Creating space for queer women in Toronto
november 28, 2018
LGBTQ women in Toronto are coming together to address the lack of spaces for queer women within the city through the power of social media and community funding.
Glad Day Bookshop, a social hub within the heart of Toronto’s gay village, was full of women on Tuesday night to workshop ways to reclaim and create space for themselves.
LGBTQ+ women gather at Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto to brainstorm how to create space for queer women on Nov. 20, 2018. (RSJ/Dhriti Gupta)
Britney Thames is a media support specialist who has created an Instagram page to promote and boost the publicity for women-focused LGBTQ events and parties in Toronto. She’s looking to expand her current team of four and eventually go on to create an interactive website and email listing that will keep people in the community aware of what upcoming events are available to them.
Another solution may lie in public or corporate funding of queer women’s initiatives, outside of the LGBTQ realm, said Carmen Elle, a musician and former manager of Less Bar, a now-closed lesbian establishment.
“I’m interested in exploring grants. I think that there is funding out there for women, younger people, people of colour, to create some operations budgets for businesses that they want to run,” said Elle.
Elle thinks funding from organizations like the Centre for Social Innovation might be a good place to start. The centre is a social enterprise in Toronto that aims to “offer coworking, community and acceleration services to people who are changing the world.”
Elle also stressed the importance of holding larger corporations accountable in their support of the LGBTQ community.
“I noticed that for the month of June there were pride flags everywhere; but where’s this business every other day of the year? Why don’t I feel supported by them any other time?” she said.
Individuals speak on their personal experiences in creating space for queer women at Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto on Nov. 20, 2018. From left to right, Ace Dillinger, Carmen Elle, Myst Milano and Tania Morano. (RSJ/Dhriti Gupta)
While the closures of many lesbian bars are linked to the socio-economic difficulties that their owners face, some of the LGBTQ women in Toronto want to shift the focus to changing the mindset within their own spheres.
Lisa Amin, a human rights lawyer and activist, thinks queer women need to be more assertive in labelling and taking ownership of their spaces.
“All of it boils down to us acting like we don’t deserve things. A lot of this is that we feel like we don’t deserve to have spaces,” she said.
Tania Morano, a DJ and promoter who regularly throws parties for queer women, also thinks a lack of internal togetherness has made it harder to preserving spaces for LGBTQ women.
“Maybe the party I’ve created doesn’t cater to everyone, but there seems to be, more than ever, a divide in who goes where. And I’d love to know why, and I’d love to hear off the record from every one of you about why we don’t feel so much like we’re a community anymore,” she said to the attendees of the workshop.
Lisa Amin facilitates a group discussion about the need for LGBTQ+ spaces at Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto on Nov. 20, 2018. (RSJ/Dhriti Gupta
Organized by Xtra, an LGBTQ-focused internet magazine, the event aimed to amplify the voices of marginalized people within the community and help clarify what kinds of spaces are needed to support the queer female population in Toronto.
“As far back as we have been covering queer women’s issues, we’ve noticed that there’s a continual lack of queer women’s spaces in our community,” said Eric Wright, sponsorship program manager at Xtra. “When we talk about gentrification, queer women’s spaces are the first to go, because they’re the least financially resilient.”