Toronto’s Church Street and Gay Village and the Queer West Village



Home to Canada‘s largest gay community, Toronto welcomes gay and lesbian visitors with a full slate of entertaining things to see and do year-round. While Toronto is home to more than 4 million people, the gay and lesbian village is nestled in the downtown core, centered around the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets. The area is packed with cafés, restaurants, gay-oriented shops and a vast array of bars and hot nightspots.


The truth is, Toronto really is a great place to be gay. It’s a safe city, with a vibrant, energetic LGBT community – one of the largest in North America. It’s a remarkably varied community, and if you stay long enough you’ll see it all – especially on a hot summer night. Vibrant eye-candy by day, Toronto’s energy-drenched Village struts her best stuff by night, unveiling an irresistibly seductive mosaic of orientations, cultures, ages, shapes and sizes.



It is roughly bounded by Gould Street to the south, Yonge Street to the west, Charles Street to the north, and Jarvis Street to the east, with the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets at the centre of this area. The boundaries are not fixed of course, as some gay and lesbian oriented establishments can be found outside of this area.

 


As times have changed and  society has become more open to homosexuality, Church Street is no longer viewed, particularly by gay youth, as an essential destination. Like many other cities, there are many bars and clubs throughout Toronto are now gay-friendly. The gay neighborhoods we saw in big cities in the 80’s and 90’s, have started to become somewhat diluted and spread out.


As well, the area has become more of a “mainstream” destination causing rental rates for both commercial and residential property to rise significantly. Many privately owned businesses have been forced to close down or move to other areas due to these rate increases, and much larger corporations such as Starbucks and Baskin Robbins have settled on the street.


The residents of the area are now largely middle-aged men with established careers. The high rents mean that the majority of gay youth cannot afford to live in the neighbourhood. Some choose to settle in nearby neighbourhoods such as St. James Town and Cabbagetown, while others no longer feel it necessary to live near the village as they can be open about their sexuality without as much fear of backlash. Many in the gay community have expressed concern about the decline of the neighbourhood’s appeal with youth and its loss of small businesses.


Some feel that in the near future Church Street may no longer be the “heart” of the gay community. Like most big cities, the gay community has started to spread out.  Some small gay-owned businesses have moved to cheaper areas such as Parliament Street and Sherbourne Street, located east of Church and Wellesley. Some have speculated that within ten years, Parliament and Wellesley may become Toronto’s new gay village. Parkdale and the Queen Street West area have also become destinations for gays and lesbians, even earning the nickname of “Queer West Village” in recent years. While it is doubtful a whole area would move – there are enough gays and lesbians to support more than one neighborhood.

The Best of Gay Toronto!

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