only one reference to trans (“transvestites”) in the index, my mind was made up to look for evidence of gender variance and sex work in the city. I started at the Vancouver City Archives, located in Vanier Park in Kitsilano, looking at the minutes from the Social Planning Committee hoping to have some answers to the question “Why is it impossible to drive directly from Pacific Street to Davie Street?” The assumptions I have made when asking this question are, that the one-way streets, roadblocks and road regulations are in place to deter prostitution, that trans people were involved in this prostitution due to the fact that the Davie Village is known as a queer neighbourhood, and that a history between sex work and trans people exists.
Though I am unable to answer my question as specifically as I would have liked- I was hoping to report on precisely what road rule came when with a corresponding number of arrests from police reports- and minutes from the social planning committee did not ultimately end up in my report, they did point me in the direction of other documents concerning with prostitution in Vancouver’s West End. Examples include Mundie’s Homosexual Report.
I am greatly indebted to my friend and colleague Byron Lee who, much like the social planning committee, pointed me in the direction of sources because of his own research on neighbourhoods in Vancouver. I ended up discussing housing in the West End briefly because Byron informed me of the wealth of information available in unpublished theses and reports at UBC. These include Bouthillette, Fairclough, and Gray, Keddie and Kwan. Fairclough’s thesis was particularly interesting and informative in regards to the specificity it referred to popular cruising spots. Byron also pointed me in the direction of the Malcolm Crane fonds, which I have not utilized in their entirety for this report but would complement what has been documented here immaculately.
The information on the closure of The Penthouse I had gathered previously for my own work on burlesque dancers in Vancouver. This is how I knew about Monique Layton’s report Prostitution in Vancouver (1973-1975). What is present in this report is the incredibly abridged version of the club, its closure, and the related trial of the Philipponi brothers. The media coverage of the trial is nothing short of sensational, though unrelated to the broad idea of ‘prostitution’ directly aside from some testimony from women who worked out of the club.
Corporal Forbes’s report on Street Prostitution in Vancouver’s West End is the piece I have attempted to hinge my research around. This could have taken two directions, prostitution or relations between the police and the gay community in the West End, which sneaks into the paper from time to time. I chose to go with prostitution, however, hoping that I would find more information about trans people specifically. This was not entirely successful as ‘trans-‘ is used less than ten times in this report.
The information available on SEARCH was incredibly interesting, and should I have found it earlier perhaps my paper would have been more focused on this group because, from what I could see, the intentions of this organization really had the interests of community members at their core. By the time I discovered SEARCH, however, I was quite invested in a chronological account of prostitution in Vancouver’s West End. Though SEARCH was ultimately not heavily involved with the reduced visibility of prostitution in the West End if prostitutes had access to their clinics some overlap may exist.
I am a little disappointed by how much this paper ended up being about CROWE and Gordon Price because Price is a local celebrity whose story is not exactly untold, but also for fear of budding in on one of my classmates research topics. The relation between Price/CROWE and prostitution in the West End is undeniable and the materials available at Vancouver City Archives are incredible. Further, in the CROWE minutes there are some references to requests for roadblocks that relate back to my original research question. I was unable to find evidence that CROWE’s requests for traffic regulations exacted change to the roads in the West End.
The reason why my paper ends with a brief discussion of public sex is due to inspiration from Fairclough’s thesis and, the very late discovery, of Roedy Green’s ‘Guide to the Naïve Homosexual’. Though prostitution is not synonymous with public sex, some overlap does exist and though I have flagged numerous spots where my research could have gone in different directions, this is the place I definitely wish it had gone to a fuller extent. I find the approach of Green and Fairclough to articulate and institutionalize a somewhat mysterious community quite romantic.
The references to community newspapers, specifically Xtra West, that supplement various sections were added after I had conducted my archival research to support my arguments and keep my research grounded in the politics of the West End. Ultimately, I think I have provided a decent overview of the highlights in the history of prostitution in Vancouver’s West End; however, each piece of archival material can be elaborated on and studied in greater detail and I am sure there are many more materials out there that could inform the future direction of this project.