What’s Good Neighbourhood: The Gaybourhood (Church & Wellesley)
The Gaybourhood can be anyone’s neighbourhood. There are quality services, and many of the merchants have been in buisness in the area for years. In short, you don’t have to be gay to get what you are looking for. Here are the top picks for hair salons, gourmet food, resto’s, yoga and a gallery. I am going to let you in on the history of the area. It includes a sex scandal in 1810. and how the legacy of the man behind it, Alexander Wood, is carried on to this day.
The Gay Village, Boystown, Gayborhood, or Gay Ghetto are all names that define an area in town where there are lots of gay bars and gay businesses. Traditionally, gay areas are fringe or economically mixed areas that get gentrified by gay business investments. The first gay district formed in Berlin in 1920s and they have since fanned out from there. There isn’t a city in the Western World without a thriving and diverse Gay District now. Here’s some f the best of ours.
At one time, Church St. was the only place where gay and lesbians were partying down and the bars were on the cutting edge of all the newest music and trends in clubs. Now it’s more of a tourist destination, with the more fringe gay events happening throughout the city, especially in the west end of Toronto. Some of the area and communities staples still stand though.
The Black Eagle is a leather daddy bar. It’s dark and smells like musty boys…so boys LOVE it. It’s been around forever ever and it’s the bomb.
Church St. Staple. It’s better than a pub, not quite a dance club. Been around for ages and one of the only bigger places that has a week day vibe still.
There’s also pubs…like lots of pubs.
There’s so many trinket shops, it’s like the Yonge Street of gay-ness. If you can imagine a product or service that has a rainbow flag on or in it, then it is sold on Church; for animals, kids and of course dogs.
You like sex shops? Good, cause so does Church & Wellseley. With some of the least creepy staff at sex shops the cit over.
Priape is a men’s underwear and clothing store. It has a huge store front and makes up the basic backbone of the gayborhood. You know you’re in Boystown when you see the Priape store front. It’s also in Montreal and Vancouver.
As we wind our way into the Wine and Cheese party season, About Cheese offers you Artisanal and Canadian Cheese. Fine foods and retail products are also available. It’s a definite yes to catering.
Torontonians have been served for years by the good people at Cumbraes. The meat is from Local Traditional farms. The entire staff cares about what you put on your table. They welcome you to the pursuit of perfect meat. Handmade foods and fresh food grocery is also available.
There are some excellent reason’s for stopping by the Smith. All of the menu’s are varied and offer modern twists on timeless classics. The Starters and Sharing menu boasts “Buttermilk Thyme Onion Rings” at $6. A decadent dessert as “Smoked Cinnamon Bread Pudding” with candied pecans and coffee salted caramel is at $8. For a full list “from the Sugar Bin,” click here for all of their decadent desserts. The cocktails and beer menu is quite complete.
Ginger welcomes you to a vietnamese authentic restaurant with delicious food and very reasonable prices. The restaurant is family owned and operated since 1998. They have 7 locations. If you know Pho and it’s magical healing properties of yummy-ness, imagine a steamy bowl of Pho on a cool Autumn night. This location is much more central than Chinatown, without the cab or TTC ride over. The restaurant is actually quite large, and has a lot of seating. Average $17 for Main or Noodles, salad or crispy roll, beverage, tax and tip. Signature dishes at $8.25 include Asian style fish and chip or Chicken and beef skewers on U-don. You can top off your meal with Deep fried banana cake for $ 2.00
Who Should Live Here?
Single straight women who work late at night, since it’s one of the safest neighbourhoods in Toronto, even though it boarders some sketchiness to the south east. Students attending Ryerson,sinc it’s close to campus and so much cooler than Dundas. Anyone who likes quality but doesn’t like paying out the nose for it; gay districts the world over are known for having quality shops, restaurants and bars that aren’t over priced. And finally, anyone who grew up marginalized for their sexual preference-Church and Wellseley is like getting the hug you have wanted and deerved your whole life after finally coming out…but on steroids. If you’ve been out since you were a kid, and grew up in a more urban setting, it’s a but annoying how over the top trinket shop gay it is, but for townies it’s heaven. Oh and if you like loud dance music, well mixed martini’s, cruising, bath houses, and living downtown but paying outskirt prices, then Boystown is the area for you.
A special note on: Alexander Wood
Sculptor Del Newbigging brought to perfection, a dominate Alexander Wood statue. A noted city leading merchant, Alexander Wood, was originally, from Scotland. Became a city magistrate in 1800 and in 1801, Wood opened his own store “providing quality goods from London and Glasgow.” He was a gazetted lieutenant in the York militia and fought in the War of 1812. It was the sex scandal that he got into in the year of 1810 that made him infamous. A woman had made claims and allegations of being raped. She said she didn’t know who did it, but had supposedly scratched the attacker’s penis.
Alexander Wood’s job was to investigate the case by looking at the penis of all alleged suspects. The question became for those crazy 18th century people, how DID he do his job? Being gay in the 18th century was not the norm, and anyone who was, could experience immediate harassment even if it was based upon suspicion not fact. He was “never married and no children.”The 18th century thinking did him in and the sex scandal tornado started to circle around rumors, and completely wrong words of Alexander Wood’s character.
Thats when this sex scandal went into full blown mode. It was driven by a rage by a fellow magistrate, Judge Powell. Ridicule lead to nick names. “Molly” was a crude reference to being homosexual. The nickname “Molly Wood” was the just one of the reason’s he was agreed to go back to Scotland for two years to avoid sodomy charges.
Alexander Wood’s legacy lives on, as he endured this tornado as best he could. Gay people from the turn of the century remember him as a pioneer of our community. “Molly Wood’s Bush” was the name in the 19th century for the area we now call the Gaybourhood. Despite how Alexander Wood gained his infamy, his memory endures to this day.
words by shona
follow me on Twitter ~~ @Shona__Fraser
photos: Samanthuh Wood