The city of Toronto boasts a fusion of people. With those from different cultures, religions and beliefs all coming together in one of the happiest cities in the world, it’s no surprise the LGBTQ+ scene here is so vivid.
As Canada’s LGBTQ+ paradise, Toronto is the perfect place to find yourself in a new gay community and embrace another world of welcoming arts and culture. So, once you have read this article you’ll be ready to book your flights to Toronto and let loose!
History of LGBTQ+ in Toronto & Canada
To fully understand the LGBTQ+ scene anywhere, it’s important to know the history of it in that area. Unfortunately, the world is slow at being progressive and it can often be seen that countries who started to embrace ‘different’ earlier on are now the ones that are most liberal.
Toronto’s gay rights story started in 1969. After the Stonewall riots in New York City sparked conversation and the modern gay rights movement, Canada decriminalised homosexual acts for consenting adults over 21. Since then they have continued to evolve in support of LGBTQ+ rights, up until modern day, when in 2014 Toronto hosted World Pride. This ‘timeline of Gay Rights in Toronto’ infographic created by See Toronto Now details a comprehensive history of gay rights in the city.
Infographic created by See Toronto Now.
We got in touch with Yohomo, a digital community created in order to share events and local queer-friendly businesses with the Toronto gay community. They told us a bit more about their roots: “Yohomo was born out of the simple question: ‘What is happening tonight?’ – Toronto’s queer spaces are disappearing quite fast and we knew it was important to promote them and their promoters in a way that wasn’t done before. We wanted to create a single digital community that was made by and for local queer artists and creatives.”
We asked Yohomo why they feel Toronto is such a welcoming place for all people: “Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet and thanks to this, we find ourselves at the centre of a larger, international conversation about multiculturalism, acceptance of the other and ultimately, compassion and respect. All these elements together have created this very rich intersectional queer community that keeps evolving. This combined with the city’s rich queer history and wonderful community of artists make for a super welcoming and interesting spot for LGBTQ+ folks.”
Finally, they told us some more about what people can look for in Toronto: “The centre of the gay community is definitely in the gay village where you can find a large part of the nightlife and also amazing community organizations such as the 519 or Casey House. You can also find some corners of the community on Queen and Dundas West, where spaces like the Gladstone Hotel and The Beaver host many queer or queer-friendly events on the regular. In terms of pushing the boundaries of queer culture, you find collectives and companies like the Rude Collective or Something Special that are really working on redefining what the queer scene should look like by creating space and giving voice to queer artists of colour.”
Toronto’s LGBTQ+ Hotspots
Toronto is home to Canada’s largest gay community and also its renowned neighbourhood, The Gay Village. Found in the area surrounding Church and Wellesley Streets in downtown, the area is packed with a vast array of bars and clubs, as well as cafes, restaurants and gay-orientated stores.
During June the district comes alive with Pride Month and the area is buzzing with life. The area becomes a 24-hour party, and everyone is invited. We take a look at some of the best places in the area that you have to pay a visit to on your trip.
Adoration of gay bars and nightclubs sweep outside of the LGBTQ+ community due to the welcoming nature of venues and party goers. As the sun sets, Church Wellesley comes alive with the spark of parties, glitter, pop music and fun. We found some of the best bars in the area for you to let your hair down and party in.
Woody’s is long known as Toronto’s busiest and hottest gay men’s bar. After opening in 1989, the club has continued to grow in popularity and has become an icon of The Gay Village. Woody’s is also known for being featured in the popular TV series ‘Queer as Folk’. With nightly DJs, frequent events and even men’s contests, it’s the perfect place to meet other gay men and dance the night away in a welcoming and iconic environment.
Crews and Tangos
If you are looking for drag, go no further than Toronto’s number one drag bar, Crews and Tangos. After reopening in 2010 under new management, Crews and Tangos has become a venue that ‘welcomes the world’. There are nightly events here, and it’s a great place to see some of your favoured queens on stage.
If you are looking for somewhere a bit more low-key, check out Boutique Bar. Experience classic cocktails and their own inventive mixes in the romantic bar or on the front patio, which has the best view of Church Street. The perfect place to talk the night away under intimate lighting and over high-end cocktails.
If you are feeling peckish, there are some fantastic places to eat. From burger joints to an ample amount of Japanese cuisine, The Village has it all. Whether you are looking for a decadent brunch or a late-night meal you’ll be sure to find somewhere that suits you.
The Church Mouse
Part of the Firkin Pub chain, The Church Mouse on Church Street is a great place for pub grub all through the day. On Saturdays and Sundays they serve brunch until 3pm, perfect for nursing a hangover or relaxing after a lazy morning. Throughout the rest of the week, their lunch and dinner menu is full of classic pub favourites.
As a community café and dining experience run by The 519, Fabarnak is a welcoming place focused on healthy eating and delicious dining amongst friends. Sit and enjoy a light lunch or grab some food to go and head to a local park to enjoy in the sunshine.
Hair of the Dog
As a small pub in the centre of the Gay Village, Hair of the Dog is a popular spot to people-watch as well as grab some delicious food. The Hair of the Dog has been voted one of the best patios in the city and the best pub downtown a multitude of times, and the good reviews continue to roll in over social media. The late opening hours mean it’s perfect for a midnight snack. Alternatively, get there as it opens for a delicious brunch.
If you are looking for a bit more spice, take yourself to Sneaky Dee’s for a delectable Mexican menu. Whether you are a lover of nachos, enchiladas or adobo, you can get it at Sneaky Dees. Sneaky’s also doubles as a fantastic venue, so you can eat and then spend your evening dancing away all in one building.
Activities and shopping
Looking for something to do? Toronto has that too! Although the city is crammed with fantastic activities, there are a few that are perfect if you are looking specifically for queer-targeted places. We take a look at two of the best in the area.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Any person who identifies on the LGBTQ+ spectrum in Toronto knows about Buddies in Bad Times. The theatre company is the leading voice for alternative theatre, and a world leader in promoting queer voices and stories on stage. The company started in order to support artists who reflect their values, and present voices that question sexual and cultural norms. It’s a must-go for anyone looking to explore the queer scene in Toronto, or anyone just looking to enjoy unique and original theatre. Their Queer Pride Festival has already started and will be running until the 24th of June with a large range of fantastic shows featuring self-expression and radical love.
Glad Day Bookshop
Created in 1970, the Glad Day Bookshop is the world’s oldest surviving LGBTQ+ bookstore and also the oldest bookstore in Toronto. Believed to have the largest selection of LGBTQ+ titles in the world, Glad Day is a fantastic place to not only enjoy a piece of history but find some great new novels to read. You can even buy a book and read it right there over coffee in their own coffee shop.
If you are looking to see Toronto’s diversity in full bloom, you cannot miss Pride Toronto. The month-long celebration culminates in the Pride Festival, which takes place between June 22nd-24th.
This year is the 38th annual Pride Parade and the third annual Pride Month. During June the city comes alive with exciting programming including great artists, events and a line-up of cultural acts. This year is being taken as an opportunity to commemorate 30 years of AIDS activism in Toronto, and the theme is ‘Action = Life’.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau endorsed this year’s celebration with his message of support: “It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Toronto Pride Month 2018. Having been lucky enough to participate in previous years, it is easy to see why Toronto Pride is one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations. It continues to be a beautiful celebration of differences and diversity.
“As we celebrate the progress we have made, we must remember those that came before us − in the face of powerful hatred, and intolerance – to fight for a better future. We must also recognize that there is still a great deal of work ahead of us. It is up to us to continue to fight against bigotry and discrimination and ensure that all Canadians are receiving the love and respect they deserve.”
On the 24th of June, Pride Toronto will come together with its Pride Parade. This year there will be over 120 groups marching in Pride and the event will be one of the biggest in North America. Spend the day dancing in the street, enjoying the festivities and celebrating. The full Pride Guide is available online, and features details of all of this month’s events.
So, now it’s time to grab your pride flag and your glitter, hop on a flight to Toronto and party in Canada’s LGBTQ+ paradise!