Mapping queer Toronto

The LGBT community's roots run deep into the.


The LGBT community’s roots run deep into the city’s history. We’ve charted the sites where essential events took place and the locations of key organizations that still thrive. This is not a survey of queer bars and clubs. Not every gay organization is here – we couldn’t include those without a permanent address, for example – and it doesn’t record every moment that changed the landscape. But it does represent the power of Toronto’s LGBT history and the strength and influence of present-day queerdom.

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Current gay orgs and institutions

1. AIDS COMMITTEE OF TORONTO ACT provides info, referrals and counselling for people with HIV/AIDS. 399 Church, 4th flr. 416-340-2437, actoronto.org.

2. ASIAN COMMUNITY AIDS SERVICES A charitable, non-profit, community-based organization providing HIV/AIDS education, prevention and support services to the East and Southeast Asian Canadian communities. 33 Isabella, 416-963-4300 ? info@acas.org

3. BLACK CAP Organization working to reduce HIV/AIDS in Toronto’s black, African and Caribbean communities. 416-977-9955, black-cap.com 20 Victoria, 4th Floor

4. BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE Theatre company promoting queer culture since 1978. Its first performance space was at 142 George. Sky Gilbert’s More Divine opened the present location in 1994. 12 Alexander. 416-975-8555, buddiesinbadtimes.com.

5. CITY OF TORONTO YOUTH SERVICES (CTYS) One of the first centres of its kind in Ontario, focusing specifically on the psycho-social needs of children and youth, home of Pride and Prejudice, which offers programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transgender, transsexual and questioning youth 25 and under and their parents. 65 Wellesley East, Suite 300

6. COMMUNITY AIDS TREATMENT INFORMATION EXCHANGE (CATIE) Non-profit org offering info on improving health and quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS. 555 Richmond W, #505. 416-203-7122, catie.ca.

7. FIFE HOUSE Three houses, an apartment building and a homeless outreach program for people with HIV/AIDS, plus HIV and substance use training program. 490 Sherbourne, 2nd flr. 416-205-9888, fifehouse.org.

8. 519 CHURCH COMMUNITY CENTRE Essential meeting place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two-spirit and queer communities, including groups such as Trans Youth Toronto, Breakthrough, for immigrant and refugee communities, queer parenting groups and many more. 519 Church. 416-392-6874, the519.org.

9. GLAD DAY BOOKSHOP Fighting censorship since 1970. Books, mags, DVDs, porn and art. 598A Yonge. 416-961-4161, gladdaybookshop.com.

10. HASSLE FREE CLINIC Anonymous HIV testing, STD care, women’s health, needle exchange. 66 Gerrard E, 2nd flr. 416-922-0566, hasslefreeclinic.org.

11. INSIDE OUT FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL The festival of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film and video began in 1991 at the Euclid Theatre (Bathurst and Euclid). The May 2011 fest was held at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King W). insideout.ca.

12. METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH Large gay-lesbian Christian congregation led by Brent Hawkes, founded in 1973. Sunday services at 9 and 11 am, 7 pm many other programs. 115 Simpson. 416-406-6228, mcctoronto.com.

13. SHERBOURNE HEALTH CENTRE Multidisciplinary health centre offers primary care, health promotion and community development programs for the LGBT community. 333 Sherbourne. 416-324-4103, sherbourne.on.ca.

14. TAKE A WALK ON THE WILDSIDE Service for cross-dressers offers women’s clothing that fits men, online shopping, Paddy’s Playhouse Theatre, Allan Gardens Floral Art Gallery (2nd flr), a B&B and more. 161 Gerrard E. 416-921-6112, wildside.org.

15. TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY GAY AND LESBIAN COLLECTION Yorkville branch houses this large collection of novels, biographies, books on health, art and social sciences of interest to the LGBT community. 22 Yorkville. 416-393-7660, torontopubliclibrary.ca.

16. TORONTO WOMEN’S BOOKSTORE Promotes anti-oppression and feminist politics and books by women writers, especially by marginalized women. 73 Harbord. 416-922-8744, womensbookstore.com.

17. VAZALEEN This monthly queer rock/punk dance party, founded by club promoter and artist Will Munro, started out at the El Mocambo in 1999 and ran at Lee’s Palace from 2001 to 06. Will’s brother and friends keep it going today at venues like Wrongbar.

Commemorative sites

1. ALEXANDER WOOD Upper Canada merchant and magistrate was at the centre of an 1810 sex scandal. His nickname, Molly Wood, became slang for a gay man, and his property at Yonge and Carlton was dubbed Molly Wood’s Bush. Statue at the corner of Church and Alexander honours him.

2. AIDS MEMORIAL Anchored by AIDS activist Michael Lynch’s poem Cry, this memorial opened in Cawthra Square Park in 1993, after a temporary yearly memorial went up between 1988 and 1991. Concrete pillars hold plaques engraved with the names and dates of 2,700 deceased, Lynch and designer Alex Wilson among them.

3. GEORGE HISLOP PARK In 2001 the city of Toronto honoured the activist and first openly gay candidate for municipal office with a park at Charles and Yonge.

Historical locations

1. THE ALBANY Private club founded by John A. Macdonald was frequented by gays in the early 1980s. 91 King E.

2. THE BARN This original 1888 saloon is now the home of the Stables, a leather western bar, and the Barn in 1988. 418 Church. thebarnnightclub.com.

3. THE BARRACKS One of four gay bathhouses targeted by Operation Soap. In Feb 1981, police arrested more than 300 men in raids on gay bathhouses. Protest galvanized the gay community and led to the organizing of Pride. 56 Widmer.

4. THE BLUE JAY Lesbian club that operated from 1972 to 1975 at Gerrard and Pape.

5. THE BODY POLITIC Original offices of the gay liberation newspaper that ran from 1971 to 87. 65 Kendal, apt 8.

6. THE CAMEO Lesbian club at 1130 Queen East, later moving to 95 Trinity.

7. THE CORNERS The site of early lesbian bar culture in T.O. and the Continental Hotel, one of the few non-discriminating taverns. Dundas and Elizabeth.

8. CHURCH OF THE HOLY TRINITY The first meeting of CHAT (Community Homophile Association of Toronto), with George Hislop presiding, took place in 1971 at this social-justice-oriented Anglican church. Same-sex blessings are offered. 10 Trinity Square. 416-598-4521, holytrinity.org.

9. CLUB BATHS One of four gay bathhouses targeted by Operation Soap. See the Barracks above. Police also raided the Pussy Palace lesbian bathhouse night here in 2000. 231 Mutual.

10. COMMUNITY HOMOPHILE ASSOCIATION OF TORONTO (CHAT) Home of the first political gay group in Toronto. 6 Charles.

11. EMMANUEL HOWARD PARK UNITED CHURCH Gay- and trans-positive space, the site for the founding of the Queer West Community Network in 2002, which went on to launch the Queer West Fest. 214 Wright.

12. THE FLY BY NIGHT Early 80s lesbian bar run by feminist Pat Murphy in a back room of the strip club Filmores. 212 Dundas E.

13. 457 CHURCH Offices of Gayboy Publishing Company, which launched the first issue of gay magazine Gay in 1964.

14. GAY ALLIANCE TOWARD EQUALITY (GATE) One of Toronto’s first groups of men and women committed to gay liberation. 193 Carlton.

15. GLAD DAY BOOKSTORE Original location, 65 Kendal.

16. GRANGE PARK The birth place of today’s Gay Pride action, spawned in the wake of the bathhouse raids.

17. RICHMOND ST. HEALTH EMPORIUM One of four gay bathhouses targeted by Operation Soap. See the Barracks above. 260 Richmond E.

18. LESBIAN MOTHERS’ DEFENCE FUND Canada’s first legal and peer support group for lesbians fighting for child custody, 1978 to 84. North side of College at Augusta.

19. LESBIAN ORGANIZATION OF TORONTO (LOOT) T.O.’s first political group working for lesbian rights, which operated a counselling line and the café Three of Cups between 1976 and 80. 342 Jarvis.

20. MAISON DE LYS First club where gay men and lesbians were able to dance together. 575 Yonge.

21. NEW ORIENT Spot where women went for soft drinks and dancing in the 60s. Queen and Spadina.

22. PINK TRIANGLE PRESS Born as the Body Politic in 1971, in 1975 the gay liberation newspaper incorporated as Pink Triangle Press, named for the pink triangle that gay inmates of Nazi concentration camps had to wear. 24 Duncan.

23. REMINGTON’S Male strip club since 1993. 379 Yonge.

24. ST. CHARLES TAVERN T.O.’s best-know gay bar from the 1950s to 80s was the scene of many homophobic attacks, especially at Halloween. It closed in 87, but the historic clock tower (the bar’s slogan: “Meet me under the clock”) remains. 488 Yonge.

25. SUNNYSIDE CAFE Meeting place of the first Pride Bicycle Ride in 2005. 1755 Lake Shore W.

26. THE WOMAN’S COMMON Women’s club and dining room. 580 Parliament.

27. THE WOMEN’S PLACE First lesbian-feminist organizing location. 31 Dupont.

28. WOMYNLY WAY Production company (College and Augusta) devoted to producing and recording concerts of women’s music.

Points of interest

1. ALLAN GARDENS Founded in 1858, it has five greenhouses and is open daily with free admission. Bushes were cut down to eliminate trysting places. Carlton and Jarvis.

2. DAVID A BALFOUR PARK This densely treed park is a popular hookup spot for men. Mt Pleasant & Roxborough.

3. HANLAN’S POINT BEACH Named after champion sculler Edward “Ned” Hanlan. Clothing-optional since 2002, it’s a sanctuary for gay men. Toronto Islands, Hanlan’s Point ferry docks. torontoisland.org.

Files from the Lesbian and Gay Archives of Toronto and Queeropolis, a short film by Tori Foster and Alexis Mitchell

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