3 min

For the boys

Gay destinations short on grrrlz

Credit: RJ Martin

Coming out in Toronto years ago blasted my eyes open to an underground dyke community that had previously been invisible to me. As quickly as I melted into that first intoxicating kiss, I found social places that accepted and excited me at the same time.

But I soon grew tired of our small bar scene, becoming more and more sensitive to a glaring injustice in our community. Where were all the women’s spots?

So I took off and travelled the world at every opportunity I had. In every major city, town or village, I sought out like kind.

I mean, it’s natural. I’ve yet to meet a lesbian, dyke, butch or whatever who doesn’t play “spot the lesbo” as a game or a private attempt at cruising. Just as sporty people seek sporty people, computer aficionados seek computer aficionados, so do women-loving-women seek each other.

And seek I did.

After two and a half months walking around western Europe my blisters had babies of their own. In every city, I searched through the Internet, community papers and gay-friendly bookstores – anywhere I could think of. I would mark all the possible spots on a map and set off. Endless mazes of unfamiliar city streets, dark alleyways and shady men’s bars crowd my memories.

In all that time, I found only one popular dyke bar. An exhaustive search in Barcelona, Spain, a sexy city to begin with, yielded a nomadic all-night girl’s party. I tapped into that party by fluke, my pathetic attempt at translating Spanish materializing into a destination.

(I don’t really count Munich, Germany, where I stumbled into a dank sports bar full of leering patrons who sent me running instead of making me feel welcome.)

But in every city I visited – Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Copenhagen, wherever – men’s bars dominated the gay landscape. Although hidden from the casual tourist (and by casual I mean straight), any experienced homo would need only moments to locate the nearest gay bar and slide in for a refreshing drink within an hour of arrival. Not so for the ladies.

My partner and I recently gambled on a New Year’s trip to South Beach – the lavish beach utopia and gay Mecca of Florida – with the hopes of meeting and partying with women like us. Oh, I know, I know. It’s a gay men’s spot. But here’s my logic: for every hundred gay men surely there must be one lesbian.

Besides, what’s sexier than lying on the beach next to your girlfriend, surreptitiously eyeing her deliciously filled-out bikini and smooth skin as the sun-soaked sand draws the Canadian winter chill from your bones? Exactly. Nothing.

South Beach at New Year’s Eve smacks of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Streets are closed off so a massive mob congesting the waterfront can have their alcohol without having to wade back and forth to bars. Drunken debauchery rules the night. God bless America.

On arrival, we found most of what we were looking for. An enormous sandy white beach, a sea of chiselled, tanned bodies in identical cabana chairs packing that beach and sensuous Cuban music spilling from the stores and bars along the strip.

Immediately, we turned our lesbian detectors on high, scanning the scene. There were women, all right. But they all clung to the arms of stylish men and trotted towards the beach in designer swimwear, sarongs and sandals. It took us a moment to realize that, what on first glance appeared to be Het-ville, was really gay men and straight women in an off-kilter version of Hetville.

Confused and wrenched back to the depressing reality that we were on our own, we proceeded to do the usual. We found the one women’s bar (which also doubled as a laundromat) located in a dark alley away from the action and popped in for a few drinks. When we got there, we found it filled with gay men. Having already acknowledged defeat, we just laughed. Then we inquired with the only dyke there, the bartender. She also laughed.

“A women’s New Year’s party around here?” she said, shaking her head. “Nope. I’m going to my friend’s house party tonight, thank God. I don’t think I could do New Year’s in one of these bars.”

And so at midnight, we found ourselves drunk on the veranda of an über-gay men’s bar called The Palace, transfixed by the spectacular fireworks display celebrating the start of 2004.

And there at The Palace, at last, we found the other three dykes in South Beach. On vacation from the UK, they’d spent the previous three days in the exact same pursuit with similar results. In fact, they’d stood out so much around the beach area, they’d become known as “the three lesbians.”

So what’s the moral of this story? If thinking about the women’s scene here in Toronto gets you down, remember this. The grass truly is greener on Church St.