Images from a Saturday night on Church Street in Toronto during the city’s isolation to help slow the spread of COVID-19…
By Wade Muir
Although they were wilted, there were still flowers on the tables at Glad Day Bookshop, the world’s oldest LGBTQ book store. Its café looked like its customers had just up and vanished into thin air. Of course, the theatre lover within me couldn’t help but underscore the scene with Schönberg’s & Boublil’s haunting “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”…accompanied by an all too reminiscent feeling of plagues gone by.
It was 10:30 pm on a Saturday night in Toronto’s usually bustling Church Street village, and it was silent and empty. All but a few local businesses were shut down, computer-printed closure signs on each of their doors. In yet another moment of dramatic underscoring, I caught myself having to regain some self-composure. Taking a step back from the closure signs, I turned around and continued to walk…. I slowly crossed Church Street, walking over a large painted rainbow. Through a dark window, I could see a beaded curtain sparkling with light from a nearby street lamp. Above me, I could hear a Canadian inspired Pride flag flapping in the wind. Though it sounds dramatic as all hell, in that moment I felt this deep sense of stillness and resilience, like an ominous gift from a gay god – providing a moment of much-needed inner peace.
From that darkness, I started to see (literal) signs of community and togetherness: “Share smiles and kindness” and “We are all in this together.” In the stillness, I saw street art and murals that I had never noticed before – some of which had clearly been there for years…depictions of a rich queer past – of strength and of love.
Leaving the village with a collection of photos, I felt sad and tired, yet profoundly moved. I rushed home to get to what I knew would be the perfect end to this series…the internet. I immediately logged into Zoom. This online business-meeting platform has now become the new queer cyber-safe-space: a space for webcam gatherings such as Club Quarantine and a Toronto favourite “in-person” now turned internet party, FIT. A worldwide community of queers now collectively dances and shares space in front of their computers and phones… a somewhat miraculous and crafty way to continue queer nightlife and slip away into an alternate reality scored by new electronic beats and vintage disco anthems. In the darkness of my kitchen I danced and snapped photos of radiant smiles, of sparkling queers, and all weirdos alike, collectively sharing, all the while supporting and lifting each other up. This glorious community grows, births new leaders and supplies endless love – a truly radical and major oof, my heart!
WADE MUIR is a queer Toronto-based photographer/artist (who feels a lot). You can check out more of his work on Instagram at @wademuir or www.wademuir.ca.