In the 1980s, this gay student’s controversial yearbook quote made history

As rough as things are in the present day, it’s hard to fully take into account how bad out gay kids had in the 1980s. In Canada, where thriving gay clubs had been subject to threats and police raids from the 50s through the 70s, and where a government-funded device known as the “fruit machine” helped employers forcibly out employees (and otherwise discriminate against them) up until the 90s, the right to be out and proud was still a long time coming.

But one 80s teen had had enough of living in the closet. So in 1985, when it came time for Edmonton high schooler Ian Paterson to choose his high school yearbook quote, he picked one so memorable that it would make national news.

Beneath Paterson’s yearbook photo was a quote stating that the graduate planned to “eventually settle down in a quiet suburb with a tall, rich, hunky man with a bushy moustache.”

Relatable, no?


No one expects their yearbook quote to make national news. Yet in 1985, that is exactly what happened to Ian Paterson after he wrote about his dreams to “eventually settle down in a quiet suburb with a tall, rich, hunky man with a bushy moustache.” Although we haven’t been able to track down where Ian is today, his courage and determination to fight for equality in his senior year of high school is truly incredible and inspiring. #eqhp #queerhistory #yeg #EQHPStories #pride

♬ original sound – YEG QUEER HISTORY PROJECT

But sadly, homophobes at Paterson’s school weren’t having it. Instead of publishing the quote as is, school officials censored the quote to read that Paterson hoped to settle down with a “tall, rich companion” of no specified gender. Their claim was that the original quote “didn’t meet standards acceptable to the majority of the community.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Paterson wasn’t about to be silenced. He started talking to local newspapers and speaking out about the anti-gay censorship he experienced at school, even going so far as to creating a petition for fellow students to sign and support. Soon, his story soon made national news.

Soon enough, Paterson was making the cover of The Body Politic, a queer Canadian publication, with the story title: “Confessions of a High School F*ggot.” And when Paterson was summoned to talk about his experience on a huge nightly news show, the story blew up. 400 other students had signed Paterson’s petition by now, and public support was growing. Still, school officials wouldn’t back down, and the censored quote remained.

Paterson’s story was forgotten for some time, until scholars involved in the Edmonton Queer History project recently re-discovered Paterson’s clippings in the archives and created a TikTok about his yearbook dilemma.

“What struck me was just the immense courage he had,” Kris Wells, a Research Chair at Edmonton’s MacEwan University recently told press. “This was a time long before gay-straight alliances were even a dream in schools, you know, it was quite incredible.”

Incredible is the word for it. When it came to standing up for his dreams, Ian Paterson refused to back down.

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