Straight parents who live and work around Church St are okay with homos – but that doesn’t mean that they’ll let queers get away with behaviour deemed inappropriate for children.
“I never look at it as an issue of sexuality,” says Heather D Keeso,
program director for the Church Street Daycare Centre. “There has been a consistent change for the better in the attitudes of children being raised in this [gay and lesbian] neighbourhood.”
The daycare is open weekdays all year round, and located just a bit south of Wellesley in the public school. It has been in operation since 1974, and mostly caters to the children living in the ‘hood.
Keeso attributes the change in attitudes to the influx of children raised by homosexual parents. “The [heterosexual] parents are very supportive.”
During a strike last year, the children relocated to the 519 Church Street Centre – a city-run building with lots of gay staff and programs. “This confirms that parents and the daycare are supportive of gays and lesbians,” says Keeso.
Andrea de Boerr, who has lived in the neighbourhood since she was four years old, does not like what the neighbourhood has become.
Now a parent of one, de Boerr says she only lives in the ‘hood for financial reasons. “If I had my way, I wouldn’t want my child being raised here.
“I don’t like how a lot of people say that this is a gay neighbourhood,” she says. “True, there is a higher concentration of gay people, but what happened to the consideration given to straight people?”
De Boerr recalls a time when she and friends were supervising their kids playing. A drunken gay man was near by, loitering around the young children, and she went to complain to him.
“He basically yelled at me and called me a bigot,” she recalls angrily. “He was accusing me of abusing his gay rights, but it wasn’t about being gay at all. It was about him setting a bad example in
front of children.
“I have grown up with gay people, and I do not have problem with them. But during daytime, when I see explicit posters outside stores, and couples making out in the park when children are playing, that’s when I have a problem. It is inappropriate behaviour.”
De Boerr is frustrated at the many people who do not understand why she wants them to be more cautious of their activities.
“They always seem to think that it is an attack on their sexuality. When it comes down to that, it is a disservice to everybody, because it’s boiling it down to gay versus non-gay. It shouldn’t be.”
Furthermore, she says that many gay parents also feel that certain behaviour is inappropriate in front of children.
Keeso says that during Pride week, many of her kids expressed discomfort at some of the posters and banners they saw (the centre is closed during the Pride weekend).
“I think there should be more discretion to the fact that children do attend school here during the year and in the summer,” says Keeso.
Keeso stresses that growing up in a gay community can be positive for children, exposing them to different lifestyles. But she adds, “It is important to work together as well.”
De Boerr says one of her neighbours moved out when the father feared his son would grow up to be gay.
“Frankly, I don’t think living in a gay neighbourhood makes you gay at all,” she says, “but there should be more awareness to the fact that there are children who play here during the daytime.”
Church St has a new bar.
Despite opposition from some neighbours, Hair Of The Dog (at the corner of Church and Wood) was awarded a liquor licence earlier this month.
There are conditions:
The (music free) patio must be closed by 11pm, and can’t be visible from the Church St playground that shares a fence with the new pub
The owners – including Fab magazine publisher Michael Schwarz — must install better lighting around the building
Outside line-ups are prohibited
Perimeter checks must be conducted hourly in the evenings.