Toronto’s Hanlan’s Point recognized as historically queer space


Toronto's Hanlan's Point now recognized as historically queer space

Two men stand on the beach.

Island beach held Canada's first Pride in 1971, remains one of world's oldest surviving queer spaces

Julia Lawrence


Aspiring film photographer who studies journalism, communication and design at Toronto Metropolitan University. Visits beaches at 6 a.m. to clear her head.

Amanda Seraphina James Rajakumar BW


Indian immigrant with a post-grad in journalism from Centennial College. Now living in Grange Park, meeting new people, and hearing different stories. Often has her four names confused as two different people, so it’s a pick-your-player situation.

June 23, 2023

Headline photo: From left to right, Ed Jackson and Travis Myers stand together on Hanlan’s Point Beach. (Julia Lawrence/The Green Line)

When most Torontonians think about Hanlan’s Point, they associate it with a nude beach. It's what the island is best known for.

But one local group wants to change that.

Travis Myers co-founded Friends of Hanlan's last fall after becoming concerned about how the city was treating Hanlan's Point, the site of Canada's first Pride in 1971 and one of the world's oldest surviving queer spaces.

“I came from a really small town and this guy told me like, you're never going to believe that there's a whole beach full of LGBT. I'm like, No way, no way. And then I showed up here and it's true," said Myers.

The group fought a plan to build a permanent concert space on the Island. They were worried about negative impacts to the local ecology and community safety for 2SLGBTQI+ visitors.

In May, the City of Toronto adopted a motion to recognize Hanlan's Point Beach as a historically queer space in Canada and to consult Toronto's queer community during restorations.

A man stands on a beach.

Travis Myers — co-founder, Friends of Hanlan’s — stands on Hanlan’s Point Beach.
📷: Julia Lawrence/The Green Line

Myers explained that there’s a lot of stuff happening towards the queer community right now that isn’t right.

"In order to make the argument that we deserve to have a place here in the present, I think there's no better way to do that than showing that we've actually always been here," said Myers. "We've been here for 80-plus years. We have a history. We have a culture that matters. And protecting Hanlan's is a way of doing that.”

Myers wants future generations to experience the same sense of community he's benefited from since first coming here 15 years ago.


Hanlan's rich history has stayed alive due to the perseverance of Toronto's Queer community.

Community historian Ed Jackson said that decades ago, organizing was mostly grassroots without government support.

A man stands on a beach.

Community historian Ed Jackson looks down the shore at Hanlan’s Point Beach.
📷: Julia Lawrence/The Green Line

"It was a very different approach. We were sort of always very skeptical of the state and the municipal governments. But I think this group, the Friends of Hanlan's, has been very, very savvy about how to make connections with city staff and with city politicians," said Jackson.

"And they've really worked hard to make sure that they're working together with the people and not just necessarily against them."

with Gerald 1978 Hanlan's picnic

Photo captions: From left to right: Gerald Hannon and Ed Jackson at Hanlan’s Point Beach during the Gay Days picnic in 1978.
📷: Courtesy of Ed Jackson.

Hanlan's 50s Phil McLeod

Philip McLeod, in the striped shirt, with a group of friends on Hanlan’s Beach in the mid-1950s.
📷: Courtesy of Ed Jackson, from Philip McLeod’s collection.

With the unanimous adoption of motion MM7.15 last week, the City of Toronto has started restoration efforts. It will add cultural markers to commemorate queer history and fencing to protect the local environment. 

"There have been some incidences of anti-queer violence and hate crimes here, which is particularly sad because this is a space with so much importance in history for the queer community and for people who visit here," said Myers. "Having that marker, something to be able to point to and say this is a safer space for queer people is so important."

At Hanlan's Point, you can enjoy everything from community clean-ups to drag performances and lazy beach days with friends. This sense of community is why visitors like Lisa Slater keep coming back year after year.

"There's not a lot of people that know that this is like a queer-friendly spot and they probably don't know the history of Hanlan's and the whole Pride movement that happened here," said Slater. "I think that that's really important, and more people should know about that."



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