Torvald (Tom) Patterson

December 27, 1964 – March 31, 2005

I always admired Torvald for intransigently sticking to the ideals of gay liberation in his own life. – Peter Drucker, “All the dreams we had, I will carry on.” (New Socialistp. 42)

Richard Banner: Tom Patterson… He was so energetic and creative when he was in an “up” mood that he just brought people along with him and he was the spark that just made a lot of things happen. He had so many ideas and he was so energetic and enthusiastic about them you just wanted to go and help him with it. And while he was living here, except for his mental health problems, he was healthy. He left here around 1992 – I forget exactly, 1990 – and went to Toronto. And I know that he died there several years later.
Gary Kinsman: And changed his name to Torvald.
Richard Banner: Yes. He said when his family immigrated, I think from Norway, they had to change their names from whatever their original name was, and he wanted to reclaim his ethnic past”
Interview with  Richard Banner (AAHP transcript, p 19).

… we supported the pro-choice movement, and some of us got involved with that. I remember Torvald leading a chant. I remember there was a protest against the censorship of books being seized by Little Sisters and Little Sisters had a demonstration… It was in downtown Vancouver and at the end of the rally someone started shouting, “Gay Rights Now! Gay Rights Now!” and the whole group just started chanting with him, “Gay Rights Now!” I thought, “Wow! Someone is actually saying that.” I was like, “Holy shit. This is incredible!” I think that was around 1986. Well, it turned out that was Torvald that started that. The thing with Torvald was that he was always one to call for a demonstration or, you know, he always wanted to do a demonstration or a rally, or some kind of action because he said that gives people the chance to feel their collective strength in resistance to oppression and in the fight for liberation. So, I think that was very core to who he was.
Paul Craik (AAHP transcript, p. 4).

[Tom] was one of the people who focused specifically on socialism in the gay community as a principle and it was one that we identified with.
Richard Banner (AAHP transcript, p. 8)

Image – Torvald Patterson. Retrieved from “All the dreams we had, I will carry on.” (New Socialist, p. 42)

But the thing about Torvald and Fred Gilbertson was they were both Marxists; they were both involved with the Fourth International I think at one time. […] Tom was a member of what was called Alliance for Socialist Action. They ended up merging with another group called Socialist Challenge / Gauche Socialiste and that’s the new name of the organization. It was at that B.C. Federation of Labour rally at the Pacific Coleseum where we chanted “General Strike!” where I said to Tom, “Can I join this Alliance for Socialist Action?” And he said, “Yeah. You can join,” and he started me going through the process of becoming a member, and I joined. By the time I became a member, or an associate member, it was called Socialist Challenge / Gauche Socialiste, and then later on they became the official section of the Fourth International in the Canadian State. So, Tom and Fred really influenced me politically, I think, because before that I remember talking to Torvald, saying, “I’m not sure that revolution is still possible,” and he said, “Well, actually it is.” He really clarified that for me. I mean there were a lot of things within the Front for Active Gay Socialism, and there were personality conflicts and stuff like that between me and Tom sometimes. But Tom always had a good sense of humour. Fred Gilbertson did too. They were both very witty. Both of them were always, right to their last – activist, leftists. Torvald – was especially Marxist and very clear on his politics.
Paul Craik (AAHP transcript, pp. 24-25)

So, I met Tom Patterson when I was kind of coming out and he was my first long term relationship. He was my second boyfriend and I moved in with him in this coop house. And so I learned so many things from him and there’s tons of stories around that.
Dan Guinan (AAHP transcript, p. 19).

The next thing that I recall from one of the demonstrations that we did … I think Torvald was in that one as well. Yeah. I remember a number of us went to the BC Legislature. This was about the time of the Iraq War I and it was Torvald, Alan Braud […] A number of us were there, and our plan was to… we had those zap straps. We thought we couldn’t use anything like handcuffs because they were metal. We’d be caught by the metal detector when we were going into the Gallery […] And we went into the Gallery and our plan was to start a chant and then unfurl a banner, and then throw condoms and leaflets onto the Legislature […] We started throwing condoms and leaflets onto the Socred side of the House. And then we started chanting, “ACT UP! Fight back! ACT UP! Fight back.” […] I remember the security guard finally came… a couple of security guys come up and they had these huge bolt cutters [laughter] to cut off our zap straps, which would’ve been cut with ordinary household scissors. I guess be prepared. So, they cut us away from the seats and they dragged us to the elevator. And I remember they dragged Tom – Torvald – into the elevator and then they released him in the elevator, and they went to throw one of us in the elevator and Torvald got up and was scrambling to get out of the elevator. They grabbed him and threw him back into the elevator. Then they threw the rest of us into the elevator, and dragged us out of the Legislature and into the front yard of the Legislature. So, that was our action.
Paul Craik (AAHP transcript, pp. 16-17).

At the end of the 1980s, the idea of ‘queer’ politics suddenly took hold of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists and academics in North America and some other places. While Queer Nation and most similar organizations are gone, it represented an important change in LGBT activist politics and continues to influence how we organize and think about our struggles and communities.
– Torvald Patterson, “Queer without fear,” Lesbian/Gay BiSexual/Transgender Strategy Seminar

I remember [Tom] visited me a second time – I forget when it was exactly – it was maybe six years ago, I forget now. And then he told me that he had been dealing with… one of the things he had been dealing with all of his life I guess is depression – really severe. And he told me, he’s tested positive for HIV. And when he told me that I just had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just thought, “Oh no. You’re the last person in the world that needs to have to deal with that,” and it was a bad sign. And I found out of course… I got an email… I forget when it was but… I don’t know what year he passed away, but I got an email saying TorvaldTom Patterson – has died and he passed away in the hospital and someone was looking for a home for his cat. So, it was kind of sad, obviously. And we had a memorial here and I phoned up a lot of people like Elaine Arrowsmith, who Tom had… this is funny, because she brought some pictures of… Tom and Elaine had gotten married so that she could emigrate from Britain. So, they had wedding pictures and stuff like that. It was just so ironic, but it was so funny. So, they had these wedding pictures so that they could show the immigration officials […]So, we all had a memorial at English Bay at a picnic table, and just walked to the AIDS Memorial. He didn’t get his name on the Memorial because he said no way would he want that. If anything, he’d want to hold a banner up from the Burrard Bridge… that’s the thing he would’ve done. So, that’s my memory of TomTorvald.
Paul Craik (AAHP Transcript, pp. 25-26).