1 min

Special delivery

The arrival of the new issue of Xtra was hailed as an event in many gay hangouts

Maureen Phillips delivered Xtra between 1986 and 1988. Credit: Jake Peters

To celebrate Xtra’s 30 years of publishing in Toronto, we’re running a series of memories and musings from community members, current staff, writers and former staff members. 

I was acquainted with Xtra from its early days, of course, but things took a serious turn in 1986 or 1987: my relationship with the paper got very hands-on at that point. You see, I got to deliver the paper to all the bars, bathhouses, bookstores, coffee shops, guesthouses, restaurants, churches (okay — MCC was the only church) in Toronto. Every second Thursday, I would rent a car, show up at the Wolseley Street office, pick up the papers and spend the evening driving around the city on my grown-up paper route. It was great to check out the boy bars; as a lesbian, the concept of a veritable buffet of choices when it came to bars and clubs wasn’t something I was familiar with.

Back in that particular day, if you wanted to hang out with a lot of lesbians, you could go to the old bar or you could go to the new bar, provided it was still in business. The fact that there were specialty bars for men — denim, leather, butch, dance, piano, pubs — was nothing short of astonishing.

Running in and out of the gay bars was fascinating for me, and the arrival of the new issue of Xtra was certainly hailed as an event, especially at around 7 on Thursday night. I was happy to provide that small highlight, but I certainly hope that it wasn’t the highest point in the evening. For me, the highlight was always dropping off the paper in the bathhouses; there was almost always a hilarious comment from a guy who was checking in — and it wasn’t about my package, I can assure you.