I moved to Toronto from a very small island in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I’d never planned to move to Toronto, it happened quite by accident – an ‘Olivia travel accident’ to be precise. But here’s the thing: I was going on a queer tour of the world and Toronto wasn’t even on my radar. It simply wasn’t known as a queer mecca when I set off traveling back in 2011 – maybe Toronto is better known as queer central these days, but just in case it’s not for some of your dapperQ readers, here’s just a few of the many queer owned or queer friendly places you can visit. Only have a weekend to spare? That’s a good place to start – here’s your itinerary.
So you need to look your best – we get that. Head on over to see Kristin at Fuss Hair Studio for all of your queer cut needs. Fuss Hair Studio is a quaint boutique staple of the East End and charges clients by their hair’s ‘length not gender’. Not only is Fuss a beacon for the queer community, but co-owner Kristin is also making change throughout the hair industry worldwide with the Dresscode Project, a directory of LGBTQ+ friendly barbers and stylists. So you can get your hair cut AND chat to Kristin about taking the Dresscode Project back home with you so you never have to experience those awkward barber/salon experiences again. Find out more about how you can get involved in the Dresscode Project @thedresscodeproject and read more about Kristen and the Dresscode Project here on dapperQ.
Hannes visiting Fuss Hair Studio from Sweden
DCP Kristin Rankin cuts Hannes’ hair
Now that you’re feeling ready to take on the world, take a 5 minute stroll along Queen Street to check out some accessories for your children, I mean dogs. You may be on vacation but I know you want that perfect take home gift as a peace offering to give your pupper on your return. The Bone House have long been a champion of the LGBT community supporting both local queer designers and actively supporting LGBT rights. As with all good feminist stores, The Bone House are also committed to the environment stocking organic treats and Eco-friendly toys and accessories. Want to take your proud pupper parenting a step further? Check out Doggy Dates where you can get your woofer’s face printed onto your very own custom-made cushion. You’re welcome.
Any visit to Toronto is not complete until you checked out TKVO. I loved this store from the moment I opened the doors – it’s unique to Toronto, and it feels like you’ve popped round to your coolest queerest, best friend’s shop. TKVO (a medical acronym meaning “to keep vein open.”) is located in the heart of Toronto’s Dundas West neighbourhood, is trans owned and operated and committed to respecting pronouns, supporting the community, and highlighting queer makers. I suggest allowing at least an hour in this body and sex positive feminist shop that’s carving out a little more space in the city for all our queerdom. You’ll find everything from accessories, vegan soaps, and really cool tableware.
TKVO – Photo by Tate Sameshima
TKVO – Photo by Tate Sameshima
TKVO – Photo by Tate Sameshima
alljackedup at The Gladstone
Time to make your way back to your art hotel and get alljackedup up for the night. The queer owned Gladstone, known locally as the Gaystone has been a pioneer in creating safe space for queer people in Toronto since 2003 when it was revitalized and renovated by Christina Zeilder, a visual artist, filmmaker, musician and designer. Each of the 37 guest rooms has been designed by a different Canadian artist taking their inspiration from teen idols to 70’s glam biker culture to the great Canadian landscapes. Want to get your culture on? The Gladstone hosts LGBTQ programming with events such as the 10 x 10 Photography Project and ‘That’s So Gay’ arts exhibitions amongst many other regular crowd drawing events. The Gladstone is actively engaged in promoting Toronto’s creative community and protecting and preserving the creative community’s place in a neighbourhood that is becoming increasingly gentrified.
The Beaver – the name alone suggests this should be somewhere you might want to visit. Conveniently located next door to the Gladstone, the Beaver offers comfort food in a laid-back café atmosphere inspired by late-night dining in New York City. It’s also known as “an alt-culture oasis” for the city’s arts and music communities and hosts a variety of community minded events most nights.
We caught up with heartthrob and entrepreneur J from New Frdm who was spending a rare evening off prior to heading to Nashville for their very first runway show. You might want to get your hands on J’s super soft bamboo cotton boxer briefs that will turn you too into a heartthrob. New Frdm believes in freedom of self expression and not being confined by the expectations of the gender binary. J also sells enamel pronoun pins and Gender Freedom Club t-shirts and hoodies. They’re just a small company now, so good news for you, J still has time to meet you in person to talk all about your underwear and packing needs. Join the Gender Freedom Club and watch New Frdm experience puberty, an awkward adolescence and mature into glorious adulthood.
J from New Frdm winding down at the Beaver
Ok, so J lead you astray, they have that affect, but you’re in good hands at the Gladstone, and after a leisurely coffee in the sack, we suggest you brunch it with the newly opened, queer owned Lox + Schmear in the vibrant Saint Clair West neighbourhood. Lev, the owner, tells us that their restaurant was inspired by childhood trips to Montreal, where bagels, lox and cream cheese were a staple. Lox and Schmear creates the classic sandwich by smoking it’s own salmon in house. They pair it with St Urbain bagels and Mendel’s cream cheese as a well as house made pickles and fresh vegetable accompaniments. Turns out this simple idea was exactly what the community needed – they’ve been flocking there since the opening last month. Queer community supporting small queer businesses – just another reason to fall in love with this city.
Hanlan’s Clothing Optional Beach
Now that your queer belly is full we’re sending you off to our beloved clothing optional beach on Toronto Islands. If you visit Toronto in any season other than winter, a visit to Hanlan’s beach is a must. Just a ten minute ferry ride from down town and you’ll feel like you’re on holiday from your holiday. Post top surgery I couldn’t wait to get rid of my white strap marks and replace them with my first all over tan, but it was with some trepidation that I took my top off and bared my new chest for the first time. Any fear was completely unfounded – I have never faced any issues at Hanlan’s, it’s not something I even think about now. Hanlan’s is a mecca for not just queer and trans bodies but indeed a celebration of all bodies. Zero body shame, total body enjoyment.
Still feeling all blissed out from Hanlan’s? Then head on over to Grasshopper Records in Little Portugal for more laid back vibes and beats. This used record shop owned by Toronto music scene aficionado Derek Madison has exposed brick running the length of the store with Star Wars memorabilia, black pleather couches and a club chair inviting you to hang out and browse rather than knowing exactly what you are looking for.
I caught up with local fashion designer, artist and producer Sun Sun who was taking an evening off from creating her line for the dapperQ fashion show in Brooklyn this September. Sun Sun is no stranger to fashion shows having hit the runways of Queer Fashion Week, Oakland, New York Fashion Week, Montreal Fashion Week, Boston Fashion Week, Bettie Brown Market – Seattle and AfroPunk. Sun Sun designs androgynous one off pieces, by hand, in Toronto providing you with comfort, style and swagger. Get in touch with Sun Sun prior to your Toronto retreat to be sure to return back home in style.
Not sure where to head for dinner? Whether you’re traveling by yourself, with friends or with your significant other, you’ll always have a warm welcome at Queers for Dinner. Q4D events are often a landing pad for folks who are new to the city, and for travelers looking to make some quality connections during their stay in Toronto. Meet new friends, new lovers, or simply share great food with new people – you never know where these chance meetings may take you.
Toronto is the first place I’ve been able to call home and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t feel thankful to be able to live in such a diverse, friendly and liberal city. In a world that has seen a recent shift back to fear and division, alljackedup is crafting you community ties.
About the author: Jack Jackson, Toronto, Hand made bow ties for the discerning dandy and their dog | Crafting community ties