June. For many this means Spring is in full bloom, school’s almost out, post-secondary students have completed spring courses, food trucks come out, and the birds are a chirpin. All are great things. But for Toronto, June of 2016 has a new meaning to it: June is now officially Pride Month!
Pride is not new to Toronto, in fact, the first official Toronto Pride Week happened in 1972. Pride Week has grown in popularity over the years, with Toronto hosting World Pride in June of 2014, which saw hundreds of thousands of people attend the week long festival. This year Pride Month is looking just as good, if not better, than last year’s celebrations. There will be film screenings that celebrate and educate on LGBTQ lives, lectures, Toronto Symphony Orchestra performances and musician parties (who doesn’t love a good party with musicians??), Gay Day at Canada’s Wonderland, and of course the annual Dyke Parade and Pride Parade, just to name a few events!
Although Pride Month festivities will be occurring all over the city, the main events centre around the Yonge/Church and Wellesley area (otherwise known as The Gay Village or just The Village). This area is seen as being a prominent destination for LGBTQ persons where lots of rainbow flags greet you as you walk down the street, but it wasn’t always like that.
The statue of this man to the right, is one of Alexandar Wood, a prominent Scottish man in the early 1800’s. He is also named as being the forefather of The Village.
The Village provided a safe space for LGBTQ individuals to come and enjoy life, whether that be through enjoying the many bars, reaping the benefits of the local community centre’s activities, or by simply finding safe and affordable housing. One of the worst years for The Village was that of 1981 when Canada saw one of it’s largest mass arrest take place.
Local bathhouses were raided and 300 gay men were arrested. This sparked an outrage in the community, which sought to seek justice for LGBTQ rights. Not only did this raid bring attention to this growing community but it also brought a solidification of the separate Church & Wellesley community groups to form one big LGBTQ community.
Although it hasn’t always been rainbows and laughter coming from The Village, due to its history and its success in creating a safe and welcoming environment, it has brought forth numerous other LGBTQ communities around Toronto. It has also brought further acceptance of the LGBTQ community and has even brought about the chance for larger corporations to show their support for the community.
So, if you’re ever in Toronto and looking to explore a neighbourhood with lots of history and lots of colour, go ahead and check out The Village!