John Alan Lee

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John Alan Lee
Born(1933-08-24)August 24, 1933
Maxville, Ontario
DiedDecember 5, 2013(2013-12-05) (aged 80)
Toronto, Ontario
Occupationsociologist, activist
Alma materUniversity of Toronto (B.A.), University of Sussex (Ph.D.)
Subjectpsychology and sociology of love and sexuality
Notable worksThe Colours of Love, Getting Sex

John Alan Lee (August 24, 1933 - December 5, 2013) was a Canadian writer, academic and political activist, best known as an early advocate for LGBT rights in Canada,[1] for his academic research into sociological and psychological aspects of love and sexuality, and for his later-life advocacy of assisted suicide and the right to die.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Maxville, Ontario in 1933,[3] he grew up as a ward of the provincial Children's Aid Society[1] after his father abandoned the family and his mother was financially and emotionally unable to care for Lee and his brother David on her own as a single mother.[4]

He was a factory worker and trade unionist in his youth, and ran as a Cooperative Commonwealth Federation candidate in the electoral district of Broadview in the 1958 election.

Education and academic career[edit]

He completed an undergraduate degree in sociology at the University of Toronto in 1956, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in 1971. He then joined the University of Toronto as a faculty member in 1971.[1] Teaching at the university until his retirement in 1999, he was the author of over 300 books and articles in sociology, predominantly focusing on sociological study of the LGBT community and on the broader psychology of love and sexuality.[1]

His articles appeared in publications including the Canadian Journal of Higher Education, the Journal of Homosexuality, Psychology Today, The Body Politic, Canadian Forum and Christopher Street.[4] His most noted books were The Colours of Love (1973), the first prominent work of research into the concept of love styles,[5] and Getting Sex (1978), a study of gay sexual cruising.[1]


In 1964, Lee began working as an "undercover gay activist",[1] writing letters to various publications to protest unfair and biased depictions of LGBT people and writing more balanced pieces of his own.[3] Initially undertaking this work anonymously or under pseudonyms, in 1974 he officially came out on TVOntario's The Judy LaMarsh Show, becoming one of Canada's first professional figures ever to come out as gay.[1]

In 1975, he was one of the founders of the University of Toronto's Gay Academic Union.[1] In 1979, he was an organizer of an LGBT rights protest which consisted of a three-day sit-in in the offices of provincial Attorney General Roy McMurtry.[1] Following Operation Soap in 1981, he was one of the founders of the Right to Privacy Committee.[1]

He was also active in other organizations, including the Sierra Club, Amnesty International and the Religious Society of Friends.[3]

Late in life he was active in Dying with Dignity, a Canadian right to die activist group.[2] Although in poor health he was not terminally ill,[2] but advocated that he should have the right to die on the grounds that his life was complete and he no longer had anything new he wanted to accomplish or achieve.[2] During this era, he also published his autobiography, Love's Gay Fool, as a free document on his own website.[4]

He ended his life on December 5, 2013.[2]


In honour of his role as a significant builder of LGBT culture and history in Canada, a portrait of Lee, by artist Norman Hatton, is held by the The ArQuives: Canada's LGBTQ2+ Archives' National Portrait Collection.[3] The archives also now hold many of his personal papers and records from throughout his career.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Proud Life: Activist and rebel John Alan Lee". Xtra!, December 18, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e "John Alan Lee pushes limits of Canada's assisted suicide debate". CBC News, May 5, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Inductee: John Alan Lee 1933-2013" Archived 2017-03-21 at the Wayback Machine. Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
  4. ^ a b c John Alan Lee, Love's Gay Fool.
  5. ^ Robert J. Sternberg and Karin Weis, The New Psychology of Love. Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 9780300116977. p. 149.

External links[edit]