SEXUALITY – The Only Gays Out of The Village (Northstar)
Northstar’s first post on the blog was one of my favourite so far – a fascinating insight into a unique aspect of a gay first date.
His second post doesn’t disappoint either – highlighting another key difference of dating when you’re gay.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
When planning a venue for a date a number of different considerations present themselves, particularly when you’re first starting to see someone and you want to make sure that you make a good impression.
What type of ambience should the place have? Are you looking for somewhere for drinks or for dinner? Somewhere with good music or a place that leans more towards conversation? Somewhere known for its cocktails or somewhere with a good beer list? etc, etc. When going on a gay date however, another very important consideration has to be taken into account – is this somewhere where you can publicly display affection?
I’m lucky enough to live in Toronto, one of the world’s more liberal and progressive cities.
Each year it holds one of the largest Pride parades globally (in 2014 it’ll be hosting World Pride), and in general it is a very gay-friendly city. As with most large and cosmopolitan cities it has a gay Village, which is a lovely welcoming neighbourhood and a nice part of town to be in for a date. However, it is also by no means the largest part of town – there are a handful of bars, and it doesn’t take too many visits to become overly familiar with them.
One of the benefits of living in Toronto is that it is a multi-cultural city, and it’s very much a city of neighbourhoods. Half of the population here are foreign born, and resulting from that the city is a patchwork of different neighbourhoods, each offering a varied and interesting nightlife scene. With so much on offer here it seems a shame to limit dates to only one small part of town, and to deny yourself the experiences on offer across the rest of the city.
However, if I’m on a date outside of the Village, a concern that has to be taken into account is whether I will be able to display affection publicly.
Touching is very important to me as a display of intimacy, however even small gestures such as holding another man’s hand can carry the risk of attracting verbal or physical abuse. Small, natural displays of interest on a date – holding hands, hugging, a good-night kiss – can become major causes of concern dependent on the venue or part of town that you’re in.
For the first few dates that can particularly present a roadblock, and when you’re trying to get a sense of someone’s attraction to you it’s important to remove that concern from the situation – if you want to see whether someone will kiss you goodnight, you want to make sure that you’re in a part of town where that can actually happen.
The good news for me is that living in Toronto I’m, for the most part, in a welcoming and accepting place where I haven’t had to worry too much about public displays of affection. That said, I do live downtown in one of the more bohemian and studenty neighbourhoods; and even so, on more than one occasion I have been in shouting matches in response to homophobic insults.
In one upsetting episode I was walking to my then-boyfriend’s house at the end of a night out, holding hands as we walked. As we left the subway the first person we walked by directed a string of homophobic slurs in our direction. I have a very low tolerance for that type of behaviour, and I responded in no uncertain terms to tell him what a vile human being he was. Hearing our exchange, another person leaned out of a nearby car window to join in, shouting out some more homophobic insults of his own. My faith in humanity was somewhat low when we arrived back at my boyfriend’s place.
Happily though, things sometimes do unfold in the opposite way.
There’s one anecdote that I enjoy sharing that hasn’t been the most commonplace of stories, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. A few weeks ago I was on a second date, and we went to one of the cinemas downtown on a Friday night. It was nowhere near the Village, so afterwards we just went across the street to grab a beer at a busy pub nearby. Sat at the table next to us was a group of straight men in their early 40s, visiting Toronto from out of town. After a couple of drinks, they noticed that we were holding hands across the table. One of them turned to us and asked, “are you having a good night?“. Out of (unfortunate) necessity I was slightly wary, and I responded politely that yes we were, thank you. My defenses raised, he then went on to completely dispel my assumptions by telling us for the next few minutes about how amazing Toronto was because he was so happy that people could be so open here, and went on to buy us a beer before departing and wishing us a good evening. It was an excellent and unexpected conversation, and restored a lot of my faith in people after some previous episodes.
All told though the negative experiences I’ve had have been few and far between, and I’m eternally grateful that I live in a city where I can openly display my sexual orientation without too much concern for negative reactions. With the new laws that have been passed in Russia, were I to hold hands with another man there I could be arrested for violating their “anti gay propaganda” rules; in comparison to that, the occasional nasty look from across the street is nothing.
Luckily in Toronto, while the prospect of being able to display affection on a date is a consideration, it is however mainly a matter of practicality rather than anything more severe. And while it does factor into my choice of date venues, happily here it’s only one of the factors I need to consider, leaving me free to also worry about small things like the beer list!
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