Torontoist’s Pride Survival Guide
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Torontoist’s Pride Survival Guide

Don’t feel overwhelmed by Pride. Check out these hints, tips, and highlights for a weekend of fun.

Last year's Pride Parade. Photo by {a href=""}eddiejdf{/a}, from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Pride weekend is just around the corner, and the familiar feelings of anticipation and trepidation are fluttering in our tummies. With so much to see and do in so many venues, Pride can be a daunting experience. We’ve pulled together a Pride survival guide with some highlights of the festivities from Friday evening through to Sunday night, as well as some tips and tricks from veteran Pridegoers to help keep your feet on the ground even when your legs are in the air. (From dancing. Not from—never mind.)


Pride has six stages this year, including a trans-centred north stage on Church Street near Dundonald Street, a dance/drag/burlesque stage right at Church Street and Wellesley street East, the Dirty Disco/Blockorama stage in the parking lot across from Wellesley Station, the women-focused south stage at Church and Wood streets, and the Alexander Parkette stage, which hosts the feisty Alterna-Queer program. Detailed listings and times are available in the official Pride Guide. All stage performances are free to attend.

Lesbian icon Corey Hart is the festival headliner, playing the Bud Light South Stage (yes, some of the stages are sponsored this year) at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Other south stage highlights include The Cliks and Bif Naked on Friday evening, Kelly and the Kellygirls and Shi Wisdom on Saturday, and, on Sunday, Lady Miss Kier, Tom Stephan a.k.a. Superchumbo, and a few surprise guests.

The OLG Central Stage is one long dance party with highlights including DJs Blackcat, Sumation, Craig Dominic, Justin Ryan, and Dwayne Minard on Saturday, and on Sunday, an all-Canadian showcase.

The Viagra Village Stage (sigh) at Church Street and Wellesley Street East will be graced by some of the city’s finest drag and burlesque performers, including Chris Edwards, the Dukes of Drag, Nerd Girls Burlesque, and Naked Boys Singing on Saturday, and on Sunday, Jade Elektra, the Toronto Drag Kings, and Stephanie Stephens. In short, don’t mistake this stage for the Family Pride area.

The Alterna-Queer stage in Alexander Parkette starts your Sunday off with a soon-to-be-legendary women’s arm-wrestling match for charity, then showcases the best of Toronto’s alternative scene (plus a few suitably boisterous out-of-town acts) including Mittenz, Vag Halen, CJ Sleez, Random Order, Kids on TV, and a lively Alterna-Queer Cabaret among many other sonic treats. The complete Alterna-Queer lineup can be found on its facebook page.

The north stage features a wide array of trans, genderqueer, and label-transcending talent including Rae Spoon, DJ Memphis Sugar, and DJ nik red on Saturday, and on Sunday, Carrie Chesnutt and Boyd Kodak, Lucas Silvera, and ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company.

Last but by no means least, the TD Wellesley Stage is home to the Dirty Disco party and the much-celebrated Blockorama, with Tom Stephan a.k.a Superchumbo featured on Saturday evening, and a star-studded Sunday including Faith Nolan, DJs Syrus Ware, nik red, and Sebastian, 88 Days of Fortune, House of Monroe, Keshia Chanté, DJ Blackcat, and jojo flores.

Photo by {a href="[email protected]/7284579132/"}umegrahpics{/a}, from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Parades and Marches

There are three official Pride marches/parades: the Trans March on Friday evening at Norman Jewison Parkette (rally at 6 p.m., march at 7:30 p.m.); the Dyke March on Saturday afternoon (rally at 1 p.m. at Church and Hayden streets, march at 2 p.m. at Church and Bloor streets, post-march picnic at 3 p.m. in Allan Gardens); and of course the Pride Parade, starting at Church and Bloor streets at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Routes are available on Pride’s website.

While neither a parade nor a march, the Pride and Remembrance Run (Saturday at 10 a.m., starting at Church and Wellesley streets) continues to be a cornerstone of Pride, raising thousands of dollars each year for LGBTQ charities. The route is available here.

Special Spaces and Events

For those seeking an alternative to bars and beer gardens, the Clean, Sober, and Proud Place in the Paul Kane Parkette (north side of Wellesley Street East, just west of Church Street) is a substance-free space that provides two days of all-ages community programming and services from yoga and acupuncture to trivia, poetry, and cabaret. Among the many things to check out here: the Queer Dance Community performance and the Queer Asian Youth Cabaret on Saturday, and the Hawaiian fertility dance (!) and Etobicoke School of the Arts glee club choir on Sunday.

The Proud Voices reading series has found a new home this year at Glad Day Bookshop. Among the many writers reading are Nina Arsenault, Chase Joynt, and Alec Butler on Friday evening; Nalo Hopkinson, Farzana Doctor, and Marcus McCann on Saturday; and S. Bear Bergman, Sky Gilbert, and Shawn Syms on Sunday.

Next to the north stage across from the 519 Community Centre, the Trans Space is a safe, inclusive, informative, non-judgmental environment providing information, workshops, and support to members of the trans community, those who are questioning, and those who are merely curious.

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s annual Queer Pride festival is already well underway. This weekend’s notable events include the ever-popular Bitch Salad Gives Back on Friday evening, Homo Night in Canada on Saturday evening, and the family-friendly Lady Oiye’s Tea Dance from mid-afternoon through the evening on Sunday, as well as three nights of Buddies After Hours with Donnarama and friends.

The 519 Community Centre runs its own stream of events each year at the Green Space on Church—including Thursday’s eigth annual Starry Night party, a ‘One World’ party on Friday night featuring featuring DJ legend Frankie Knuckles, an all-day Saturday event called Backyard Beats, and Sunday’s annual Treehouse Party. Full schedule here.

Much of Pride remains a PG-13/R-rated affair (and we like it that way). For those who just aren’t ready to answer questions like “What’s that, daddy?”, Family Pride is a solidly kid-friendly zone located at Church Street Public School at Church and Wood streets, with activities and entertainment geared toward children and families throughout both Saturday and Sunday.

{a href="[email protected]/5900938386/"}Photo by Mr. Curiosity{/a}, from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Off the Beaten Path

The Church/Wellesley area isn’t the only place to have fun. Festive events for queers of all stripes can be found all over the city—and even outside of it—this weekend. Here are a few suggestions:

Join 800 hot women under one roof at Crush, Toronto’s annual women’s Pride dance, at the Opera House, 735 Queen Street East. Friday, 8 p.m. $20 advance, $25 at the door.

Celebrate a different kind of holiday at HotNuts Christmas at the Garrison, 1197 Dundas Street West, Saturday night from 10 p.m. $10 advance, $12 at the door.

Targeted squarely at the butch-aspirational, Pitbull is one of Toronto’s biggest Pride parties, hosting 1,500 sweaty men at the Phoenix, 410 Sherbourne Street, Saturday night at 10 p.m. $30 advance.

The spirit of Will Munro lives on at Vazaleen: Shame 2012 at Wrongbar, 1279 Queen Street West, Sunday night from 9 p.m. $15 advance. Tickets at Soundscapes.

Switch – Trans Pride Edition (link NSFW) is the queer porn play party for kinksters of all genders and persuasions at the Oasis Aqualounge, 231 Mutual Street, Sunday night from 8 p.m. $25 advance, $30 at the door.

You can escape to the beach (and escape your clothes) at clothing-optional Hanlan’s Point, always one of the most popular Pride alternatives. Ferries leave the docks at 9 Queen’s Quay West starting at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. $7 adults, includes return fare.

Or, if you want to avoid Pride entirely (and we’ve all had years like that, haven’t we?), do what our mayor does and head to the cottage! Pop open a beer, relax by the lake, and try to forget about those reporters and audits and taxes and subways—they will all still be there when you get back to the office.

Photo by {a href=""}mauriciojcalero{/a}, from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Staying Safe

Public and personal safety is paramount at any large event, and Pride is no exception. Do those things you’re always told to do: Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen. Take breaks from the sun. Drink plenty of (non-alcoholic) liquids. Watch the parade from the shade of College Park, or skip the parade and check out the community fair.

If you need medical assistance, representatives from St. John’s hospital and paramedics are located throughout the site for anything from a paper cut to heat stroke. First Aid stations are located at Church and Alexander streets and at Church and Dundonald streets if you need them.

In the event of an emergency, notify the nearest Public Safety Ambassador or a uniformed security guard, who have direct access to Pride’s dispatch centre. Otherwise, call 911 and help will be dispatched immediately.

And, as always, use common sense when faced with uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Be aware of your surroundings. Travel with friends, or through well-lit populated areas. Arrive sober and leave sober—or make your way home via transit or cab.

Pride Tips from the Pros

On Looking Good

“Confidence is all you need to look good for Pride. Wear what you like and dress for the weather. With so many people, you’ll get someone’s attention as you walk and dance around.”
— Duane Brown, digital strategist

On Eating and Drinking

“Prepare in advance with lots of snacks that are nourishing and easy: sandwiches, fruit, juices, cold water. Keep them in a knapsack. Very little food at Pride is reasonably priced.”
— Shawn Syms, writer, Proud Voices series

“I drink water all the time and all weekend long. I always have some water with me, especially when I am marching. Staying hydrated with water is the most important thing I do for myself all weekend.”
— Dianne Moore, Pride volunteer, Clean, Sober and Proud Place

On Lineups

“Lineups are nasty indeed, but it’s a worldwide rule of thumb that the more silent and obedient you are with a doorman, the more he’ll like you and the faster he’ll try and get you in. Don’t be pushy, don’t be cute.”
— Scott Dagostino, manager, Glad Day Bookshop

On Hooking Up

“If you want to get laid, VOLUNTEER. Dozens of organizations—each and every one chock-a-block with sexy queer folks—need help during Pride Week. I guarantee you’ll meet quality people. I’m volunteering to catch fainters at the Pride and Remembrance Run.”
— Marcus McCann, writer, Proud Voices series

On Staying Sane

“Whatever you do, bring a great attitude; it’s infectious. Sometimes just giving and receiving positive attention can be the most powerful experience of the weekend—it doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t take very much effort at all, and you never know what it might lead to.”
— Shawn Syms, writer, Proud Voices series