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Inside Out 2020 Review: Sex, Sin & 69

October 7, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

In 1969, the Canadian government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made crucial changes to the criminal code under Bill C-150, partially decriminalizing homosexuality across the country. It was a historic move that struck down archaic anti-buggery and gross indecency laws, with Trudeau’s famous musing that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” remaining one of the finest arguments for gay rights. The government simply has no business policing what is done in private between consenting adults.

Director Sarah Fodey examines the impact of this historic ruling in her documentary Sex, Sin & 69, which was produced to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150’s passage last year. The film provides an informative introduction to the history of LGBTQ rights in Canada, and how Bill C-150 paved the way for more legislation to come, including legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005. But Fodey also crucially explores how, despite being an important stepping stone for gay rights in Canada, many argue that Bill C-150 also didn’t go far enough, with the bill only legalizing homosexual activity in private between two adults over the age of 21.

The film documents how the government continued to find ways to crackdown on homosexuality for years after it was officially decriminalized, including the bathhouse raids in Toronto, which paved the way for the city’s first Pride Parade. The office of the queer magazine The Body Politic was also raided in 1977 under an obscure law forbidding the use of the mail system to distribute indecent materials, in an egregious affront to free speech and freedom of expression that sparked widespread protests.

Narrated by Canadian-Pakistani actress Fawzia Mirza, and featuring interviews with a diverse array of lawyers, activists and academics, Sex, Sin & 69 offers an engaging overview of the gay rights movement in Canada, and how it ties into the fight for lesbian, transgender and intersex rights as well. The film is also quick to point out that, while homosexuality was broadly decriminalized in 1969, it was still very much being pathologized at the time. Even many progressives, including former NDP leader Tommy Douglas, were still of the mindset that same-sex attraction was a mental illness, but simply one that should be treated in a hospital and not in prison.

The film also offers an interesting glimpse into our country’s broader political history, including the interesting fact that Trudeau himself battled rumours in the press that he was gay. It’s also worth noting that Bill C-150 was crafted by Trudeau’s Justice Minister John Turner, who would later briefly serve as prime minister and just passed away at the age of 91. The final minutes of Sex, Sin & 69 focus on what the subjects want the next fifty years to look like in Canada, and in this way the film becomes about looking forwards as much as it is about looking backwards. At just 75 minutes long, this is a brief but important introduction to queer history.

The 30th annual Inside Out LGBT Film Festival runs from October 1st to 11th, with online screenings available to anyone in Ontario, and some special drive-in presentations in Toronto.

Sex, Sin & 69 is screening online until October 11th. Tickets can be purchased right here, and are available for free courtesy of CBC.

More Inside Out Reviews: Monsoon; Spiral; I Am Syd StoneCowboys; Dating Amber; Jump, Darling; Shiva Baby (TIFF 2020)No Ordinary Man (TIFF 2020)Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story (Hot Docs 2020)There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace (Hot Docs 2020)The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (TIFF 2019).

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