Toronto hosts the World Pride in 2014 starting June 20-29.
“Toronto’s gay village, the Church and Wellesley neighborhood, is alive with a diverse G.L.B.T. community. It has an array of dance clubs, cafés, restaurants, community centers, and many other gay-owned businesses catering to the gay community and tourists…” So says Toronto Tourism and who are we to argue? But what exactly is this community, what is there for gay and lesbian residents and visitors to do? I had a bit of a virtual look around and here are some of the things that I came up with.
Toronto’s gay ‘village’ is situated right in the heart of the city in ‘The Garden District’ as it is called. It is said to be one of the biggest gay villages in the world, rivaling Sydney in Australia and Manchester in England. It’s close to Chinatown and the university, the fashion district and the theaters, so you can expect a diversity of villagers and visitors alike.
Normally there are at least three major events in the community. Folsom Fair took place in July. This fair, or expo if you like, is for sellers of leather, fetish and other sex gear to get together to not only show off what they produce but to let the local community get to see it, and, we assume, to buy it. It sounds a bit like having a traveling salesman come to your street, only here there are loads of salesmen and you don’t have to buy anything. It’s a really popular event in Canada and even draws visitors from the USA.
Mister Leather Toronto takes place annually in the village too. It started as a single event in a single bar back in 1988 and has now grown to the size where over 2,000 people come to see it and the event requires 350 volunteers to run it. And now it isn’t just one show but takes place over an entire weekend and attracts both men and women alike. In 2008 the event was staged in November.
While back in June, Toronto Pride took place. The summer is usually Pride season around the world and there is no difference here. Pride Toronto has an annual theme, this year it was ‘Unified!’ and, like Prides around the world, it started small (in 1981 when 1,500 people turned up) and is now huge – about one million people this year. It culminates in the famous parade and encompasses all of the LGBT community.
So there are three major events taking place in Toronto’s gay community but there must be other things going on? Smaller events and gatherings? Yes of course. Toronto has its shares of bathhouses, saunas and massage parlous, plus cafes, bars and clubs. Villagers can dance the night away at clubs like Fly, with its 10,000 feet of ‘pure vibe’; there is the Pegasus Bar too and several themed clubs and bars such as Black Eagle for leather and denim guys and Crews/Tango for women. Eating is catered for by a wealth of restaurants and cafes with a worldwide fare from English food to Korean. There are also piano bars, shops and places to stay in the village.
Having had a quick look at some of what’s going on in the Toronto Gay Village I came away with a feeling that this is a place that knows what it is doing. The needs of the GLBT community seem well catered for but it’s not simply geared up to grab their money. It sounds like a friendly and welcoming place and one that also offers support, with community venues and sexual health education. It’s not often that a web-browse inspires me to actually visit a place but this time I think I will put Toronto on my list of places to visit as soon as possible.