The ArQuives Digital Exhibitions

The ArQuives's Digital Exhibitions

Explore highlights from The ArQuives’s collections of personal and organizational papers, artifacts, ephemera and more!

Domestic Life

Jim Egan and Jack Nesbit’s domestic life was also political because of the ways social perceptions of queerness challenged their relationship over the decades. Both Egan and Nesbit were different than their gay community counterparts, as they both wanted to leave the city. They were highly domestic and took a lot of pride in their houses and interior design; as a result they left their stamp on the many houses they had lived in over their decades together. As they both wanted to own a home, they moved to Oak Ridges (now Richmond Hill) in 1949 to make that a reality. After about five years, Egan took a hiatus from his gay activism and they both bought a farm in Chesley, Ontario. However, they were constantly struggling to make ends meet. Bothered by the financial uncertainty of the farm, Nesbit persuaded Egan to sell the farm and they moved to Beamsville. In Beamsville they developed their biological specimen business, which involved things such as embalming cats for scientific study, and re-opened an old pet shop. They eventually were shown another house which became a three-year renovation project. By 1959 they were much more financially stable and settled. 

Jim Egan continued his activism and would publish many letters and articles under his own name. This resulted in him becoming very recognizable within the small Beamsville community. Nesbit was uncomfortable with the publicity and so they both moved back to Toronto in 1963. However, in Toronto after having lived there for a few years they split up because Nesbit and Egan had different philosophies on what it meant to live life as a gay man. Nesbit was fine hiding his sexuality as long as people didn’t bother him about it; however, Egan found that unacceptable and wanted to push for legal rights, and more public awareness. This was also a resentment that Egan felt toward others in the gay community in Toronto as he felt that many of them were resigned to a quiet, hidden life. This resulted in Nesbit asking Egan to give up his activism and Egan refused. 

In 1964 they met up again: by this time Egan had become very disillusioned with activism in Toronto and agreed to give it up. They both moved to BC to start a new life. Egan was more involved with environmental activism in BC, but Nesbit also became more comfortable with Egan pursuing gay activism again. Their domestic relationship was highly politicized again in the 1980s because they applied for Nesbit to acquire spousal allowance benefits for which he met all the criteria. This resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada case for which Jim Egan and Jack Nesbit are most well known for. 

Domestic Life