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Let my people go

Toronto Star story on the gaybourhood suspiciously incomplete

One of The Toronto Star’s top local stories Oct 13 bore the headline “Exodus sees Church St losing its gay village identity.”

In the piece Star reporter Denise Balkissoon latches onto the closure of Church St queer joints Zelda’s last month and Crews Tango earlier this year as evidence that the neighbourhood is disappearing and gay people are wandering away like economic refugees.

Balkissoon and The Star leave their story equation conspicuously incomplete.

This year the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives celebrated the opening of its brand new home, a dedicated building in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood. The 519 Church St Community Centre celebrated a fancy new addition. The Church Street Fetish Fair, Halloweek and Toronto Pride celebrations drew record crowds. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association held a huge trade show in Maple Leaf Gardens. And Pride Toronto just won World Pride 2014.

Visit Church St any night of the week, especially on weekends, to see thousands of queer people from all walks of life enjoying themselves.

All the above, and much more, is missing from Balkissoon’s story.

To illustrate her point, the author talks to a handful of young women and trans people who complain the village has become irrelevant to them because it caters largely to gay men. It may be valid that lesbians and trans folk are underserved but it hardly points to an exodus. After all, the village has never boasted a large number of businesses catering to them.

The whole point of her article is essentially to diminish the existence and power of a queer community and identity but it ignores the best ways of proving this. Are the bars and clubs still packing in guests at night? Are the streets and businesses still bustling with gay people during the day? The answer to both questions is yes. If anything, gay people (including lesbians and trans folk) want there to be more clubs and bars in the neighbourhood so there are more entertainment spaces overall. 

And the reason there aren’t any new clubs — why new lesbian and trans clubs won’t open any time soon — is that Toronto City Council has banned new club spaces north of Queen St. The real villains in what’s happening on Chruch St may be your own city councillors.