Thursday, July 21, 2016

Toronto: Too efficient, too friendly? - Part 3

Free subway newspaper even celebrates

Note:  The following blog is part of a series of blogs about Toronto, made possible by ManAboutWorld Magazine and the Toronto as well as Ontario Tourism Board, visit for a FREE 3 month subscription and download the app for your Phone or Tablet today, to keep up with all the best news in LGBT travel from global correspondents, like myself around the world.

Europe and US collide in this magical, northern city. Whether you’re dealing with transportation – much more convenient and efficient – or just picking up the bill at your table, Canada (and Toronto specifically) is the spot to be for a city-feel that’s openly friendly and welcoming! Plus, they know how to celebrate Pride the right way – all encompassing.

Departing the Airport at
Baggage Claim

Whether it’s the money that’s enticing, or it’s simply genuine, Toronto knows how to properly welcome people into the city. I easily got downtown on the UP Express – but only that, I was greeted after customs by a rainbow flag on the exit doors – and a welcome to LGBT travelers at the final station. Rainbow flags were not only at the gay spots, but at every business in the city. And EVERY new person I met who heard that I was visiting told me “welcome” and wished that I had a great time there. 

In New York we expect you to come and it’s assumed that you’ll be having the time of your life, because simply – you’re here; it’s New York after all. In Toronto, you get reminded constantly; you have fun because the people are all cheering for it.

My Toronto guide Felipe Welcomes me
However, one thing might be too efficient: individualized Credit Card swipe/chip machines. Getting our Thai food (my first meal, of course) – I knew we would split it – but I didn’t realize it would be exact! She came to our table, presumable to collect cards – but suddenly she held out the hand-held reader to me and when I reached up to swipe my card in her machine – I didn’t realize, she was handing it to me (dramatically, I dropped it). Only in Europe and – well maybe even Asia – they have systems (and the semi-rude practice) of paying at the table. While perhaps it’s more efficient for us all, I like the 1) requesting of the check – 2) receiving it (time to read and process) – 3) putting down a card – 4) get it returned and – 5) not being stood over while giving an appropriate, but still generous tip. It’s much more refined – and you close your conversations at dinner, not abruptly leave!

Daniel & the GAYographer at the Treehouse, note
#NYC Pride Orlando bandana
Anyway, back to my next chapter in the Pride weekend-story – I’ve now explained up through the Pride Parade – afterwards, I met college junior Daniel – just standing at a soda machine at a Pizza shop. As he stood there in a confident but relaxed way, he knew exactly what he was doing. We bonded over nothing – probably something to do with Canadians and their amicability – and quickly he won a new friend. Nothing turns me on more than a twink who knows what he wants (here namely me) and isn’t shy about it. He not only came back to my table – but returned for my number and a hinted to join us (I was floored). While I usually do the advances, I guess these are the only boys I ever really connect with. The shy guys I scare – or don’t across my path (nor better, fall in it).

I helped to connect some friends and sought out some final dance moves at the party at Treehouse, an open-air finale of wild beats on a grassy college quad (of Ryerson College; Daniel’s campus). The best Pride finale I've likely seen, we were just loving it as we stripped down to not much to get our grove on in the dwindling twilight.
Joe Jonas' DNCE performs as I look on with friends.

Still one of my greatest friends was in Toronto, with his fiancé – so I had to dip out and meet up with them to see Joe Jonas (DNCE). We all thought it would just be a few songs – but they played for an hour! A free concert in the main Dundas Square – capped of by his big hit “Cake by the Ocean” – Daniel also joined us for this other simultaneous end to the weekend. 

We walked along Church Street trying to find somewhere outside, somewhere open – and not packed – and ended up at a a small bar where we celebrated and chatted (and frankly I was exhausted). Sadly the (mostly, but now intoxicated) suave, confident boy told me he would need to head back home (eventually) so we called it a night, as my friends did too. We caught an Uber back to the InternCon – you always meet your favorite people on the last day right?

Brian and Gordon post-Jonas
Happy Pride Toronto!

Postlogue: Upon departing the country (as you’re headed into customs), don’t get angry with the (uncustomarily rude and inefficient) security line staff, you’ll be so upset that (karma will strike and) you’ll forget your wallet, like I did. 

Thankfully, you can still depend on the kindness of strangers - and the great Canadian friends you've made: you’ll be certain to get it back (in due time!).

Don't forget to subscribe to the weekly GAYography brief, for updates about LGBT events, travel insights and global advocacy.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Toronto: Pride Parade from the Inside - Part 2

Final LGBT media brunch at the 180!
Thankfully Toronto’s Pride parade does not cover the entire city! As I noted in part 1, it’s a manageable event and accordingly its parade only covers about 1.5 miles over what should be about 3-4 hours. That proved useful so I could reach and march with Prime Minister Trudeau – and still return for a fun filled afternoon taking in all of the parade!

Arriving late to the route, because I was enjoying company at our last meal courtesy of Toronto & Ontario Tourism, on top of The 180 – go for the view (and if you like this Coron-ita). Since the parade just kicked off when I found it a few blocks away, I was trapped on one side. So, I ran around the whole staging area which included lots of government-looking vehicles (with no one in them). I realized this meant I must have just missed Trudeau.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
I raced down the already closed gay street in the village Church Street to find a way to get ahead of the parade (they keep this parallel street closed for whats basically a Pride Fest). Vendors, non-profit’s, kids selling Rainbow bandanas and corporations promoting to LGBTs all stood in my way. But, as I approached a "Media area" on the south side of the route, police waved me into the route with my pass.

At that point the Black Lives Matter truck had already slowed the progress of the parade, as they chanted “Shut it down” (which was confusing to everyone until just short of the end, they did just that) – but I ventured further north to find the Prime Minister, looking for that best shot of the parade lined with Rainbow & Canadian flags.

My new friend on the route...
After chilling with Trudeau (during the parade's stoppage) – and marching along behind him for some time, I wanted to take the opportunity to see the rest - and really enjoy the parade. After all, parades are basically huge street parties! So, I unleashed my rainbow suspenders and ventured to the start of the parade again, with media pass and camera in hand – somewhat hoping to see friends I could join, but mainly excited to experience it all.

Walking through the parade gives you the opportunity to quickly see everything, take selfies with new friends (: – and dance around the floats with the best music. I found every group you could imagine - from the corporate to the totally naked protestors & naturists. And of course, everyone welcomed me – I know not everyone has the guts, stamina and relative insanity that I do for wandering around inside a pride parade – but I highly recommend it!

Spectators on every surface!
I've enjoyed parades this way from Tel Aviv to Berlin, DC to NYC - but this time I was official thanks to my status as a ManAboutWorld Global Correspondent - which made it easier, especially given the Prime Minister's presence. However (shhhhh!) don't tell everyone, but with a little confidence you can usually look like you belong in the parade anyway and join in.

In the end, I finished the parade with dozens of LGBT employees of the Royal Bank of Canada – where one member stopped to give me a rainbow bracelet, that I’m still wearing weeks later. It says “Show Your Pride Every Day” and after the recent violence – from Orlando to Baghdad and Istanbul to Dallas – I intend to, to keep celebrating diversity and to remember such an incredible weekend in Canada’s downtown.

Royal Bank of Canada Pride band
Find out about my final shenanigans - and the hot (and of course friendly) guy I met during #PrideTo's closing hours in Part 3 of Toronto Pride next week, all made possible by ManAboutWorld magazine - and don't forget to click to get your 3 month subscription to this great resource for LGBT travel exclusively for GAYography readers.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Toronto: Best all-around Pride (for its size) - Part 1

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Marches in Toronto Pride

Note:  The following blog is part of a series of blogs about Toronto, made possible by ManAboutWorld Magazine and the Toronto Tourism Board, visit for a FREE 3 month subscription and download the app for your Phone or Tablet today, to keep up with all the best news in LGBT travel from global correspondents, like myself around the world.

Are you looking for a Pride that’s not overwhelming but includes a variety of parties and events for everyone – also still with the cred to attract top performers? Come to Toronto! From its relaxing outdoor opening at The 519 to the closing beats at the Treehouse, Toronto has the best organized, compact (and friendly!) event with some of the coolest venues for Pride anywhere. This year included Ru Paul, of course, Canada’s young (hot?) Prime Minister (the first national leader to march in Pride), and even Joe Jonas who closed the weekend with an hour-long free concert - if they're going, wouldn't you?

New York might have the biggest, San Francisco the coolest – but Toronto has the best all-around event, and it’s bite-sized!

Air arrival

Billed as Canada’s downtown, Toronto doesn’t disappoint – with awesome clubs, bars and restaurants – even a stadium with a retractable roof! Still, this is no concrete jungle – its beautiful parks and tree lined streets keep the skyline green. Architecturally it may not have as much variety to offer (they destroyed what would be a historic city center to make way for progress in the 1960s). But the shiny tall glass buildings with that eclectic CN Tower give this progressive city a futuristic look. My favorite transportation feature is one of the most modern, clean and efficient airport trains, the UP express (that takes you right downtown from Pearson Airport) – Toronto is only rivaled by European trains – and of course there’s wifi at the airport and in the train.
Rooftop pool at the Thompson Hotel

Also, you can fly even more conveniently via Porter into Billy Bishop Airport and simply ferry and walk to your hotel!


After daily events all of June – the final Pride weekend (now cleverly arranged for the first weekend in July, vice the previous busy Stonewall-anniversary weekend) begins with an open event called Starry Night – with a DJ set and performances by Drag Queens (led by Kim Chi) as well as a special kick-off with reps from all levels of government in a grassy outdoor area called the Green Space that surrounds The 519, Toronto’s diverse community center.

Ontario is currently being led by a lesbian Premier, Kathleen Wynne who took office in 2013 as both the first woman premier of Ontario and first openly gay premier in Canada. So she and her partner were both there, along with the Mayor and a federal minister (all levels of government are currently being run by the LGBT-friendly Liberal Party).

Also this evening was the perfect party for Canada – “Asian Express” or AX, which bills itself as the main monthly event for the Toronto Gaysian community (for the last 15 years!). Little is more beautiful to me than a (or being in a) mixed white and Asian couple – and all were present here (including the incredible guys who brought me). I didn't end up with take-out, but I definitely dined-in and enjoyed this high-energy party, with a number of performances.
AX (Asian Express) Party at Mercier Maison

Friday Church Street – the main LGBT street in “the Village” – starts to close down to traffic as vendors, promoters and non-profits set up to advertise to the masses. That evening after the always vocal Trans March (and various parties in houses, patios & rooftops) the main alternative party was a mixture of a hip-hop event called Big Pimpin’ and a jock party – so they called it Fit Primpin – held at the original Steam (no not Steamworks, which is also a standard staple, right on Church Street) Whistle Brewery. Also, the thumpa-thumpa Prism/Matinee Party was held at the incredible Sound Academy – with one of the best sound and light systems to titillate all your senses (especially when consuming illegal substances).

Saturday everyone is rainbow-clad, walking Church Street – picking up give-aways, winning prizes people watching and eating. At 2pm is the Dyke march – similar to the Trans March running the length of Yonge Street (pronounced simply “young”) - it runs parallel to Church. Also, there are all-day Drag performances at Drag On in Dundas Square – basically Toronto’s much smaller, and more intimate Times Square. At 6pm, over 70 Draq Queens gathered to break the record of most queens in a single performance (previously held by Columbus, Ohio).

CN Tower goes Rainbow
Later the biggest mixed event – attended by a great variety of people: GlitterBall at Church street’s only real club, Fly. Here, secretly adjacent to the men's bathroom, is one of the few dark-rooms I've seen in (puritan) North America! There was also a Brooklyn-y alternative-queer event called Hot Nuts, as well as a local-recommended PitBull for the fetish crowd.

Sunday the parade did not snake exhaustingly through the city, just from above the main Village to Dundas square. However, this year it ran far longer, since Black Lives Matter held up the parade.

Delayed for about 30 minutes, I simply hung around with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who just continually shouted “Happy Pride” waved a Canadian Rainbow flag and waved at the crowds. He took the time to snap pictures with a number of people while being delayed. His security detail was noticeably stressed – but the parade for Trudeau was without incident (except for a plethora of water pistols). Apparently, unmarked cars along side streets lined the route in case he needed to be quickly evacuated...

More about the Toronto Pride parade in part 2 and Ru Paul, Joe Jonas and more in part 3!