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The village is of great importance to the LGBTQ refugees.”In fact, people like Jele may be the tip of a movement that’s extremely rare for any minority group that has felt the siren call of assimilation: a return to ground zero.
New destination neighbourhoods included Queen West — a.k.a. These are neighbourhoods with a vibrant LBGT presence and, most notably, a female presence; something the village — overwhelmingly a home to bars and clubs that serve gay men — sorely lacks.Their rights are more or less accepted throughout the city, a factor that in addition to gentrification and real-estate speculation has contributed to LGBT people going elsewhere. Catherine Jean Nash, a professor at Brock University who studies geographies of sexualities, points out that today Toronto’s LGBT population is “stretching out across the city,” in what appears to be a western migration.Nash’s take is necessarily vague; it’s difficult to determine precisely where Toronto’s LGBT people reside because to date the federal census has not asked about sexual orientation.In other words, a place where members of a minority group meet one another for drinks and dinner but seldom stay to put down roots?Are we headed into a future where there are more rainbow flags hanging on buildings in the village than actual queer people living inside them? “Theme parky.”But Michael Erickson, owner of Glad Day, an LGBT bookstore, café and bar on Church St., believes speculation about the village’s decent into Disney World status is premature.“I think people forget that some of the most marginalized LGBT people who face the most risks and barriers still see this neighbourhood as their home base,” he says.And especially to newcomers to Canada, like Yvonne Jele, a lesbian refugee from Uganda, who made her way to Church and Wellesley only a few days after stepping on Canadian soil last year.
“I was surprised to notice that there was a whole street where people of the LGBTQ community were free to express themselves,” Jele told me.
The thing is, Rosenberg-Lee isn’t impersonating anybody.
The 28-year-old Toronto man is transgender, a fact that some people, even pride revellers in the heart of the city’s gay village, find hard to believe. Rosenberg-Lee’s best guess is that he “passes” easily. He looks cisgender: like a person whose sex assigned at birth lines up with his gender identity.
Pre-Internet, she says, “in order to connect you had to come down and hang out at the bars and cruise . This raises the ominous question: is the outcome net-positive or net-negative when a minority group leaves its safety net for good?
Is the gay village becoming to LGBT Torontonians what Little Italy is to Italian Torontonians, or Chinatown is to Chinese Torontonians?
(Slacks, Church St.’s flagship lesbian bar, closed in 2013).