On Oct 27, Bobby Beckett hopes to join the ranks of the few openly transgender politicians in the world.
The queer-identified owner of the Henhouse in Toronto’s west end is running in the already crowded Ward 18 field, which includes incumbent Ana Bailão.
Beckett (who uses gender-neutral pronouns) is clear that queer activism is important to their campaign. “I think queerness unto itself is a form of activism,” they say. “I think my day-to-day is challenging; I think my gender is challenging to people.”
But while LGBT issues are important, they weren’t the driving factor behind Beckett’s run for city council.
Beckett is a small-business owner who worked their way up from selling silver as a street merchant on Queen Street West to tending bar at the Gladstone, as well as several other bars and clubs, before taking over ownership of the Henhouse two years ago. Beckett has seen how frustrated other business owners are: “It’s sometimes tiring to see what we have to go through just to make a bottom line, to have a nice business, to give a safe space.” They would like to simplify the process of applying for expanded patios and later closer times. They’d also like to see more transparency and accountability about where taxes are going.
Beckett’s experience in the service sector has also informed their view on the community, noting that the ward has seen an increase in population with little change to the availability of affordable housing. “Those people are the working-class poor who are holding the entire neighbourhood up,” Beckett says, thinking of the baristas and bartenders who work in many of the small businesses in the neighbourhood.
Transit, an important issue for every ward in this election, looms large for Ward 18 as well. Beckett is a champion of green transit: in addition to advocating for more bike lanes, they would push for the Dundas streetcars to run 24 hours.
It’s no surprise that Beckett says they are a progressive candidate — one who feels strongly about the position of councillor, having grown up in Toronto and having been involved in myriad social justice causes. Beckett even remembers getting caught up, accidentally, in police movements during the G20 summit on the way to work. For Beckett, activism is “part of the fabric of my city.”