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Thursday, September 08, 2022

Reader's Diary #2040 - Natalie Meisner: Legislating Love The Everett Klippert Story

For those not in the know, Everett Klippert, the subject of Natalie Meisner's play Legislating Love was the last person in Canada charged for "gross indecency" after confessing to consensual homosexual relations in Pine Point, Northwest Territories. His conviction made national headlines, prompted then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to state that "there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation" and led to homosexual acts between consenting adults finally being decriminalized. Unfortunately, however, Klippert still spent another two years in prison. 

As a bit of an aside, the summary on the back of the book refers to Klippert as "the last Canadian man jailed for simply being gay." When Klippert died, it should be noted, he was married to a woman. Could it have been a marriage of convenience? Absolutely. But while Klippert tended to avoid the spotlight and causes, he was also pretty honest about his same sex attraction, so he had to realize that his marriage to a woman didn't make people forget that. As I'm rather sensitive to bi-erasure, I'd like to throw out the possibility that he wasn't gay but bisexual. 

Nevertheless, I loved Meisner's play. Despite it being largely set in Calgary, I hope to see it performed in the NWT someday, given the importance of the subject matter and the connection to the territory. If it's ever done in Yellowknife, you can bet I'd be auditioning for the character named simply Handsome. He's full of life, poignant, and to me, the heart of the story. He's also hilarious as hell.

I wasn't sure at first about the frame story. Basically a university student named Maxine is researching Klippert's life; which sounds kind of weak as a premise. However, as the play dives into her life (she is a lesbian and dating a Metis woman named Tonya), we see the impact of Klippert and Handsome on her own perspective and the play becomes so much richer. Also, and perhaps the most fascinating aspect, Klippert is on stage throughout as a bit of a flashback scene, though he sometimes may react subtly to the present day happenings, providing powerful themes about history itself and how the present day works almost retroactively to affect the past.

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