Stepping back into ‘Queeronto’ highlights historic events and resources for Toronto’s queer community
Community Action Centre (CAC) staff took George Brown students on a walking tour of sites related to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) community in Toronto. The tour, which CAC called “Stepping Back Into Queeronto,” explored sites around the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood which have historical significance or present day importance to Toronto’s queer community.
Stops on the tour included the former location of the Pussy Palace raids, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Glad Day Bookshop, the 519 Church Street Community Centre, and several others. Through videos and guest speakers, participants learned about historic happenings at each site, as well as resources presently available to Toronto’s queer community.
“Our goals for the tour were to talk about the history of each site, and how the LGBTQ movement got us to the place we are now” said tour co-organizer and LGBTQ support staff, Veronica Hall. “We also wanted to lay out resources in the city that students might not know of to access.”
The combination of historic and practical information was not lost on tour participant, Alice Hietala, a student in the social service work program.
“It was good for me, because I haven’t lived here for 10 years and I left before I came out,” Hietala said.
For Hietala, the walking tour was as opportunity “to come back and see a side of my city I hadn’t had the chance to see yet.”
The Church and Wellesley neighbourhood is often regarded as a centre of queer culture in Toronto. Yet, according to Sarah Rayner, another co-organizer of the tour and LGBTQ support staff at the CAC, the queer history of Church the neighbourhood and Toronto more generally, is often overshadowed by LGBTQ communities in the United States.
“I feel like a lot of people know about LGBTQ history in the US, but a lot of people don’t know about Canadian queer history,” said Rayner. “A lot has happened for LGBTQ communities in Canada, especially in Toronto.”