Rick Bébout’s reminiscences about Mark

The late Rick Bébout, a writer for The Body Politic and Xtra, spent years during the early commercial era of the Web writing down his own tales, experiences, and reminiscences about being gay in Toronto. This 1993 posting (copy-edited here) describes a surprise(d) encounter with Mark.

Xtra 260: Mark Leduc

Olympian at Woody’s: Silver-medal boxer Mark Leduc, by Oct. 1994 Xtra’s cover boy

How easy would it have been years ago for a boy like this to be hanging out so comfortably in a gay bar? A sweet kid; how wonderful that he’s possible

Other bars still had occasional appeal, if not chatty boys wearing almost nothing. One night a few days before, I had sat down at 12:15 A.M. to that same letter to Jane [Rule], offering her a scene from that Sunday’s evening at Woody’s. I’d been there with Carle Falle, chair of ACT’s board of directors.

At one point a young man approached Carle. A face seen, Carle had forgotten where – but the boy remembered and was forward enough to come say so. “And you’re…?” Carle said. “Mark,” he said, mentioned where they’d met. It was at an ACT fundraiser.

“Oh, you’re the boxer. You went to the Olympics.” True. Small, boxy, square-headed and pug-nosed: he certainly looked like a boxer. Carle asked about his career. The Games had been the high point, boxing only a small part of his life now. He’s applied for a social work course at Ryerson, wants to do AIDS work. A nice kid. After maybe ten minutes and a polite goodbye he wandered off. I noticed the five Olympic rings on the back of his jacket.

I am so used to gay life, find it so normal, that it took me a while to realize how remarkable this little scene had been: This was Mark Leduc. I probably saw him on TV this summer, probably thousands saw him, a classic little contender from Kingston. I don’t remember if he won a medal. Now here he was at Woody’s, casually wandering around with a beer in a gay bar…. My God, he’s gay!

No surprise, really: we are all kinds of people, not that one in a thousand watching TV might have guessed that Mark is one of our kind. The surprise was that it came to me as such a revelation, took me so long to connect this normal occurrence – many faces in the bar turn out on investigation to be remarkable people – with how abnormal it would have seemed to the rest of the world.

How easy would it have been 10 or 20 years ago for a boy like this to be wandering a bar like this so comfortably? We’ve worked so hard for such small, special pieces of normal life.

But in the moment it wasn’t the struggle I felt. It was simple pleasure. I smiled at him a lot. A sweet kid; how wonderful it is that he’s possible.

Mark had won an Olympic medal: silver. John Russell at ACT told me that: he had a poster of Mark in his office, dukes up. He would become something of a poster boy, openly gay boxers rare enough and this one such a cute, engaging little redhead.

The next year he was on the cover of Xtra, his story proving his pugilism strictly professional: he’d once been queerbashed and hadn’t used his fists. I’d later see him at 399 Church, working with the Toronto PWA Foundation.