by Bert Archer
photography by mckenzie james
Toronto is one of the most open cities for queer communities on the planet, a status only recently comprehensively acknowledged with the publication of Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, a collection of essays co-edited by Jane Farrow, who sits on the board of the City Institute at York University.
Published by Coach House Books, Any Other Way had one of its several launches in the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building on York’s Keele Campus in the fall.
Participants included urban studies lecturer Teresa Abbruzzese, who this year included the book as part of her curriculum.
Convening a panel to discuss some of the book’s most pressing issues, Abbruzzese invited contributors, including York alums, to share their own (and varied) experiences of Toronto as a queer city.
“Listening to stories and people’s experiences provides an alternative to the macro approaches to studying the global city and urbanization,” Abbruzzese said at the book launch event. “Storytelling is just as important to academic knowledge as any science.”
Kurt Munghal, who graduated from York’s Professional Writing program in 2008, read his short piece accompanying Alejandro Santiago’s photographs of ball culture – an underground LGBTQI+ phenomenon where drag queens compete on a catwalk of fabulousness – that showed how this highly stylized, highly stylish scene opened a door to those who, for racial and gendered reasons, were excluded from the progress that had been made in the previous decade.
Some of the balls were staged at York University, produced by LGBTQI+ campus organizations.
In addition to short works of writing by Faith Nolan, Elaine Gaber-Katz and Michèle Pearson Clarke, Munghal’s piece includes colour and cultural difference in the construction of Toronto’s queer history and current queer geography. ■