Deena Shirkool, Contributing Writer
The Church Wellesley Village (or, The Village) is a historic site in Toronto, and has contributed to the city’s tapestry of communities for decades. Its rainbow roads and vibrant folks suit the bright atmosphere that echoes throughout Church Street. Best of all, the wondrous sites of The Village are not just a seasonal experience, but rather, a year-long celebration.
For over a century, long before Canada was its own nation, The Village area was (and still is) connected to the queer community of Toronto. In fact, Alexander Wood, the former owner of the estate known now as The Village, was horribly shunned by his peers for his sexuality. In his time, around the early 1800s, the area was called “Molly Wood’s Bush,” with “Molly” being a crude slang for homosexuality. Past Wood’s lifetime, in the 1900s, The Village enjoyed a secret night life for the queer community, where people found acceptance and pride.
Today, The Village no longer must hide from the rest of the world, and its various restaurants, coffee shops, and clubs are welcoming to everyone and anyone who wishes to visit. From BlogTO spotlights like Craig’s Cookies to the independent coffee shop at the GLAD Day Bookshop, The Village is full of unique finds. Perhaps you are a fan of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and want to see the real deal at the drag nights hosted at Woody’s or the many other well-known clubs.
Still, The Village never forgets its roots of acceptance and self-expression, while continuing to honour Alexander Wood’s legacy.
Every June, Pride month rolls around the corner, and the celebration of expression and acceptance floods the The Village streets. Different marches and parades literally flood the streets of downtown, concerts are held, and everyone comes together to support each other and donate to those in need. Unfortunately, the most recent parade was cancelled due to the pandemic, but the community still worked together to maintain the festive mood that is associated with Pride.
Even without Pride moth, the community makes sure that help is always present in the form of organizations like The 519, who give aid to the queer community against the discrimination and hardship they face. In addition, the history of the community is treasured through the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. Here, the preservation of an ignored history is ensured through donated and researched records.
And so, despite its origins of hiding and secrets, the doors of The Village are now open for all to explore and enjoy. Grab a cookie, meet a drag queen, and cherish the vibrant life that lives on Church Street!